By Elizabeth Virtgaym

Guess Who?

October 17th, 2014 in Article 0 comments

Telling apart identical twins can be embarrassingly difficult at first, so it’s pretty nice to be able to tell apart the rest of the population from one another. But what about those people we see that we give a second glance because they resemble a classmate? Or what about stunt doubles? In the movies, stunt doubles resemble the main actors so closely that we can’t see the difference. But in real life, if we saw Johnny Depp and his stunt double side by side, we would easily be able to see who’s who. This is because of the way the brain recognizes faces.


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Taking Your Brain On a First Date

April 7th, 2014 in Uncategorized 0 comments

Have you ever been interested in someone on a date yet could not figure out if you were truly attracted to them? Well, this is pretty much all up to your medial prefrontal cortex, located near the front of the brain. This area plays a major role in romantic decision-making, and is specifically responsible for judging physical attractiveness within milliseconds of seeing someone’s face.  The medial prefrontal cortex  helps you know intuitively whether the person in front of you is the one immediately after seeing them.

A study done in Ireland examined how the brain makes initial romantic judgments when participants took part in speed-dating. Before the dates, fMRI was used on half of the participants in order to record their brain activity while looking at pictures of the people they were going to meet. They were told to rank each person on the scale of 1 to 4 based on how much they would want to date them, how attracted they were to them, and how likeable they thought their dates would be. After the participants spent 5 minutes with each other on the speed dates, they filled out a form indicating who they would want to see again. About 63% of the participants were consistent with their initial level of interest based solely on the photographs, and held similar opinions after the date. 10 - 20% of these ended up seeing each other after the “blind” date.


The Power of Meditation

February 8th, 2014 in Article, Pop Culture, Uncategorized 6 comments

When the word meditation comes up, people usually think of Monks or Buddhists first. However, there is a reason they meditate so often; meditation does wonders for your brain, and here is how.
There are two main types of meditation: 1) Focused-attention meditation or 'Mindful meditation' and 2) Open-monitoring meditation. In Mindful meditation, you focus on one specific thing ranging from your breathing, a specific sensation in your body, or a particular object in front of you.The key point is to focus on one thing without consideration to other thoughts or events happening around you. When any distractions occur, you must be quick to recognize it and turn your focus back to your focal point. Open-monitoring meditation is where you pay attention to all the things happening around you but you do not react to them.

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A Different Way to Exercise

December 4th, 2013 in Pop Culture 1 comment

Does the gym seem too far away? Do you feel like you don’t have time to exercise? There may be some good news for couch potatoes like ourselves. Studies are showing that watching a sport causes some of the same physiological effects as actually working out . While watching others exercise, heart rate, respiration, skin blood flow, and sweat release all increase as if you were exercising.

Researchers at the University of Western Sydney inserted fine needles into an outer nerve of volunteers who were shown a static image followed by a video of a jogger for 22 minutes. With these needles, the scientists were able to record electrical signals within nerve fibers that innervate blood vessels. These recordings provided measures of the body’s physiological stress response, particularly muscle sympathetic nerve activity.

The study showed that sympathetic nerve activity increased when volunteers watched the jogger. In comparison, observing the static image caused change in activity. The sympathetic nervous system innervates the heart, sweat glands, and blood vessels, and its activity increases during exercise. This study indicates that its activity also increases while watching another person exercise, indicating that there may be some benefit.


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Overcoming Brain Cancer with the Raw Food Diet

October 24th, 2013 in Pop Culture 0 comments

Raw Foods

The Basis of the Raw Food Diet

There is a 17-year-old girl named Megan Sherow who was diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer at the age of 13. The doctors showed no signs of optimism toward her survival, even after an aggressive treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. Megan did not want to give up on her battle to survive, and so she came across the raw food diet, which changed her life completely.

The raw food diet is based on the consumption of all raw, non-cooked, foods, mainly plants. Fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of valuable nutrients. If animal foods are eaten, they too are raw, and milk would be consumed unpasteurized. The plant-based diet mainly provides nutrient-dense foods that are rich in fiber. Fiber acts as an “intestinal broom” that picks up toxins deposited in the intestinal tract and carries them out.

The diet avoids processed foods, thus eliminating trans-fat, and providing low levels of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Processed foods contain chemical additives to make them look and taste better, chemical preservatives to make them last longer, and some synthetic vitamins and minerals that attempt to restore the foods’ nutritional values. Some artificial substances pass through the body, but others that do not get trapped in the kidneys, liver, intestines, and tissues like the heart, blood vessels, and brain.

Cooking foods exposes the nutrients in the food to heat, which can destroy them, especially water-soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats, a popular one being omega-3s. The nutrients can be converted from an organic to an inorganic state, rendering them useless to the body. The beneficial effects of dietary fibers can also be altered and reduced. Cooking meat can lead to charring, generating heterocyclic amines, which are carcinogenic compounds. Cooking carbohydrates may produce acrylamide, which is also a potential carcinogen. Cooking has the potential destroy enzymes, lessen the nutritional value of food, and raise its acidity.


The Perfect Nap with the Most Brain Benefits

October 18th, 2013 in Pop Culture 2 comments


Who Needs a Bed Anyway?

Have you ever wondered how long a perfect nap should be? We all decide to take naps because we feel our bodies and minds start to shut down, and the thought of doing anything productive just seems absolutely impossible. So what constitutes the perfect nap?

Your brain goes through five stages of brain activity during a sleep cycle. The first stage is falling asleep; it usually lasts five to ten minutes. This is the stage in which one may feel as though they are falling and their muscles may contract, causing what is called hypnic myoclonia. The second stage is known as light sleep. There are periods of muscle tone and muscle relaxation, along with a slowed heart rate and decreased body temperature. This is the body’s way of preparing for deep sleep. The third and fourth stages are the deep sleep stages, known as slow-wave or delta sleep. The highest arousal thresholds are seen in deep sleep, meaning that waking up is the most difficult during this stage. The final stage is called REM sleep, or rapid eye movement. The brainwaves during REM are very similar to those during wakefulness and heart rate, along with respiration, speed up. The eyes move rapidly in different directions, and intense dreaming occurs due to the heightened brain activity.

With that being said, it is now important to decide what the goal of your nap is. A nap of ten to twenty minutes yields mostly stage 2 of sleep, and therefore enhances alertness and concentration, elevates mood, and sharpens motor skills. Drinking coffee right before you take a “power nap” will aid in alertness upon waking, because it takes coffee about 20-30 minutes to fully kick in. Also try to sit slightly upright during the nap. This will help you avoid entering deep sleep and potential grogginess. It is important to note that if you find yourself dreaming during your power naps, it is a sign of sleep deprivation.