Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Importance of Mind in (Olympic) Sporting Performance

2012 has already been a great year for sports fans, and it is set to get much better in just a few days with the London 2012 Olympic Games getting underway. The Olympics is a great showcase for sports and athletes across the globe, it pits the best against the best while we mere arm chair athletes watch on with excitement, cheering on our own personal favourites.

Most of the sports in the Olympics though focus very much on the individual. Unlike team games like cricket or rugby, at the Olympics the majority of athletes are out there competing all alone. Being part of a team can be mentally a little easier, allowing you to gain re-assurance and confidence from your team mate’s performance. In many ways, being in the spotlight as part of a team is a lot easier than being out there competing on your own. In many sports such asAthletics, Archery, Tennis and Gymnastics, the athlete is alone with just their own thoughts and performance.

Push to improve

Something that is often overlooked when we talk about sporting performance is the importance of the role of the mind in training. This was picked up in the recent BBC documentary series: Faster, Higher, Stronger. Athletes have to be mentally strong and ready to train every day for their event, pushing their limits almost every training session, disciplined in their diet and motivated enough to get up and do it all again the next day. It is this daily grind that is the building blocks of any athlete’s achievements, no matter their sport.

Mental Pressure

Mental pressure for athletes grows the bigger the stage of competition is…

This year at Wimbledon, we saw just how strong Roger Federer is mentally, coming back from 2 sets to love down early on in the tournament and finding his best tennis and performances right when it mattered most, in the semi-finals and final against Britain’s own Andy Murray. Even though many said he would feel the pressure of being in his first Grand Slam final in over 2 years, Roger was able to focus his mind on himself and his performance. It is this mental strengththat can make all the difference between winning and coming close.

Mental strength though is not just about self belief, or being able to push your body to train each day. It includes being able to make the right decisions at the right time. The Olympic 1,500m race in 1984 illustrates the importance of the combination of athlete and mental strength. Seb Coe, the reigning Olympic champion, lined up to defend his Olympic title against Steve Ovett (the world record holder) and Steve Cram (Reigning world champion). His training leading up to the games ensured he had the stamina of a marathon runner and the explosive speed of a sprinter when needed. Physically he was ready to win. However, his mind played a massive role, ensuring that tactically he made the right decisions in the race and he executed the right strategy that would see him retain his Olympic title. This is even more impressive since he ran a poor 800m only a few days before. All of this he was able to achieve under the microscope of the world on the biggest athletic stage there can be.

At the Olympic Games this year, athletes like Usain Bolt will feel the world’s eyes on them as they line up for their own personal events. They must remain mentally strong and mentally focused on delivering the performance of their lives. This can be hard to do, especially when as an individual so much is placed on this one single performance. Many of the athletes would have been training for the past 4 years solidly for the Olympic Games, if not much longer, and to know that all that hard work can be rewarded or for nothing, can be all too much for some.

Techniques to stay mentally strong

Hypnosis in sport can help athletes focus, and increase their concentration levels, blocking out other distractions. That’s going to be important for every single athlete at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer.

Hypnosis techniques can be used to help improve performance by considering the athletes pre-performance, performance and post performance attitude.

Pre-performance attitude helps athletes train hard and to work hard on their sport, focusing their efforts to get the most from their training regime. Performance attititude ensures a good strong mental attitude during the athletes sporting event. It helps them put into effect all the skills they have learned from all their previous training sessions, and helps the athlete produce their best performances when it matters most. Post performance attitudehelps an athlete reflect and learn from their performances, addressing areas that can be improved and remembering areas that went well.

There are also a number of hypnosis approaches that help athletes:

The inner game: This is mental practice and includes mental visualisation of what the body is about to do
Direct suggestions: This is where the athlete focuses on their best performance to date and remembers that, keeping it in their mind.
Staying in the moment: This helps athletes focus on the moment as opposed to being distracted (something that becomes increasingly important at bigger sporting events)

More on sports Hypnosis

Positive thinking

As the summer of sport continues, and we sit by and watch the Olympic sunfold, keep in mind the pressures they must feel and try to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes at that moment. The difference between winning that Gold medal could all come down to mental strength…

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Power of Thought

Friday, 27 July 2012

Who Knows You Best? Not you!

Know thyself. That was Socrates' advice, and it squares with conventional wisdom. "It's a natural tendency to think we know ourselves better than others do," says Washington University in St. Louis assistant professor Simine Vazire.

But a new article by Vazire and her colleague Erika N. Carlson reviews the research and suggests an addendum to the philosopher's edict: Ask a friend. "There are aspects of personality that others know about us that we don't know ourselves, and vice-versa," says Vazire. "To get a complete picture of a personality, you need both perspectives."

It's not that we know nothing about ourselves. But our understanding is obstructed by blind spots, created by our wishes, fears, and unconscious motives—the greatest of which is the need to maintain a high (or if we're neurotic, low) self-image, research shows. Even watching ourselves on videotape does not substantially alter our perceptions—whereas others observing the same tape easily point out traits we're unaware of.

Not surprisingly, our intimates and those who spend the most time with us know us best. But even strangers have myriad cues to who we are: clothes, musical preferences, or Facebook postings. At the same time, our nearest and dearest have reasons to distort their views. After all, a boorish spouse or bullying child says something to the other spouse or parent. "We used to collect ratings from parents – and we've mostly stopped, because they're useless," notes Vazire. What such data would show: Everyone's own child is brilliant, beautiful, and charming.

Interestingly, people don't see the same things about themselves as others see. Anxiety-related traits, such as stage fright, are obvious to us, but not always to others. On the other hand, creativity, intelligence, or rudeness is often best perceived by others. That's not just because they manifest themselves publicly, but also because they carry a value judgment—something that tends to affect self-judgment. But the world is not always the harsher critic. Others tend to give us higher marks for our strengths than we credit ourselves with.

Why doesn't all this information add up to better personal and mutual understanding? People are complex, social cues are many, perceptions of others are clouded by our own needs and biases, studies show. Plus, the information isn't easy to access. "It's amazing how hard it is to get direct feedback," Vazire notes, adding that she isn't advocating brutal frankness at any cost. There are good reasons for reticence.

The challenge, then, is to use such knowledge for the good. "How can we give people feedback, and how can that be used to improve self-knowledge?" Vazire asks. "And how do we use self-knowledge to help people be happier and have better relationships?"

The first answer to these questions may be the most obvious, but not the easiest to practice: Listen to others. They may know more than you do—even about yourself.

The paper was published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

What is Happiness?

Happiness does not lie in the objects of enjoyment because happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is a pleasant emotion made out of contentment, love, joy, inner peace and fulfillment. Many people tried to define happiness throughout history. Philosophers and religious thinkers often describe happiness in terms of living a good life or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion (for more definitions of happiness you can have a look at my selection of happiness quotes). On the other hand, positive psychology defines happiness as consisting of positive emotions and positive activities. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology says happiness disolves into positive emotions, engagement and meaning.

Happiness is a choice you have to make. Happiness is a state of being only you can create as you manufacture your own happiness every single moment. That's because happiness is not pleasure although it can appear similar. Happiness has an internal source while pleasure has an external source. Happiness is a belief born inside your mind. As Abraham Lincoln said, most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Happiness is the natural state of the mind. Every human that has ever existed has had happiness as their ultimate goal in life. Happiness does not always appear to be an obvious goal because of the intermediate goals we believe are necessary to achieve happiness. But happiness is what is left when you get rid of all the uncomfortable emotions.

Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to enjoy. Happiness is not simply the absence of sadness or pain either. Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy - a joy without penalty or guilt... Happiness is possible only to a rational being... Happiness is a long lasting enjoyment of life, it is being in love with living.

What is your definition of happiness?

Monday, 23 July 2012

6 Weird Things That Influence Bad Behaviour More Than Laws

6. Pictures of Eyes

Obviously, we are more honest when someone (or a security camera) is watching us, but studies have actually shown that if any depiction of an eye is in view, even if it is cartoonish or nonhuman, it makes people less likely to cheat or to behave immorally.

In one experiment, all a professor had to do to drastically influence the actions of her colleagues was change the clip art on a piece of paper. They did the test in a teachers lounge, where the staff enjoyed a coffee/tea station that ran on the honor system. Teachers were welcome to help themselves, but a notice posted near the station asked users to pay for their coffee in the honesty box.

A picture of a cartoon eye was placed at the top of the reminder notice, and the amount of money left in the honesty box tripled. Just to be sure it wasn't a coincidence, the next week the eye was replaced with a flower. Contributions went back to normal. Somehow, the subtle reminder of being watched made people way more honest.

But we've not only been programmed to fear the all-seeing eye, we have also been warned since childhood that otherworldly, omnipresent forces are also watching us, all the damn time. Whether it's Santa knowing our sleeping patterns or God himself hovering over our every move like a holy hawk, many of us were told that an invisible something was watching and keeping score. As a result, even if you're an atheist, any reference to God seems to make you more generous with your money and more moral in general.

In one experiment, subjects played a game in which they unscrambled words, then decided what to do with a pot of fake money. When the unscrambled words evoked God in some way, the money was given to anonymous strangers more generously -- yes, even if the unscramblers were nonbelievers. When the unscrambled words spelled out neutral concepts, the participants were more stingy. It just takes the slightest of reminders that somewhere, somehow, someone is watching you.

5. The Lighting

Obviously, more crimes are committed at night than in the day, presumably for the sheer fact that it's easier to get away. But oddly enough, even otherwise law-abiding people make moral choices based on how bright the lighting is -- regardless of whether other people can still see them. Dim light simply makes people less honest and more likely to cheat.

And we're not talking really low lighting, where it could maybe create the illusion that you're hidden -- just slightly lower lighting is enough. In this study, participants were divided between a well-lit room and a dimly lit room, then asked to take a test. For every answer they got right, they got to keep 50 cents from an envelope containing $10. The catch was that they graded their own tests. Of the two groups, the dimly lit ones were more likely to cheat and to claim they got more right than they actually did.

Oh, and get this -- in another experiment, half of the subjects were asked to wear sunglasses, then allocate a portion of $6 to a stranger. SURPRISE! The cool kids in the shades were less generous than their nonshaded counterparts.

That's right -- because we have a harder time seeing people, we assume they have a harder time seeing us, even when every logical fiber of our being tells us that is obviously bullshit. Apparently this is because deep down, we're just little toddlers thinking no one can see us if our eyes are covered.

This apparent invisibility makes us more likely to be dishonest on any level, whether it is lying in an email while in a dim office, cheating on our significant other in a dark club or shortchanging that annoying customer in an under-lit coffee shop.

4. Personal Cleanliness

Quick, fill in the missing letters of these words:

W_ _H
S_ _P

Don't worry, there are no right or wrong answers -- we will simply be judging the cleanliness of your soul based on what you say. According to scientists, if your answers included WASH, SHOWER or SOAP, you might subconsciously feel bad about something and want to metaphorically clean yourself off. Because apparently, a guilty conscience makes us want to get clean.

In one study, participants who related a past misdeed to interviewers were more likely to then fill in word puzzles with cleaning-related words rather than words such as "with," "wish" or "shop." Anytime subjects were made to think about doing something wrong, they gravitated toward things that made them feel clean.

In a different experiment, subjects were asked to copy first-person fictional stories, then rate the desirability of certain products. The people who wrote out stories featuring a scheming, lying protagonist favored cleaning products, while people who wrote out stories with nice-guy protagonists were more random in their selections.

It's called the "Lady Macbeth effect," and unfortunately, it works just as well the other way. While doing something wrong makes you feel dirty, feeling clean turns you into an asshole. Washing or wiping our hands seems to induce a moral cleansing effect in us. So you are actually less likely to be helpful and more likely to lie to someone if you have just washed up.

3. The Smell of Citrus

The same guy who brought you the Lady Macbeth effect decided to see whether there were still more ways that cleanliness makes you either totally awesome or a horrible, horrible person. It turns out that regardless of your own level of personal hygiene, even the cleanliness of the room you are in can affect how you act.

Most of us associate the smell of citrus fruits with cleanliness, because the household cleaning product industry decided that was what every damn thing it sells us should smell like. So now when you smell a hint of lemon, you don't think "delightful summer beverage" or "scurvy-fightin' time!" but "Did I remember to tip the maid?"

So powerful is this association between citrus and cleanliness that you will behave better because of it. That's right -- unlike the last study, which said being more physically clean makes you an ass, a different study shows that when you smell something clean, you become a better person.

In this study, participants were brought into one of two rooms. Both rooms looked the same and had the same level of cleanliness; the only difference was that one had been sprayed with a very light citrus scent. The men and women were then told they had to split a pot of money with someone else and that the other person did not know the value of the original amount in the pot. People in the scented room were far more generous when giving this anonymous partner money than those in the unscented room. In some cases, the citrus scent actually doubled the amount of money shared.

Later, they were asked if they had noticed the smell or noticed that the room was clean. Overwhelmingly they did not, meaning the kindness and generosity bestowed on us through these "clean" scents works even on an unconscious level.

2. The Presence of Large Trees

The U.S. Forestry Service did a huge crime study (covering more than 430 cases) and found something odd, yet strikingly consistent:

Big trees equal less crime. That is, neighborhoods with large trees tend to have much lower crime rates than those with smaller trees or just bushes.

You might think that it's just because big, fancy trees are more common around big, fancy homes, so it's more correlation than causation (that is, the type of neighborhood that would have low crime anyway would also have nicer trees). But the trend holds true even if you account for that -- low crime/high income neighborhoods with smaller trees have higher crime than their peers.

Researchers can only speculate -- one commented that maybe the burglars figure that a neighborhood that can keep a tree from dying for 50 years must have its shit together (and thus must have an organized neighborhood watch program). Though that seems like a lot of deductive reasoning for a dude looking to steal a plasma TV for crack money.

Another theory is that smaller trees or low bushes skew the crime rates upward for everyone else, because they give criminals something to hide behind. Still another is that tall trees drop leaves, and that makes for loud, crunching footsteps when you're trying to sneak in at night (though again, you'd think they could just walk around the leaves or save up all of their crimes for spring).

Or maybe it goes back to the "honesty when you think you're being watched" thing, and they just think the trees are keeping an eye on them, like in the second Lord of the Rings movie. Or that they're full of cookie-making elves. Or they think Batman is hiding up there. It's hard to say, because criminals are really hard to get survey results from.

1. Signs of Other People Misbehaving

It seems humans just need any little excuse to be bad. All we need is for other people to break the ice of immorality, and we're ready to jump in with them.

For example, a parking lot with parking carts strewn willy-nilly is 28 percent more likely to get littered on than one that is clean. For some reason, once we see that someone else has misbehaved, even if we don't witness it, it gives our brains the go-ahead to be bad ourselves. It doesn't even have to be something directly related; seeing a broken window in a house might make you more likely to litter.

In one part of an exhaustive six-part study on this phenomenon, researchers left an envelope that obviously contained a 5-euro note in an open mailbox. Five euros isn't a lot of money, but most people would still say that the thought of stealing said money would never cross their minds. Well, a bunch of you would be wrong, and all it would take to change your I'm-totally-not-gonna-steal-from-random-strangers minds is a trashy-looking mailbox.

While a "mere" 13 percent of people stole the money when the mailbox looked nice and taken care of, over a quarter of the random people who walked by stole the money if the mailbox was covered in graffiti.

This isn't new; the idea has been around for a while under the name the "broken window theory," which states that when we see broken windows around, we just assume it's a Thunderdome free-for-all for committing crimes.

Seriously: What the hell is wrong with us?

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Video: Gestures and Body Language Tutorial

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Children's NIghtmares

When you combine the active imaginations of children with dreams, very disturbing nightmares can occur.  Adults often feel helpless when it comes to dealing with a child’s nightmares.  It helps to keep a few ideas in mind:
  1. Never, ever brush off or dismiss a child’s fears.  When you say, “Oh, that’s nothing, you’re being silly,” you are insulting the child as well as diminishing their concerns.  If they are legitimately frightened, it’s far from “nothing” and they aren’t being “silly,” they’re being children.
  2. You don’t want to blow the nightmare or the dream up larger than they should be, of course, but you should listen to the child as she or he tells you what happened in the dream.
  3. Instead of saying, “Monsters don’t exist!” – ask the child if he/she has ever seen a monster.  Tell them that you haven’t either (which will carry a great deal of weight, since the child probably thinks you’re about as old as old gets!).  Allow them to come to the realization that it was just a dream and that monsters (or whatever) really don’t exist.  Stay calm, casual, and never tease or make fun of them.
  4. Help them  understand that dreams are like little movies our brain creates to entertain itself while we’re asleep.  Tell them that, apparently, their mind thought it was time for a scary movie and that it will probably want to create a comedy next.  Let them know that watching several cartoons (lighthearted) before bedtime the next night will probably encourage their brain to keep things funny!
  5. If the child is afraid to go back to sleep, ask yourself this question:  “If you were their age and felt totally afraid of your dreams and the dark, what would you want your mom or dad to do?”   You’d want them to let you stay awake for the time being – with the lights on!  If you try to force them to go back to a frightening place, you aren’t going to be much of a hero, are you?
Nightmares are a part of growing up, so are “monsters under the bed” and “creepers in the closet.”  Just try to be as calm and reassuring as you can and you’ll help them disappear soon.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Animal Suicide

  • Animals of all sorts kill themselves.
  • Animal suicides can teach us a lot about human suicides.
  • For centuries people either denied animal suicides or took them as evidence of human-like intentions.
Whether it's a grieving dog, a depressed horse or even a whale mysteriously beaching itself, there is a long history of animals behaving suicidally, behavior that can help explain human suicide, says newly published research.

The idea that animals could actually be very good models for human suicide started to take root in the 20th century, said Edmund Ramsden, one of the authors of the study published in the latest issue of the journal Endeavour, along with Duncan Wilson of the University of Manchester.

"You begin to challenge the definition of suicide. The body and mind are so damaged by stress and so it leads to self destruction. It's not necessarily even a choice," Ramsden told Discovery News.

"It becomes reversed, in a sense," said Ramsden. Animal and human suicides are no longer seen as willful acts but as responses to conditions.

There are many stories of animal suicide dating back centuries. In 1845, for example, the Illustrated London News reported a "Singular Case of Suicide" involving a "fine, handsome and valuable black dog, of the Newfoundland species." The dog had for days been acting less lively than usual, but then was seen "to throw himself in the water and endeavor to sink by preserving perfect stillness of the legs and feet."

The dog was rescued and tied up. But as soon as he was released he entered the water again and tried to sink himself. This occurred several times until at last the dog appeared to tire and "by dint of keeping his head determinedly under water for a few minutes, succeeded at last in obtaining his object, for when taken out this time he was indeed dead."

Such anecdotes tend to reflect the values of the societies they are from, said Ramsden. In the 19th century, animal suicides were often seen as acts of abuse, madness, love or loyalty -- the same causes then given for human suicides. In earlier times, such qualities weren't assigned, but animals were still used to help define suicide.

"For (St.) Augustine and (Thomas) Aquinas it goes against natural law and so goes against God's law," Ramsden told Discovery News. They called on the lack of suicide in Nature as proof that people should not kill themselves.

But Aquinas couldn't have been more wrong, says psychologist Thomas Joiner of Florida State University and author of the newly-published book "Myths of Suicide."

"It's incredible how actually pervasive it is in nature," said Joiner. Organisms of all sorts are known to self-destruct in one way or another, usually in order to protect their relatives -- and so to save their genes.

"If you take the statement: 'My death will be worth more than my life,' that plays out in all sorts of organisms," said Joiner. "That calculation is the same, whether it's written in the genes or English."

Pea aphids, for instance, when threatened by a lady bug can explode themselves, scattering and protecting their brethren and sometimes even killing the lady bug. They are literally tiny suicide bombers, Joiner told Discovery News.

The big difference is that in modern humans the calculation can go wrong. There are some acts of suicide that do save lives. But most of the millions or so human suicides each year worldwide benefit no one, Joiner explained. They are acts that perhaps used to serve a purpose in early human societies, he said, but have lost their function in the modern world.

What that suicidal Newfoundland was telling us, then, is not so much that animals and humans think alike, but that it is, as Joiner said "...a fatal consequence of biologically-based and extremely serious illness."

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Video: The Global Consciousness Project (GCP)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Psychology of Friday 13th

Have you watched the movie Friday the 13th? Scary, isn’t it? Well, perhaps not quite as scary as the infamous Rebecca Black song, “Friday” – but close enough. If you are one of those who carries around a rabbit’s foot and strokes it all day long for good luck or makes a wish after blowing away a fallen eyelash – then you are probably in the midst of bolting your doors, turning on all the lights and hiding under the comforting warmth of your comforter. Today just so happens to be Friday the 13th and if you have friggatriskaidekaphobia – it’s simply not a day to be trifled with.
Frigga what you say? And yes, attempting to say it can just as well be as terrifying as its definition. The Friggatriskaidekaphobia phenomenon is a fear of Friday the 13th – a commonly held superstition that has been around for centuries, whichever part of the world you may be in. In Bollywood for example (the Mumbai based Indian film industry), producers hesitate to release movies on Friday the 13th because they fear it is bad luck and their movies might fail to do well at the box office. The stock market slows down on Friday the 13th and people also postpone travel and do not conduct major financial deals and transactions.
But what causes someone to fear a day and a date?
Thomas Gilovich, who chairs the Department of Psychology at Cornell University, seems to think that people fear Friday the 13th because they tend to associate it with bad things or events in their life. “The mind is an associative system and if anything bad happens to you on Friday the 13th, the two will be forever associated in your mind and all those uneventful days in which the 13th fell on a Friday will be ignored,” says Gilovich who also mentions that psychology can help us understand how superstitions work and why people do certain things and act in a particular manner.
The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina believes that 17 to 21 million people suffer from a fear of Friday the 13th.  Gilovich states that there is no evidence or validity to superstitions and bad luck surrounding Friday the 13th. “People hold a number of beliefs without understanding the basis behind them or where they came from,” says Gilovich who also highlights the example of architects and interior designers who will not label the 13th floor of a building.
Daniel Wegner, a psychology professor at Harvard University, has been studying the human tendency to see causal connections, especially where they do not exist, for the last few years. “Our minds cause our actions and other things that happen in the world. It seems that we often believe we are powerful causal agents just because we happen to think of something before it happens!” says Wegner who specializes in apparent mental causation.
Wegner also uses sports to highlight his theory that people who think about certain things before they happen can cause them to believe they were the active force that caused them to happen. “This is why sports fans fear going to the refrigerator because then their team might lose on TV. If they’re not actively rooting for their team and thinking good thoughts, maybe they will be the ones who tip the balance towards the loss. Or at least, feel that they did.”
So is all this just some medieval mumbo jumbo or something more? Fact or folklore?  Paranormal or paranoia? You be the judge.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Metabolic Mysteries of the Brain

It’s what Charles Mobbs, a neuroscientist from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, calls the “metabolic mystery.” Since the early 1930s, research studies have consistently demonstrated that too many nutritional resources, resulting in conditions like obesity and diabetes, can be toxic to the brain. In contrast, more restrictive diets result in a complicated (and counterintuitive) cascade of protective effects, preventing aging-related diseases and ultimately prolonging life. Today, neuroscientists are learning that the old adage, “you are what you eat,” might need to be updated to “you arehow you eat.” And the new work from the National Institutes of Aging suggests that fasting may help promote optimal brain health in aging adults.
Eating: Less is more?

Several studies have demonstrated that regular exercise helps protect the brain from age-related decline. But in a recent essay published in the March 2012 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Aging, argues that diet is just as important. Specifically, he cites results demonstrating that intermittent fasting—one day on food, the next day off of it—can also protect the brain. So why might abstaining from food every 24 hours be such a brain benefit?

“Fasting is a challenge to the nervous system, to the energy regulating systems,” says Mattson. “And what we’re thinking, from the standpoint of evolution, is that animals living in the wild, including our ancestors, often had to go extended time periods without food. If you haven’t had food for a while, your mind becomes more active—it has to become very active, to help you figure out how to find food.”

That activity manifests itself in neuroplasticity; in mouse models, Mattson and colleagues have shown that intermittent fasting helps protect the brain from both oxidative stress and direct injury. Those protective effects result in the upregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as well as anti-oxidants, DNA-repair enzymes, and other gene products that help promote plasticity and survival of neurons over time.

“It makes evolutionary sense that caloric availability would have an impact, not just on brain regions involved in metabolism, such as the hypothalamus, but also on brain regions involved in learning, such as the hippocampus,” says Alexis Stranahan, a professor at Georgia Health Sciences University and Mattson’s co-author on theNature Reviews Neuroscience essay. “Your mind needs to be sharp if you are looking for food. At the other end of the spectrum, it also makes sense that an overabundance of food would dull the senses, making it harder to form associations.”

In the past, some studies suggested that caloric restriction promoted good health—and researchers have seen improved outcomes in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and Huntington’s disease by simply reducing the number of calories an animal eats each day by a significant percentage. But Mattson argues that, when it comes to the brain, fasting may be more effective. “We find that the intermittent fasting increases neurogenesis while limited daily reduction in calories has very little effect,” he says. “BDNF levels are increased in response to both exercise and intermittent energy restriction.”
Fasting and human trials

To date, intermittent fasting has been tested in two human trials. The first was conducted by James Johnson, a plastic surgeon and professor at Louisiana State University, who was inspired by Mattson’s work. He was interested in seeing if caloric restriction might help reduce inflammation and breathing issues in people with severe asthma.

“I had a patient who had asthma who used three inhalers plus some oral medication every day,” he says. “After three weeks of alternate-day fasting, she was down to using the inhalers once a day. And after six weeks, she stopped using the inhalers at all. Her asthma symptoms had essentially gone away. It was astonishing.”

Johnson partnered with Mattson and other local scientists to do a small clinical trial. They recruited 12 overweight people with asthma to take part in an alternate-day fasting-like regimen. Participants alternated eating whatever they wanted on “on” days and consuming shakes that limited caloric intake to 500-600 calories on “off” days, for two months.

“It was a small trial but participants lost weight. They said they felt good. And their asthma symptoms improved,” says Mattson. Measurements of airway resistance improved and the researchers found many markers of inflammation and oxidative stress diminished over the first few weeks. Johnson marked it enough of a success to write a book about the regimen, called “The Alternative Day Diet.”

A second clinical trial, led by the University of Manchester’s Michelle Harvie, divided a group of about 100 overweight women with a high risk of breast cancer into three diet groups: average diet, a diet that restricted calories overall by 15 percent and intermittent fasting (with “off” days permitting 600 calories). The results have not been published yet but, once again, Mattson says participants in the fasting group lost weight and improved their insulin sensitivity.
Moving forward

Between the replicated work in animal models and the success of the two small clinical trials, Mattson now has his sights set on the human brain. He and his colleagues are planning to do a study looking at people who are at risk for age-related cognitive decline. He is optimistic that the results will mimic those seen in the smaller trials, demonstrating solid protective effects in the cortex. He and his colleagues also plan to contrast intermittent fasting with exercise in animal models.

Mobbs, however, cautions that there’s no reason for everyone to start fasting just yet. He maintains that there is still quite a bit we don’t know about caloric intake and the brain.“That’s why I call it the ‘metabolic mystery.’ And certainly we know that diseases like anorexia are very toxic to the body and the brain. We don’t know when or how these processes go from being healthy to unhealthy yet,” he says. “So your best bet for a healthy brain and a healthy body is still to listen to your doctor and use common sense: follow a reasonable caloric intake, exercise, and avoid obesity.”

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Influence of Music on the Mind

7 Health Issues Men Over the Age of 40 Shouldn't Ignore

Contrary to the messages our youth-obsessed country perpetuates on TV and in films, both men and women are incredibly creative, productive, and yes, passionate in their 40s. We hope you knew that already. However, with age comes certain health issues that shouldn’t be ignored. But men, generally speaking, don’t like to go to the doctor. Some men may even consider going to the doctor as a sign of weakness. To make matters worse, men in our society are encouraged to be macho and stoic when it comes to physical discomfort, which can cause them to ignore symptoms of serious diseases. So guys, it’s time to man up and check out these seven health issues men 40 or older need to be aware of and discuss them with a trusted physician. Your loved ones will be glad you did! 

1. High Blood Pressure

As you get older, your blood vessels become stiffer, and your blood pressure goes up. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to serious health problems including stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure. Fortunately, there are many ways to monitor your blood pressure outside of your doctor’s office, including an easy-to-use iPhone app. And there are several simple and enjoyable preventive measures you can take to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, including exercise, eating healthy, and meditation

2. Diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, sometimes called adult-onset diabetes, is most common in people over the age of 40. This type of diabetes can lead to kidney or eye problems. People with African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, and certain Asian and Pacific Island heritage are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It’s important to have your doctor test your blood sugar to diagnose diabetes if you are experiencing its symptoms, including increased thirst and hunger or frequent urination, or if there is a history of diabetes or obesity in your family. 

3. High Cholesterol 

Hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol can lead to the hardening of arteries, heart disease, and even stroke. It is more commonly diagnosed in men under the age of 55, but its risks increase with age. Since high cholesterol is often symptomless, have your doctor test your blood regularly. Good dietary habits and exercise are great preventive measures you can take toward maintaining a healthy level of cholesterol. 

4. Depression

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 6 million men have depression each year. Symptoms of depression are often erroneously and derogatorily described as evidence of a “mid-life crisis,” rather than indicators of a serious health issue. Men suffering from undiagnosed depression may exhibit clich├ęd “male” behaviour, including anger and aggression, and engage in alcohol and drug abuse. Fortunately, once properly diagnosed, depression can be treated through talk-therapy, mediation, and even acupuncture, before turning to prescription drugs. 

5. Lung Cancer

The number of new lung cancer cases has dropped steadily since the 1980s, no doubt due in part to the Surgeon General’s 1964 report on smoking and health. But lung cancer is still the leading cancer killer in both men and women, more than prostate, colon, and breast cancer combined! A small number of people who don’t smoke get lung cancer. But experts agree that smoking, a habit that can be harder to kick than heroin, is a leading cause of lung cancer. So if you smoke, try to quit. Will it be easy? No. But your body and your loved ones will thank you in the end. (How to stop smoking with Hypnotherapy)

6. Prostate Cancer

After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men. However, there is increased awareness of the importance of discussing testing for prostate cancer with your doctor. The two commonly used tests for early detection of prostate cancer, a blood test and rectal exam, are helpful but not absolutely conclusive. Talk to your doctor about your family’s health history, as well as any symptoms you may be experiencing, including trouble urinating, swelling in your legs, and discomfort in your pelvic area, to determine if further testing is necessary to screen for prostate cancer. 

7. Impotence

Men can experience varying degrees of impotence or erectile dysfunction as they get older. Many of the health issues we discussed can contribute to impotence, including unmanaged diabetes, obesity, smoking, substance abuse, and cardiovascular disease. And addressing these health issues, with exercise and a better diet, can help you in the bedroom. If you are experiencing impotence, before you take those Viagra ads soundtracked by blues guitar too much to heart, talk with your doctor in detail about your health and lifestyle. There may be a simple, drug-free solution to the issue. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Video: What DO Babies Think About?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Top 10 Myths About Introverted People

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.
This list was inspired by the book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Laney.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How 'Crowdsourcing' Will Change Psychology Forever

Psychological studies are necessary to more fully understand human behaviour. Having carried out a great many studies myself at University I can say with certainty the methodology to these studies contain a mine field of problems, not lease getting a sufficient quota of willing subjects who are representative of the population as well as covering the expenses involved in gathering such data. Perhaps technology has come to the rescue yet again? Orion Jones writes for BigThink: http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/how-crowdsourcing-will-change-psychology-forever
What's the Latest Development?
Thanks to a series of websites that use crowdsourcing to gather psychological information from people across the globe, we may shortly arrive at a more complete understanding of human behavior than ever before. The most popular site among experimental psychologists is called Mechanical Turk, which can draw from a sample base of more than 500,000 people known as Turkers. "For the hard-pressed, cash-strapped psychologist, this is a godsend. ... Studies that would once have required months or years can now be done in days." Other sites popular sites include oDesk, CrowdFlower and Elance
What's the Big Idea?
In 2010, the academic researcher Joseph Henrich popularized the acronym WEIRD, or Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. The adjectives refer to the kinds of people which experimental psychologists typically use in their experiments. American university undergraduates are especially over-represented in the field because they are willing to do tasks in return for a meager reward and because they live among the world's most prolific scientists on American college campuses. The result, argued Henrich, is a strongly skewed view of human psychology and human nature. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Video: Alternative Explanation of Hypnosis