• Tweet Year in Review

    Each year I review 12 months-worth of articles I’ve tweeted about to get a handle on what’s been hot and what’s not in the world of brain science. My daily scouring of the latest brain news usually results in around 10 to 20 articles per week that I feel merit making a link and posting it on Twitter (@drjacklewis). For an article to be deemed tweet-worthy it has to be real science, usually brain-related and written in an accessible, compelling way so that anyone can get something out of it.

    This year the top three categories of brain-related articles I’ve been tweeting about were on the topics of strategies for improving brain health, brain scanning studies and experiments relevant to understanding how young brains differ from adult brains.

    I’ve pulled out 15 of my favourites from 2017 and beneath these you’ll find the whole year’s worth:

    1. The mere presence of your smartphone reduces brain power, study shows bit.ly/2u8Vxym
    2. Brain training to help people avoid the need for reading glasses in middle age nyti.ms/2nstfhN
    3. To help comprehend just how much complexity is contained within a single cubic millimetre of brain tissue bit.ly/DrJ1CubBrMm
    4. The pen is mightier than the keyboard bit.ly/DrJMightyPen
    5. Influential tech investor slams Silicon Valley for adopting techniques that encourage compulsive media consumption bit.ly/DrJscncmplsv
    6. Neuroscientist Molly Crockett explains Brexit debacle in terms of our aversion to disadvantageous inequality bit.ly/DrJCrockBrex
    7. Fantastic article by Tali Sharot explaining why brains continue to believe info even after it’s revealed to be false bit.ly/DrJFakeNews
    8. Read for 30mins every single day and you’ll (probably) live for two years longer than if you don’t bit.ly/drJReadDaily
    9. Firm body, firm brain: magnetic resonance elastography shows positive correlation between memory & hippocampal firmness! bit.ly/DrJFitBdFitBrn
    10. Two large studies find that heavy coffee consumption predicts reduced mortality ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28693038 & ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28693036
    11. Vagus nerve stimulation implant zaps man back into consciousness after 15 years in post-car crash vegetative state bit.ly/2wPJax6
    12. Using high frequency magnetic stimulation to zap the voices generated by schizophrenic brains: bit.ly/DrJzapthevoices
    13. Fresh human brain, anyone? [don’t watch this if you’re eating, if not -behold the wonderous mass betwixt thine ears] bit.ly/2giJZaL
    14. AI based on organisation of visual brain thwarts CAPCHA “Are you a robot?” security measures bit.ly/DrJCAPCHAbash
    15. An essay on a neuroscience-informed approach to improving the prison service bit.ly/DrJNformedPrisn

    Below is every brain-related article I posted between 1st Dec 2016 and 30th Nov 2017 with clickable links so you can navigate straight to anything you find interesting:

    November 2017

    Opt in or out of old-aged infirmity – the choice is yours bit.ly/DrJ70new50

    Dog ownership makes middle aged people less likely to die or suffer cardiovascular problems according to study of over 3 million swedes bit.ly/DrJDogLifeExt

    Dolphin and killer whale brains reflect their intensely social nature bit.ly/DrJSocialCet

    The man behind Kernel’s efforts to crack the Brain Computer Interface challenge bit.ly/2z7rqhQ

    Monkey amputees trained to use a robotic arm via electrodes implanted into their brains give new insight into the mechanisms of neuroplasticity bit.ly/DrJMnkRobArm

    From American football to football football – study sets out to discover whether all those headers cause long term brain trouble bit.ly/DrJFootyBran

    If you never got around to reading about how avatar therapy can reduce schizophrenic hallucinations bit.ly/DrJSchAvTher you’ll be happy to hear we cover it in the latest episode of our @GCweirdscience podcast! bit.ly/DrJGeekChicPod

    I cannot wait until the longitudinal data on the impacts of allowing technology to constantly interrupt whatever we’re doing is finally published. In the meantime we have articles like this (which at least make people stop and think) bit.ly/DrJCyberSlack

    The record company exec’s dream come true: how much people like a song can be influenced by applying magnetic fields to a listener’s brain (Zatorre lab) bit.ly/DrJMagMusLik

    Do your brain training at the gym, the benefits may well be multiplicative bit.ly/DrJBrTrGym

    Actually, New Scientist covers the story much better… bit.ly/DrJAdHiStakes Brain imaging study highlights difficulties younger adolescents have compared to older adolescents when making (relatively) high stakes decisions

    Neuroscience study compares impact of after-school music lessons versus sports on brain structure and cognitive flexibility in kids from disadvantaged communities bit.ly/DrJMusicBrain

    Brain imaging study highlights difficulties younger adolescents have compared to older adolescents when making (relatively) high stakes decisions bit.ly/DrJAdolStakes

    Being a loner not always associated with bad outcomes. When freely chosen rather than compelled by socially-induced anxiety it predicts superior creativity bit.ly/DrJIsolCreat

    Cognitive training improves innovative thinking, along with corresponding positive brain changes, in healthy adults over the age of 55 bit.ly/DrJCogTrn55pl

    Couples may..have more opportunities for social engagement than single people-a factor that has been linked to better health and lower dementia risk bit.ly/DrJMarryDem

    The Society for Neuroscience conference is always full of surprises – love the study where they taught rhesus monkeys to play chicken and cooperate to maximise their earnings bit.ly/DrJRhesChickn

    Head and/or face pain tends to induce more emotional suffering, new study suggests it’s because neurons from these body parts plug directly into the parabrachial nucleus – others are indirectly connected bit.ly/DrJHdFcPn

    60% of people are pro-socials, meaning they prefer resources to be distributed equally among everyone, but these pro-socials – according to a new study – are more prone to depression bit.ly/DrJProsocDep

    Stress experienced by fathers may alter gene expression in their sperm, potentially leading to less resilient offspring bit.ly/DrJStressSperm

    Where neuroscience meets Virtual Reality, beautiful things can happen bit.ly/DrJNeuroXvr

    Interested in building games in virtual reality? Here’s a great lesson in what NOT to do if you want to create a sense of satisfaction when the player finally cracks the puzzle bit.ly/DrJVRescFAIL [if you don’t like swearing, DO NOT click the link]

    Turns out that smartphone addiction might be a thing after all – Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy study suggests it leads to neurotransmitter imbalance (GABA/glutamate) bit.ly/DrJPhoneAdict

    Head and/or face pain tends to induce more emotional suffering, new study suggests it’s because neurons from these body parts plug directly into the parabrachial nucleus – others are indirectly connected bit.ly/DrJHdFcPn

    “Stress experienced by fathers may alter gene expression in their sperm, potentially leading to less resilient offspring” bit.ly/DrJStressSperm

    Neuroscience study compares impact of after-school music lessons versus sports on brain structure and cognitive flexibility in kids from disadvantaged communities bit.ly/DrJMusicBrain

    Taste of what’s being talked about at the Society for Neuroscience conference today bit.ly/DrJTasteSfN17

    Study tests whether people recall images they were briefly shown (but not asked to memorise) 10 years previously bit.ly/DrJ10yrsLater

    Going beyond opioids in pain management to avoid the potential for addiction brings us to… snail venom bit.ly/DrJByndOpio

    The more you exercise the less your telomeres shorten, helping you to stay (biologically) young: bit.ly/DrJ70new50

    New brain probe has 1,000 recording sites per millimetre and is likely to be a “game-changer” for neuroscience research bit.ly/DrJBrainProbe

    Tales of a brain detective nyti.ms/2zqhDTj

    Mind-typing is on the horizon bit.ly/DrJMindType

    How the presence of irrelevant alternatives on a menu affect decision-making Decoy effect examined in fMRI-TMS study bit.ly/DrJMktgTrx

    Sleep deprivation makes your brain cells sluggish – literally – according to measurements from human neurons bit.ly/DrJSlpDepSlug

    Don’t spank your kids. What did and didn’t happen in your own childhood is irrelevant, we know better now… bit.ly/DrJDontSpank

    Brains severely damaged by heart attack more likely to recover if brain scans show that core connectivity is intact bit.ly/DrJPostHAbrnscn

    If GABA (in hippo) can reduce neg thoughts & high fat diet reduces GABA,then do high fat diets promote neg thoughts? bit.ly/DrJHiFatHiAnx

    An essay on a neuroscience-informed approach to improving the prison service bit.ly/DrJNformedPrisn

    Re-defining the phrase “Spaced Out” – what happens to an astronaut’s brain over the course of a long trip bit.ly/DrJSpacedOut

    The trouble with clinical trials involving brain implants… bit.ly/2zoOrg7

    Sweet dreams… make those zzzzz’s count bbc.in/2lCppnF

    OCT 2017

    If you’ve heard people moaning about the clocks going back, you may wish to take them out with this bit.ly/DrJBrBenClkBk

    New study demonstrates 40% faster learning with tDCS in non-human primates bit.ly/DrJfstrlrng

    Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) therapy for depression and OCD may trigger transient episodes of rage bit.ly/DrJtDCSrage

    AI based on organisation of visual brain thwarts CAPCHA “Are you a robot?” security measures bit.ly/DrJCAPCHAbash

    All hail the king of brain training, Dual n-back, freely available from brainworkshop.sourceforge.net for almost a decade! bit.ly/DrJDualNking

    I love that dolphins gossip about each other when the subject of the gossip isn’t around bit.ly/2yOjvFA

    Science of the female orgasm revisited bit.ly/DrJFemOrgasm

    Resetting the Circadian Clock Might Boost Metabolic Health ja.ma/2xGe4Z6

    Psilocybin therapy described as feeling like reset button had been pressed for many depressed people in neuro study bbc.in/2ymbV24

    Fresh human brain, anyone? [don’t watch this if you’re eating, if not -behold the wonderous mass betwixt thine ears] bit.ly/2giJZaL

    Activity-dependent plasticity can re-establish voluntary control of movement..after complete paralysis in humans bit.ly/DrJRecovParal

    Plans are afoot to grow a little-known cannabinoid (cannabidivarin) in GM yeast as a therapy to treat epilepsy bit.ly/DrJCBDV

    Cybernetics in action: a robot that can swim… & fly bit.ly/DrJCybernetics

    Feeling connected to others is vital for health so audio brain training for hard-of-hearing could be a real boon bit.ly/DrJAudioTrng

    If the body has to choose between fuelling the brain or the skeletal muscles, brains win every time bit.ly/2yvZjIe

    Waste not want not – how offcuts from human surgery are helping to unravel the #SecretsOfTheBrain bit.ly/DrJHmnBrnRes

    More hope means less anxiety bit.ly/DrJHopeProtects

    A window into the brain’s autopilot mode bit.ly/DrJBrAutoplt

    How to do lucid dreaming more effectively bit.ly/DrJLucidDrms

    Feeling connected to others is vital for health so audio brain training for hard-of-hearing could be a real boon bit.ly/DrJAudioTrng

    If the body has to choose between fueling the brain or the skeletal muscles, brains win every time bit.ly/2yvZjIe

    New GDF15 drugs progressing through pre-clinical testing show good prospects in fight against the obesity pandemic bit.ly/DrJGDF15wtls

    New theory suggests migraines occur when brains sensitive to oxidative stress take steps to protect against damage bit.ly/DrJMigrProt

    Power of touch in soothing social pain bit.ly/DrJTouchSocPn

    Re: artificial retinas…it may actually take less work to enhance human vision than to restore normal vision: bit.ly/DrJEasya2Enh

    non-REM sleep is especially important in clearing plaques involved in Alzheimer’s disease from the brainî bit.ly/DrJNonREMdplq

    Great article to start trying to comprehend how much complexity is contained within1cubic millimetre of brain tissue bit.ly/DrJ1CubBrMm

    If you want to know how people are really feeling, close your eyes bit.ly/DrJHearEmot

    Neuroscientist Molly Crockett explains Brexit debacle in terms of our aversion to disadvantageous inequality bit.ly/DrJCrockBrex

    Phase II clinical trial of FDA-approved antihistamine restores function in patients with chronic multiple sclerosis bit.ly/DrJAntihstMS

    While perception tends to extract simple components and build up to complex features, recall appears to flip this bit.ly/DrJRecallBtoF

    Female brain’s attach more value to prosocial choices than men, whether due to nature or nurture uncertain bit.ly/DrJGendProS

    Who’d have thought there’s a genetic component to propensity to get divorced?!! bit.ly/DrJDivGenes

    Bad news for my high school which has a major A-road running between the 2playgrounds. Pollution & brain development bit.ly/DrJYngBrnPln

    Here’s a cracking (hyperbole-free) article describing where we’ve got to in the epic journey of merging mind&machine bit.ly/DrJBrnCmpInt

    Why do smart people do foolish things? Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and the difference matters bit.ly/2y6vAUZ

    34,000 Norwegians followed over 11 years suggest exercise reduces incidence of depression -what are you waiting for? bit.ly/DrJExerBrain

    Experiencing traumatic brain injury – from the perspective of a science journalist knocked off her bike by a car bit.ly/DrJTrmBrnInj

    Mindfulness meditation influences different brain areas to compassion-based meditation bit.ly/DrJMedtnBrn

    Google’s DeepMind postulates that hippocampus doesn’t just contain memories of the past, but also visions of future bit.ly/DrJHipoFutr

    Geek Chic Weird Science podcast Ep81 is out now: this week we discuss living in lava tubes, the IgNobels & more… bit.ly/DrJGCWeirdSci

    Experimental transcranial Direct Current Stimulation significantly reduced fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis bit.ly/DrJtcDCS4MS

    Nobel prize for three researchers who unpicked the brain mechanisms of circadian rhythm bit.ly/DrJNobl17Circ

    Pregnancy fundamentally alters female brains, find a summary of the findings of this groundbreaking research here bit.ly/DrJPregBrain

    2,500 pickled human brains harvested from psychiatric patients in Essex now being studied in Belgium bit.ly/DrJBoxedBrains

     

    SEP 2017

    Being busy ruins creativity http://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/creativity-and-distraction

    MRI study indicates that gamers deal better with uncertainty than those who don’t regularly play action video games bit.ly/DrJGmrsUncrt

    Vagus nerve stimulation implant zaps man back into consciousness after 15 years in post-car crash vegetative state bit.ly/2wPJax6

    A Beginner’s Guide to Machine Learning for Humans chw.ag/2fhexZW

    Fantastic article by Tali Sharot explaining why brains continue to believe info even after it’s revealed to be false bit.ly/DrJFakeNews

    Introducing… The International Brain Laboratory bit.ly/2xcEVZl

    Worrying takes up cognitive resources..get these worries out of your head through expressive writing..become more efficient bit.ly/2wu3BKP

    Researchers uncover mechanism behind calorie restriction and lengthened lifespan bit.ly/2jsCRJr

    Wow – the symptoms of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis sound out of this world – imagine thinking you’re a T-Rex?! bit.ly/2h1rg3m

    I wrote a blog about the potential for deep brain stimulation without needing to put electrodes inside the brain… bit.ly/DrJFutureDBS

    Using high frequency magnetic stimulation to zap the voices generated by schizophrenic brains: bit.ly/DrJzapthevoices

    Move over stem cells, we can make motoneurons from people’s skin now… bit.ly/DrJmotoNfrmSKN

    MRI study reveals the vast majority of dogs love us “at least as much as food” nyti.ms/2gSbS9h

    Brains using photons for communication using neurons like optical fibres? Now i’ve heard it all… bit.ly/2wJ41ii

    Understand your child’s changing brain as the years go by ind.pn/2iW8pXQ

    All aboard who’s going aboard – wondering whether or not to get on the Brain Train? bit.ly/2x2kRf1

    Healthy glucose levels the key to a healthy ageing brain bit.ly/2x9vYCb

     

    AUG 2017

    Most of us alive today carry at least some DNA from a species that last lived tens of thousands of years ago bit.ly/2gc5Yzr

    Natural High? Finnish PET scanning study suggests High Intensity Interval Training boosts brain endorphins bit.ly/2ivpVlC

    Artificial Intelligence algorithm can predict dementia two years before onset on basis of single amyloid PET scan: bit.ly/2g5YWfC

    Here we go again: Aussie firm plans to target eSports gamers with their electrical brain stimulation headsets ab.co/2vWpDYk

    Scientists: There IS something you can do to save the world trib.al/n7zvDcl

    Struggle with insomnia? Try the Body Scan meditation shortly before bedtime bit.ly/2uIQ0i1

    In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control bit.ly/2w61nVU

    Apparently cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help procrastinators, personally i’d never get round to it.. bit.ly/2vP2pmO

    Eating walnuts makes brain area activated by unpleasant feelings(eg disgust) light up when people see junk food pics bit.ly/2wTMkfC

    Read for 30 mins every single day and you’ll (probably) live for two years longer than if you don’t bit.ly/drJReadDaily

    Firm body, firm brain: magnetic resonance elastography shows +’ve correlation between memory & hippocampal firmness! bit.ly/DrJFitBdFitBrn

    Thinking of a career change? Why not figure out how to accommodate extra 70k elderly who’ll need care by 2025 bit.ly/drJCare4Eld

    The robots are coming (and this are the places where you’ll see them first) bit.ly/2vwf53g

    Going on holiday soon? Lucky you. Please read this and then as soon as you get to your destination UNPLUG bit.ly/DrJUnplug

    Will the future involve supercomputers made out of networked “brain balls” in vast underground server rooms? bit.ly/DrJBrainBlls

    A brief glimpse into the future of the neurotechnology industry bit.ly/DrJNuroTech

    Memory like a sieve? Imagining the irritating consequences of an action sequence makes memories stickier bit.ly/DrJMemTrix1

    Just when you think you’re getting your head around how complicated brains are..turns out they’re more complex still bit.ly/DrJEvnMreCplx

    Calm down dear the mighty @Neuro_Skeptic provides much needed perspective on male/female brain difference headlines bit.ly/DrJGndBrnSPCT

    Learning in your sleep, very specific phases of sleep, mind bit.ly/DrJSlpLrn

    Are energy drinks the new gateway drug to the hard stuff? Probably not but this makes interesting reading bit.ly/DrJrBllGtwy

    Influential tech investor slams Silicon Valley for adopting techniques that encourage compulsive media consumption bit.ly/DrJscncmplsv

    Cash incentive-based neurofeedback goals enable control over functional connectivity. Could lead to brain therapies! bit.ly/DrJNfdbkConX

    Litmus test for the brain? bit.ly/DrJBrainpH

    Anyone for a brain-controlled Virtual Reality experience? The future will be here next year engt.co/2vfpGOA

    Coming Soon: sub-micron sized Nanoswimmer rockets to ferry drugs across the blood brain barrier bit.ly/2vblYXy

    Hot yoga reduces comfort eating in the mildly depressed bit.ly/DrJHotYog

    Finally someone’s figured out how to remove BPAs from drinking water safely, simply and, it seems, very thoroughly bit.ly/DrJBPAremov

    Specially engineered ceramic skull implant should improve future delivery of ultrasound/laser-based brain therapies bit.ly/DrJUSimplnt

    Who’d have thought: moderate alcohol intake is associated with lower rates of cognitive decline in elderly…cheers! bit.ly/DrJModBooz

    Slowly but surely we’re starting to uncover the biological mechanisms involved obesity bit.ly/DrJObesAdip

    Major breakthrough in our understanding of how brains perceive faces bit.ly/DrJFacePerc

    Neurofeedback can increase the incidence of alpha brainwave spindles but not their duration or amplitude bit.ly/DrJNeuroFdbk

    Aussies invest twice as much in bodily health than in their brain’s wellbeing. What would the figures be for you? bit.ly/2w0R42B

    Virus-restored plasticity – would you? bit.ly/DrJVrsRestPlst

     

    JUL 2017

    The pen is mightier than the keyboard bit.ly/DrJMightyPen

    Sugar linked to depression & memory problems in men @ERWatkins2 tinyurl.com/y7kvs27x

    A vital step closer to cheating death? Will we all be replenishing our hypothalamic stem cells come 2030? ind.pn/2eO8BqD

    In future schools will have to balance cognitive training with PE & brain stimulation, If this is anything to go by bit.ly/DrJCogXTrain

    Want to have your brain in a jar? And live to tell the tale? Believe it or not, this is now technically possible bit.ly/DrJBrainInJar

    Freeing up time by paying others to do your dirty work makes you happy bit.ly/DrJDechoreJoy

    I’d love to know what brain area this young lady’s therapists are pointing the TMS at – temporal pole? bit.ly/DrJ_TMStreat

    Here are some visual illusions to start the week and to remind you that your brain has no direct access to reality bit.ly/DrJIllusions

    How physical exercise prevents dementia bit.ly/2ukXISk

    I can’t quite believe how many of those born in the 21st century can reasonably expect to see their 100th birthday.. bit.ly/DrJ100isnew80

    Given heart delivers blood2brain 24/7 perhaps unsurprising that healthier heart in 20’s means healthy brain in 40’s bit.ly/DrJHeartHead

    Omega oils can be converted into cannabinoids that target the immune system to reduce inflammation bit.ly/DrJOm3Cann

    Human foetuses can tell the difference between spoken English and Japanese from inside the womb a month before birth bit.ly/DrJFoetLang

    These ravens have better planning skills than some people I know. ow.ly/qjyx30dJbE7

    Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never… oh wait, hang on, that’s not actually true nyti.ms/2u8b8Q0

    Let your kids play in the dirt. Immune systems, like brains, adapt to the local environment through exposure bit.ly/2u983km

    Composition of gut bacteria aged 1 seems to predict cognitive development aged 2. Whether or not this is causal is tbc bit.ly/2vxQ1pX

    WE NOW GO LIVE TO BREXIT pic.twitter.com/edf48mbqmj

    O2 and hyperbaric oxygen therapy reverses brain damage in drowned toddler bit.ly/2u1Bhjz

    Give us this day our daily crossword, forgive us our grammatic inaccuracies, deliver us from tongue-tiedness… bit.ly/2vwXV2I

    Fascinated by the brain? Here are some apps that explain how brains work. In sickness and in health bit.ly/2txqM5N

    A blast of light to spark dmPFC neurons and the previously subordinate mouse’s sumo skills went through the roof bit.ly/DrJSumoMice

    Flatcam: small enough to sit between skull/cortex to sense & deliver signals from ~millions of neurons to a computer bit.ly/DrJ_FlatCam

    Two large studies find that heavy coffee consumption predicts reduced mortality ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28693038 & ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28693036

    Immune cells pass dopamine molecules between them? (T cells -> B cells) Now I’ve heard it all bit.ly/DrJDopImmT2B

    Being generous to others makes us happy and brand new study published in Nature Comms helps to explain why bit.ly/DrJGive2BHap

    Video games and your brains bit.ly/DrJ_GameBrain

    Will we ever manage to simultaneously record activity from 1million neurons? $65M from DARPA says it CAN be done… bit.ly/DrJ_1MilNeur

    Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, your eyelids are starting to feel veeeeery heavy bit.ly/DrJ_Hypno

    I bought BEHAVE on a whim yesterday – now, having read this NYT review, I really can’t wait to get started nyti.ms/2uNCJVQ

    Psychopath brains overvalue immediate gratification over long term consequences even more than the rest of us bit.ly/2sHhuIA

    Brain wiring mapped in unprecedented detail using latest MRI technology bbc.in/2sHC7zC

    Brain training can work after all: 40% improvement in amnesic mild cognitive impairment after a bit of “Game Show” bit.ly/2t7SHfs

     

    JUN 2017

    Brain plasticity can occur in a “blastic” or a “clastic” direction. You have the power of controlling the switch -Dr. Merzenich In other words brain plasticity can have positive and negative consequences depending on what you do with your lifestyle choices

    Cockatoo drumming film bitly.com/gcwsDrumming

    High fat diet causes weight gain by increasing microglial cells and inflammation in the mouse hypothalamus bit.ly/2sNfVEj

    For those teaching pre-school kids to read, beware picture overload.. no more than one illustration per page is best bit.ly/2tLL7IT

    Higher IQ aged 11 predicts better chances of making it to 80 bit.ly/2tpqxxc

    Gambling on the Dark Side of Nudges: bit.ly/2tTpm72

    Why our brains need us to keep moving bit.ly/2scBind

    Regular moderately-intense exercise helps to delay onset of Alz, even in genetically-prone people ti.me/2sUbQ2O

    By many accounts, we’re experiencing an epidemic of anxiety, and several experts pin the blame on our smartphones bit.ly/2tku8tR

    The mere presence of your smartphone reduces brain power, study shows bit.ly/2u8Vxym

    Overstated evidence for short-term effects of violent games on aggression ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28639810

    What is cognitive reserve? How we can protect our brains from memory loss and dementia bit.ly/2tWLCvH

    PET study indicates 6 brain areas implicated in OCD exhibit signs of greater inflammation than in non-OCD brains bit.ly/DrJ_OCD_Inflam

    Multitasking reduces efficiency by 40% in the vast majority of humans.. now we know (part of) the reason why bit.ly/2sDPm66

    Now THIS is brain art bit.ly/2rRm9av

    Food for thought bit.ly/DrJFood4Thought

    Short blog on research studying how playing Tetris directly after traumatising experiences can reduce flashbacks bit.ly/DrJTetTerTher

    Brain circuitry of hunger regulation involves intimate relationship between hypothalamus & insula: bit.ly/DrJHungerHypIns

    Great article explaining why development of brain computer interfaces must proceed hand in hand with ethics, or else bit.ly/2sA8J2f

    Don’t Text While Parenting – It Will Make You Cranky dld.bz/eYRf7

    A nice, succinct explanation of the biological processes determining sex and gender bit.ly/DrJSexAndGender

    How to Stay Sharp in Later Life on.dana.org/2sUlOAE

    Blue Brain team discovers a multi-dimensional universe in brain networks bit.ly/2sf3GUx

    Could Einstein’s quirky habits be responsible for his genius? Maybe you have a few of them too…find out here! bbc.in/2rRABO1

    Implanting pig brain chemical manufacturing plant (choroid plexus) into Parkinson’s patients’ brains looks promising bit.ly/DrJPigPrksRmdy

    Temporal interference stimulation to target deep brain areas without opening the skull has HUUUGE potential bit.ly/2satP7D

    New study confirms performance boost in creative thinking task by reducing left frontal brain activation via tDCS bit.ly/DrJcreativeZap

    Seven beers per week increases chance of brain shrinkage and white matter degradation (over the course of decades) bit.ly/DrJ7beersPW

    Temporal interference seems like a much smarter form of brain stimulation than TMS or tDCS: nyti.ms/2rw4HqT

    This is an armadillo’s defense mechanism pic.twitter.com/gUUNaOmu4O

    Memory loss and other cognitive decline linked to blood vessel disease in the brain bit.ly/2rQzVcj

    Einstein’s first wife was a physicist too, who contributed to his work. ow.ly/3JBY30ck9TH

    New! Cassetteboy vs Theresa May – youtu.be/p7iUYWMD77w

    Typing by brain sounds great. Up to the point where,like Trump,every silly idle thought gets broadcast to the world bit.ly/DrJtypebybrain

    Human brain replays memories in fast-forward bit.ly/2rKrOho

    Human faces reconstructed from monkey brain data bit.ly/DrJBrainFaces

     

    No Tweets In May (Went into hiding to finish new book)

     

    APR 2017

    Tiny ancient skull has ridges suggesting possibility of Broca’s area therefore speech + self-evident burial instinct bit.ly/DrJ_Naledi

    The coconut octopus uses coconut shells as protection against predators! pic.twitter.com/wInVITqwaG

    Sugary drinks aren’t great for your brain health, neither are diet drinks, probably best to stick to juice and water bit.ly/DrJ_OneDietSoda

     

    Flying car costing more than $1 million goes on show in Monaco reut.rs/2p1FBPg

    Whether zapping brains improves or degrades memories depends on the timing and AI, it seems, can help with that.. nyti.ms/2pYpgbi

    A new study adds to the oft-controversial research on the apparent antiaging properties of “young blood”: scim.ag/2oW9Qab

    Contraceptive pill reduces quality of life bit.ly/2oraNU2

    ..arrest the progression–>change Alzheimer’s disease into something completely different so it becomes liveable.. bbc.in/2pF4v5h

    Relapse-prevention apps connect recovering addicts to support and use AI to predict when relapse is likely to occur bit.ly/DrJ_RelaPrevApp

    SuperAgers suggest that age-related cognitive decline is not inevitable bit.ly/DrJ_SuperAgers

    Aha! moments observed in eye tracking data bit.ly/DrJ_Aha

    Efficacy of ayahuasca – a hallucinogen usually used in shamanistic rituals – tested in clinical trial for depression bit.ly/DrJ_Ayahuasca

    A UK company is creating edible water blobs that it hopes will eradicate the world of plastic waste. pic.twitter.com/k2jHsYRNND

    Music-induced awakenings in Alzheimer’s patients… surely it’s worth a try?! bit.ly/2odwUxV

    Let your mind roam free bit.ly/DrJ_MindWander

    When people detect a moral conflict, zapping (tDCS) their brain (right dlPFC) helps to keep them honest bit.ly/2onTiaq

    An update on the differences between male and female brains on the basis of an even bigger brain imaging study bit.ly/2p28yIk

    Anti-Parkinson’s virus therapy bit.ly/2oj7b9R

    You can really identify a signature of the dreaming brain” bit.ly/2oj3bWU

    Born to love superheroes: Research into the roots of justice may contain hints for solving social ills bit.ly/2ofjVyb

    Are you a night owl? This could explain why bit.ly/DrJ_NightOwl

    Marmite – not just delicious – new study says a daily dose can significantly change how your brain works: bit.ly/2oB3T3d

    Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep bit.ly/DrJ_SleepDeep

     

    MAR 2017

    Science may have got multiple sclerosis all wrong, now they’ve figured out it’s caused by B-cells not T-cells we may be able to nip it in the bud bit.ly/2ola0Fo

    Maturation of white matter connecting front of brain to back key to understanding others around age of 4 years okd bit.ly/2nzk8vP

    Understanding the role of cannabinoids in stress relief, bit by bit bit.ly/2nNKtH9

    tetraplegic man can move his arm again just by thinking about it with device that reads brain –> stimulates muscles bit.ly/2obLKIQ

    I’ve said it once,I’ll say it again: if you want you brain to age gracefully -it’s time to get your dancing shoes on nyti.ms/2njb8Zc

    holotropic breathwork..uses hyperventilation-induced fainting to achieve..an expansion of awareness bit.ly/2nuQLsS

    Without an intact anterior temporal lobe you’d never be able to keep up with all the gossip sciof.us/2ov2HKG

    3min film of Ed Boyden sharing his vision of how the merger between brain&machine will unfold in the coming years bit.ly/DrJ_BoydnCoPro

    Brain training to help people avoid the need for reading glasses in middle age? Now that would be pretty cool… nyti.ms/2nstfhN

    There is a journal called Religion, Brain and Behaviour bit.ly/2nVqV1d

    New Alzheimer’s test can predict age when disease will appear buff.ly/2ne7ySy

    Older mums can often be better mums according to Danish study bit.ly/DrJ_Oldermums

    Ditch the GPS, use your noggin bit.ly/2n4uBhe

    What do smartphones do to our brains? We still don’t know bit.ly/2nNQrW1

    Extract of funnel web spider venom can protect against stroke damage even when given after the event bit.ly/2mngQNd

    Sexual afterglow – still benefits couples 48hrs later bit.ly/2mIrGso

    Imaging neurons in vivo with a needle thin probe… bit.ly/2n6MP3f

    Tea please… any colour will do bit.ly/2nDyqtp

    Humpback whales are organizing in huge numbers, and no one knows why pops.ci/DEYPA6

    Clever fMRI drug smuggling study investigates differences between recklessness & knowingly committing a crime bit.ly/DrJ_DrugSmug

    Cognitive enhancing drugs can improve chess play, scientists show bit.ly/2mGhsfG

    Metacognitive therapy addresses thinking processes 2 help people reduce depressive symptoms by lessening rumination bit.ly/DrJ_MCT4Deprsn

    amateur scientists who like to experiment with their own mixes..aren’t afraid to use their own brains as lab rats bit.ly/DrJ_StackTwats

    HIV can get into brain & interfere with cognitive process by disrupting white matter,MRI can detect this fairly well bit.ly/DrJ_HIV_MRI

    If all the Ice melted: National Geographic’s Interactive map on Rising Seas – Geoawesomeness buff.ly/2mYYkKE

    Blueberry Brain bit.ly/DrJBlubryBrain

    Bigger brains aren’t always better, when you’re a sociable bird or insect, that is bit.ly/DrJSmSocBr

    2017 Winners of The Brain Prize: Peter Dayan, Ray Dolan and Wolfram Schultz for research on brain’s reward system bit.ly/2maRX4b

    Just bought my 1st robot! Although I can control it with my smartphone, sadly I can’t control it with my brain alone bit.ly/DrJBrainRobot

    OCD: Brain fails to send safety signals (vmPFC) as experience demonstrates perceived danger is no longer a threat bit.ly/DrJ_SafetySig

    Uncertainty is in the eye of the beholder (literally) bit.ly/DrJ_UncertEye

    Artificial Intelligence goes ALL IN;but will it wipe out online poker altogether? Would that be a good or bad thing? bit.ly/DrJ_AI_All_In

    Here’s something @mocost wrote about the possible role of the cerebellum in cognition and emotion bit.ly/2mDaM2O

     

    FEB 2017

    Stem cell transplants for human multiple sclerosis patients. Controversial yet encouraging. But does it last? bit.ly/DrJStemXplant4MS

    Dad’s who take cocaine around time of conception may be damaging their kids’ memory capacities bit.ly/DrJ_CokeDads

    Why parents seem to be blind to their kids’ extra pounds bit.ly/DrJ_PorkyKids

    Novel study investigates brain areas critical to the process of dreaming up funny captions bit.ly/DrJ_HumourGen #creativity

    Newborns can recognize the voices they’ve been hearing for the last trimester in the womb nyti.ms/2m3sgFv

    Digital reconstruction of a giant neuron that encircles the entire mouse brain go.nature.com/2lClhBV by @Sara_Reardon via @kenanmalik

    Never underestimate the power of bee brains. It’s amazing what a million neurons can be trained to do nyti.ms/2lAajNq

    Hair fine electrodes that can send electrical, chemical and/or optical information to and from the brain bit.ly/2mbhM72

    The TRAPPIST-1 star & 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting it, are relatively close to us; located ~40 light-years away: go.nasa.gov/2lvVN7G

    Brains better at divergent thinking tasks (related to creativity) have denser connectivity between left & right side bit.ly/2lGeTKz

    Huge study of 3,242 brains aged 4-63 shows consistent structural differences of those with ADHD vs others without bit.ly/DrJ_ADHDbrains

    Build up of iron in the globus pallidus is positively correlated with duration of cocaine use bit.ly/DrJFeCokeHed

    Standord scientists enable paraplegic man to type,using brain computer interface,at speeds of up to 39characters/min bit.ly/2kIp1mJ

    Many different compartments and barriers in the brain create multiple unique immune environments bit.ly/2lbQr2M #brain

    Sleep is a powerful source of resilience in difficult times bit.ly/2lwV34K …so stop looking at screens late at night sleepyhead

    That dopamine is involved in human bonding is less surprising than dual scanners doing fMRI/PET at the same time!! bit.ly/2kYBlv8

    A computer to rival the human brain – what’s it gonna take? bit.ly/2lNRxmM

    Autism detected in “cerebral cortex” from age<2 (narrowing it down to virtually anywhere on brain’s outer surface!) bbc.in/2lLOdc5

    Neurons in the amygdala fired 120 milliseconds earlier than the hippocampus bit.ly/2laFY8p

    Laughter is important. This made me laugh: bit.ly/2kzOhHD

    Using genetics to personalize diet for effective weight loss & disease prevention @DrJackLewis @DrMichaelMosley tinyurl.com/hhm8d28

    New generation brain implants stimulate neurons with magnetism rather than electricity to get around sticky problem bit.ly/DrJMagBranImp

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be playing with this whale song synthesizer whalesynth.com

    Opioid release vital to process of deriving pleasure from your favourite songs (or any pleasure for that matter?!) bit.ly/DrJMuOpiMusic

    A retinal cell has been identified that might just explain why more and more kids are becoming short sighted bit.ly/DrJMyopiaCell

    Study confirms the assumption that E-Cigarettes are far less toxic than real cigarettes bit.ly/DrJeCigsSafe

    Studying the mysterious condition of mirror touch synaesthesia bit.ly/DrJMirrorTouch

    Sleeping patterns all over the place? Time to go camping! Couple of days in the wilderness resets melatonin cycle bit.ly/2jQ6lvL

    Mini brains spontaneously produce mini blood vessels. All they need now is a mini heart and some blood and we’re off bit.ly/2jZ4W6Y

    How time in space changes brains bit.ly/2jv9o1p

     

    JAN 2017

    Using psychedelics to treat addiction – how to get the reduction in cravings without the hallucinations? bit.ly/DrJ_Ibogaine

    Hanger – it’s the real deal bit.ly/DrJHanger

    Could problems with the brain’s blood flow gatekeepers be a key part of problems like Alzheimer’s, ALS etc? bit.ly/DrJGateKeep

    Wisdom of the crowd is not always on the money, MIT scientists have figured out how to extract it better bit.ly/DrJBetCwdWis

    Imagine a neuropeptide that can induce gut to burn fat without stimulating appetite (in C. elegans, not humans, yet) bit.ly/DrJFatBurnFLP7

    New angle for treating aggressive form of brain cancer (glioblastoma) suggests prior drug devel. = wild goose chase bit.ly/DrJGlioBlaster

    Metallic hydrogen – it could change the course of humanity across the cosmos if we could use it to fuel our space ships bit.ly/2jf0MeW

    Why an LSD trip lasts so much longer than a cannabis high or magic mushrooms bit.ly/2jei7Vf

    Dreaming (REM) sleep accelerates pruning of certain brain connections, a process vital to reshaping teenage brains bit.ly/2jZz2ul

    A study of 500 MRI scans reveals the links between personality traits and brain structure bit.ly/2khAZjj

    A cautionary tale about the promises of modern brain science econ.st/2jaKI9q

    I’ve often wondered why so many schizophrenic people smoke so fast and intensely; this suggests they might be self-medicating bit.ly/2knNHw8tv

    Peripheral neuropathy (a health complication seen in diabetes, chemo, HIV) could be helped by anti-muscarinic agents bit.ly/2jJ7Eho

    Resensitising brain cancer to chemotherapy using old school anti-malaria drug bit.ly/2k3sCeg

    No meaningful difference in amygdala sizes in male vs female brains across 30yrs of MRI studies bit.ly/2jxgmBC

    Antibody targeting protein in Blood Brain Barrier reduces signs of brain ageing bit.ly/2iDLtap

    ALL ROWS NOW COMPLETE. With 4 new elements discovered Asia enters the hall of fame and the USA jumps to 2nd place. pic.twitter.com/XE5X7un5e0

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for psychosis found to be associated with measurable changes in brain connectivity bit.ly/2jVE6fM

    Mixing up names of your nearest & dearest is probably due to them being stored in your “people I love” brain directory n.pr/2jvE417

    Facebook wants in on Brain Control Interfaces bit.ly/2iyPqgR

    Neuroscience in practice to enhance your star gazing experience bit.ly/2iDexCn

    Monkey metamemory bit.ly/2iyA4sD

    Genetically-speaking you are 10% retrovirus – deal with it! bit.ly/2jf5fgE

    Who better than Russ Poldrack to review a book about what MRI can and can’t do? go.nature.com/2jeuDn5

    Turning mice into killers at the flick of an (optogenetic) switch n.pr/2j53LTZ

    The orbits of the stars in the vicinity of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy buff.ly/2jffcrX

    Increased amygdala activity related to more heart disease (prob via elevated white blood cell-induced inflammation) bbc.in/2jmd1mt

    You can tell how old a person is from their brain’s glial cell health (if you chop their brain out for post-mortem) bit.ly/2icNCPb

    Just how smart is an octopus? Smarter than you think wapo.st/2ifbbW8

    Will nose-witnesses soon play a role in our courts of law? (“Eyewitnesses” are so 20th century) bit.ly/2i9qjG0

    Earth and the moon – as seen from Mars nyti.ms/2jqwQs8

    Mini-brains grown from stem cells taken from kids’ milk teeth can tell you a thing or two about their actual brains bit.ly/2icfvBT

    The mess that is tcDCS therapy 4 depression/addiction/fibromyalgia (good news) tinnitus/stroke (bad news) untangled bit.ly/2ival59

    Believe it or not foetal fMRI has arrived! Yes, that’s right, brain imaging in the womb… bit.ly/2i5LBUQ

    If learn (or revive) a 2nd language is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2017, this might be motivating for you bit.ly/2iUkPfn

    16 year old’s ovarian tumour found to contain brain tissue that resembles a cerebellum and brainstem bit.ly/2iYwtW6

    Memory and cognition improvements in 65+ year old people if they take a regular 1-hour long siesta after lunch bit.ly/2iPwsqm

    Fusiform gyrus – containing region (FFA) for recognising faces – is ~13% larger in adults than kids bit.ly/2hXxvA6

    Interfering with vagal nerve function can help various health conditions – now it can be done with greater precision bit.ly/2iUpYDZ

    Carbon nanotube electrodes much better than conventional electrodes, but how to jam a “wet noodle” into the brain? bit.ly/2ifDcdq

    “It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” Thomas sowell

    Finally FDA restrictions on antibiotic use in livestock. Can’t use the medically important ones anymore, at least. ow.ly/e7Za307Gqr2

    Some people (3-5%) simply get no joy from listening to music – now we know why bit.ly/2idYGHO

    Gaming that can help depressed people to feel better by helping them to focus bit.ly/2i9ICH2

    Prof Van der Meer (Norwegian University of Science&Tech) offers science-based tips for optimal ways to raise infants bit.ly/2iaftvq

    Reduced blood flow to Broca’s area (key area in speech production) in stutterers bit.ly/2iHtFPP

    Brain + Nature = Health bit.ly/2iI7iXX (NB that’s coming from someone who just finished a 1hr cross-country run in Richmond Pk – practise what I preach!)

    Nice synopsis of a few of the more notable achievements in neuroscience to arise over the course of 2016 n.pr/2irU5oA

     

    DEC 2016

    Vera Rubin, Who Confirmed Existence Of Dark Matter, Dies At 88 n.pr/2iwYGq9

    Hacks often write obituaries before celebs have died for quick release. Turns out brains do a similar thing with DNA bit.ly/2i2ndmj

    How genes can influence music’s impact on mood bit.ly/2hjT6XK

    When does brain development reach completion? nyti.ms/2hjNvB2

    The true hidden home of Christmas is in China bbc.in/1sDLrOC

    Could stoned drivers be more cautious? Maybe.. bit.ly/DrJStndDrivr

    How many different types of neurons there in the brain (even just the hypothalamus) blows my mind bit.ly/DrJHypothalNs

    ..a lesion in exactly the right place..can disrupt the brain’s familiarity detector&reality monitor simultaneously bit.ly/DrJImpstrLsn

    How to grow your own brain bit.ly/DrJGrwURownBrn

    New drug improving longevity & memory in animal studies of prion disease brings hope for fight against Alz. dementia bit.ly/DrJMuscAlzHope

    Schizophrenics more likely to try cannabis, but WHY would delusional people crave yet greater distance from reality? bit.ly/DrJSchizWeed

    Brain-inspired intelligent robotics: The intersection of robotics and neuroscience – a special booklet in @scienmag buff.ly/2i0kni6

    The truth behind baby brain bit.ly/DrJBabyBrain

    Brain Books of 2016 bit.ly/DrJBrainBooks16

    Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick… bit.ly/DrJOMG

    Dear Santa, If I’ve been good enough this year, please may I have a robotic arm controllable via 64 electrode EEG? bit.ly/DrJEEGcntlRobt

    If you want to hang onto your crystalline intelligence in later life don’t forget to eat your greens bit.ly/DrJEatURgreens

    Could thinning of the grey matter really account for risk aversion in older adults? bit.ly/DrJRskAvrsn

    Time passes fast, time passes slow and now neuroscience may finally have pinpointed brain areas that influence this bit.ly/DrJStpFstSloMo

    Could the impact of oxytocin on human behaviour boil down purely to synchrony bit.ly/DrJOxytosync

    Deep brain stimulation soon to use tiny coils (magnetrodes?!) to influence neurons w magnetism rather than electrons bit.ly/DrJMagnetrode

    Could increasing gamma band activity in the brain really help eliminate the beta amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s? bit.ly/DrJGammaAlz

    Incredible to think that switching one pair of nucleotides in an ancient ancestor’s DNA trebled our brain volume bbc.in/2gZ4lDM

    If the way we breathe influences what we remember,I wonder if there are breathing techniques 2 help students revise? bit.ly/DrJBreathingMem

    Small double-blind trial shows that single dose of psilocybin can give 6 months relief from cancer-related anxiety bit.ly/DrJ_MushCancAnx

    I am Groot: Plants can do associative learning bit.ly/DrJ_IAmGroot

    Finally!! Potential for MDMA (ecstasy) as a therapeutic agent for PTSD to be investigated in a proper clinical trial bit.ly/DrJ_MDMA4PTSD

    Added sugar in our diet is bad, we know that, but I didn’t realise range of negative impacts, like reduced oxytocin! bit.ly/DrJExcessSugar

    Africa’s sunshine could eventually make the continent a supplier of energy to the rest of the world bbc.in/2fMxtwX

    @PainConcern Irene Tracey neuroscience of pain interview is now back up on YouTube. Sorry for the protracted wait! bit.ly/DrJPainStem

    @hugospiers et al have been doing a fantastic job of getting the globe involved in science research through gaming.. bit.ly/SeaHeroQst

    TMS reawakens access to latent memory (link to orig Science paper at end of article) bit.ly/2guWFc1

    Parkinson’s disease may start in gut & nose (ie neurons most exposed to environment) 10yrs before it hits the brain! bit.ly/2glBbOL

    Quite possibly the strangest sex study i’ve ever read about.. and there is a LOT of competition for that accolade bit.ly/2gGJt4v

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Opting Out of Infirmity

    For most of the twentieth century, in the UK at least, as people progressed through their sixties their bodies generally started showing the typical signs of ageing. By the time they hit 70 they would typically find themselves frail, wrinkled and stooped. When my grandparents were in their sixties they looked very old, so I had assumed this process was an inexorable fact of life. Yet this has not happened as my parents have progressed through their sixties. Rather than the passage of the years stripping the youth from my parents bodies, if anything they seem only to get fitter and stronger; in body and mind. They are in their mid-sixties, yet my dad’s six pack is better than mine and my mum’s musculature is in better shape than when she was in her twenties. And she’s still razor sharp when it comes to correcting my mispronunciations and misspellings. This begs the question: what exactly have they been doing so right that previous generations seemed to get so wrong?

    I’ve been digging around in the science literature to find some clues as to whether people really are ageing better these days in terms of body as well as brain. If so, I wanted to know what lifestyle choices can make the difference between vigour and decrepitude. Is down to a better diet? My parents certainly eat very healthily. A meal at their place invariably involves lean meat or oily fish with plenty of veg ever since it emerged that a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with better health. Or could it simply be down to levels of air pollution? When my grandparents were middle-aged we were still happily pumping CFCs from every aerosol can out into the atmosphere in such large quantities that there was a huge hole in the ozone layer (happily since CFCs were banned this situation seems to have improved) and all the petrol we put into our cars contained lead that was then pumped out of exhaust pipes on every road across the nation (which is no longer the case). My parents also keep very active both physically and mentally, my grandparents did not, so another possibility is that their physical fitness and/or regular engagement with activities that keep them mentally sharp could play a role.

    A recent review paper by Luis Bettio and colleagues at the University of Victoria in Canada outlined the various factors known to accelerate cognitive decline. Cognitive decline involves problems with the ability to recall details of events, where things are in space, holding several pieces of information in mind simultaneously, maintaining focus and noticing relevant sensory cues (e.g. keeping track of other cars in peripheral vision while driving). All these functions rely heavily on the hippocampus. This structure, which has been mentioned in several previous blogs, is a seahorse-shaped hub of densely-packed neurons that create and retrieve memories, enable us to navigate our surroundings and – if Google’s DeepMind is to be believed – may even play a critical role in imagining what will happen in the future. Bettio et al highlight the roles of education, intelligence and mental stimulation in helping to build cognitive reserve and resilience, but a recent study by Tucker and colleagues, published earlier this year (2017) in the journal Preventative Medicine, suggests that regular physical exercise could be key.

    The Tucker study involved taking measurements from 5,823 randomly selected people and logging their physical activity levels. They showed that the telomeres – a string of DNA bases positioned at the end of each chromosome, in this study the chromosomes of their white blood cells – were significantly longer in those who exercise regularly. Not only that, the more active the people were, the longer their telomeres. The significance of this is that telomere shortening has long been associated with gradual deterioriation of our organs and tissues during aging. The exciting conclusion here is that keeping physically activity and taking more strenuous exercise on a regular basis actually seems to preserve telomere length. They even managed to put a figure on it. The High Activity group had reduced their biological aging by 9 years compared to the Sedentary group and by 8.8 years compared to the Low Activity group.

    These aren’t my parents (in case you wondered)

    As much as a healthy diet and reductions in air pollution probably helped in general, it seems that the key difference in the rate at which my parents aged in comparison to my grandparents is largely due to the telomere-preserving influence of their active lifestyle (regular walks and dancing classes) and biweekly visits to the gym (to do body pump and yoga). So, if you want to help your middle-aged people age more gracefully, then it’s time to get them down to the gym or out on long walks, on a regular basis.

    In addition to these monthly blogs, I regularly post brain news on my twitter account (@drjacklewis), do a fortnightly science podcast (Geek Chic’s Weird Science) and present a TV series called Secrets of the Brain on Insight TV (Sky channel 564).

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  • Geek Chic live at the Soho Theatre

    The fortnightly podcast I’ve been doing for the past three years, which explores the most bizarre, thought-provoking and unusual recent findings from the world of science, along with my delicious co-host Lliana Bird, went live over the course of summer 2017.

    We recorded Geek Chic’s Weird Science in front of live audiences at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June and in July at both Latitude Festival and WOMAD. These all seemed to go down so well (we had a 50 person long queue to get into the WOMAD Physics Pavillion!) that we decided to keep up the momentum with live events in and around London over the next few months. At the end of October this all kicked off with the Science of Vampires.

    So, on Monday 23rd Oct at 7:30pm we finally made our West End debut! We recorded a Halloween Vampire Special at the Soho Theatre with special guests – mortician Carla Valentine and “The Prof Of Goth” Professor Nick Groom. Towards the end of the show we even had a real-life vampire up on stage causing havoc. Vlad the Impaler – aka Noel Fielding – was a particular treat. It’s worth listening to just for the verbal jousting between vampire himself and our lovely mortician!

    In this 60 minute special (which you can listen to by clicking here) we explored where the idea of vampires came from, discussed why vampires trigger the fear circuitry of the brain so perfectly and considered some of the real-life medical conditions that might have been mistaken for vampires.

    We debated why vampires were able to penetrate so deeply into the heart of popular culture AND we’ll find out if fresh blood really can help to keep us young and virile?

    In addition to these monthly blogs, I regularly post brain news on my twitter account (@drjacklewis), do a fortnightly science podcast (Geek Chic’s Weird Science) and present a TV series called Secrets of the Brain on Insight TV (Sky channel 564).

    Read more »
  • Pregnancy Brain

    Over the past few years I’ve been working with ITV Global. It all started a couple of years back when I was invited to give my Sort Your Brain Out and Neuroscience of Negotiation talks for various members of their senior leadership team, both domestically and worldwide. This year and last the focus shifted to my Science of Creativity talk which I gave for their 100+ leaders across the full breadth of the organisation over the course of six live events. After one of these speaking engagements I was approached by an audience member who’d had a question on her mind since falling pregnant shortly after one of the talks I’d given previously (nothing to do with me!). She had noticed that her usually exceptional memory had gradually eroded as the pregnancy progressed. The burning question was: is the phenomenon of ‘pregnancy brain’ fact or fiction and, more to the point, was there any hope of her getting her previously brilliant memory back again? Had she asked me this question a year earlier I would have had to admit that science hadn’t yet addressed the question properly. As it happens her timing was excellent – a brain imaging study had just been published that might just provide the answer she was hoping for. I promised I’d write a blog about it, so here it is…

    The groundbreaking study by lead author Elseline Hoekzema and colleagues at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and Leiden University was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. They used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to measure the key changes that take place in the female brain as a result of pregnancy. They found that the grey matter consistently shrinks in brain areas commonly associated with social cognition and the greater the degree of volume reduction in these areas, the deeper the mother-child bond. The brain areas in question included in the Superior Temporal Sulcus (STS) and Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG) on the outward-facing surface of the left and right hemisphere, and the Precuneus and medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC) of the inward-facing surface where left and right hemispheres meet in the middle. Far from reflecting a withering away of brain areas under assault from the tsunami of hormones that regulate gestation (mothers are exposed to progesterone levels over ten times greater than the highest levels of the normal menstrual cycle and more oestrogen during pregnancy than the rest of their lives put together) the changes actually reflect adaptations specialising the brain for maternal attachment.

    Volume reductions were also observed in the hippocampus which could explain the degradation of memory that many women experience during and just after pregnancy. While memory wasn’t rigorously tested (they did a couple of tests but only found a trend towards memory loss) in this particular study, new mothers may take comfort from the observation that while the brain areas involved in social cognition remained two years after completion of the pregnancy, the volume of the left hippocampus had partially recovered (in 11 of the 25 mothers who had not fallen pregnant again). Assuming that the hippocampal volume continues to increase at the same rate, it would fall back into the normal range by around five years after the completion of pregnancy. Given the vital importance of the hippocampus for memory and navigation this seems to be a very promising result.

    This study used MRI to scan the brains of 50 women, of which 25 later fell pregnant for the first time. All were re-scanned after the babies were born, or after a similar period of time had elapsed for those who hadn’t fallen pregnant, so that brain structure could be compared before and after. Those women who did not fall pregnant served as the controls in which no significant structural changes were observed. Changes in brain tissue volume were only observed in those women who did fall pregnant confirming that pregnancy was the likely cause of the changes. They also performed an fMRI study looking for brain areas that were more strongly activated by pictures of each mother’s own baby compared to photos of other people’s babies. As there was considerable overlap between the brain areas more strongly activated by the mother’s own baby and those in which the brain volume reductions occurred, it seems likely that it reflects a process of specialisation for maternal attachment rather than collateral damage.  As these areas are commonly associated with the capacity for Theory of Mind, i.e. the ability to see the world from another’s perspective, these changes presumably reflect a tailoring of the mother’s brain to help them better anticipate the needs of their child.

    In addition to these monthly blogs I regularly tweet (@drjacklewis) interesting articles about recent breakthroughs in brain science and do a fortnightly Geek Chic’s Weird Science podcast on strange and wonderful stories from the world of science. Season 2 of my television series Secrets of the Brain starts on Insight TV later this month… so if you are in the UK or Ireland have Sky television you might consider setting your box to record the series on HD channel 564 and if you are elsewhere in Europe you will find it on other satellite/cable providers (check which channel it’s on in your country here). If it’s not available on your TV you can also stream it online via www.insight.tv

    Read more »
  • The Future of Deep Brain Stimulation

    Ed Boyden is a professor at the Massachusett’s Institute of Technology who leads the Synthetic Neurobiology group. He’s credited with important contributions towards the revolutionary field of optogenetics. Essentially, it involves a bunch of molecular tools that make specific groups of neurons switch-on-and-offable simply by shining a light on them. This incredible innovation has given neuroscientists unprecedented level of precision in controlling the activity of different types of neuron in experiments trying to unpick the brain’s mind-bogglingly complex circuitry.

    It seems that he and his research team may well have done it again. They have developed another potentially incredibly powerful innovation that could fundamentally change how we approach Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). This new approach is called Temporal Interference Stimulation (TIS) and the breakthrough it offers is enabling deep brain structures to stimulated without having to cut through the skull and actually insert electrodes into the brain.

    The DBS approaches currently used in humans involve passing electrodes through holes in the skull all the way down to deep brain areas in order to deliver pulses of electrical stimulation at the desired location. This has become a relatively routine medical intervention that fundamentally improves quality of life for thousands of people suffering from a range of brain illnesses all over the world. It has proven effective in a variety of chronically-debilitating diseases including Parkinson’s Disease, Major Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder helping to circumvent common problems whereby patients either don’t get any improvement from their medications, or do at first but then the drugs stop working after a period of time.

    DBS therapy is most striking in people with Parkinson’s patients. Gradual death of the dopamine neurons that play an important role in initiating voluntary movements is the root cause of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine-boosting agents often help with their movement difficulties but the benefits do not usually last forever. The invention of NICE-approved DBS therapy has been a lifesaver for many thousands of people. By applying an electrical current to either the thalamus, globus pallidus or subthalamic nuclei, limb movements can be controlled as normal. Their distinctive seemingly hesitant, shuffling walking style can be replaced with a normal, confident striding gait at the flick of a switch.

    The surgically-implanted electrodes often yield remarkable improvements in their symptoms, but having to cut holes in people’s skulls and physically implant wires in their brains is fraught with risks and potential complications. TIS, at some point in the future, could offer the same benefits but without the need to put any man-made objects inside the brain.

    We’ve had technologies that are capable of influencing brain activity from the skull surface for many years. Both Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tcDCS), which sends electrical currents across the skull, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which produces transient magnetic fields that extend across the skull, are both able to influence brain activity without the need for invasive surgery. But tcDCS and TMS are unable to influence areas deep inside the brain with any precision, they can only modulate brain activity at the surface. With TIS, all that it set to change as the technology progresses from experiments with mice, through larger and larger mammals, until it is eventually (hopefully) proven to be safe and effective in humans.

    As with all brilliant scientific solutions, TIS is elegant in its simplicity. A high frequency electrical current has no effect on brain tissue. At lower frequencies electrical currents can disrupt the usual flow of information in whatever brain tissue it is passed through. Here’s the clever bit. By applying two different sources of high frequency electrical current, at carefully separated positions on the scalp surface, where the two currents overlap sufficiently to cause interference in a way that reduces the frequency of the combined electrical signal it’s possible to alter how the brain tissue functions. Every other region that the electric currents pass through on the way down to the target location is unaffected – only where the beams cross.

    The team’s recent paper, published in the journal Cell (free to download!), describes how this technique was used to selectively stimulate the mouse hippocampus, deep inside the temporal lobes, from the top of the skull. While reaching down to the human basal ganglia from the skull surface is a much greater challenge – penetrating to a much greater depth, across a much thicker skull – this proof of principle makes the dream of deep brain stimulation without surgery seem a realistic prospect in the not too distant future.

    In addition to these monthly blogs, you can follow me on Twitter (@drjacklewis) where I post articles on breakthroughs in brain science and related topics. I also do a fortnightly science podcast with the lovely Lliana Bird. I also present a TV series called Secrets of the Brain on Insight TV. You can watch series 1 on Sky channel 564 (It’s on most nights!), or you can stream it here. Series 2 is out in Autumn 2017…

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  • Geek Chic Live at Latitude 2017

    The podcast that I co-host with Radio X’s Lliana Bird – Geek Chic’s Weird Science – is still going strong after nearly three years. Gobsmackingly, we are currently at number 2 in the iTunes science podcast charts behind none other than the mighty RadioLab. Last month we recorded a live podcast at the Cheltenham Science Festival with Goldsmith University’s Caspar Addyman and Greg Foot of Blue Peter fame. This month we borrowed Robin Ince and Helen Keen from the Infinite Monkey Cage for our live event at the 2017 Latitude Festival’s Wellcome Trust Arena. You can watch it below or, if you prefer, you can download it as a podcast (or better still, do us a favour and subscribe!) from iTunes, Acast, Libsyn, Podbay and various other podcast providers. To keep up to date on all the weird science news to hit the press each week, why not follow us on twitter too (@GCweirdscience). Enjoy…

     

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  • Tetris Terror Therapy

    I pass through London Bridge area more or less every day. To avoid a dangerous junction, my route home involves cutting through Borough Market. Earlier this month three lunatics drove a van into innocent pedestrians and proceeded to stab random passers by. Fortunately for me I was out of town that night. Many others weren’t so lucky. Several people lost their lives and many sustained brutal injuries. Every single person that made it to hospital survived (at the time of writing), testimony to the extraordinary skills of the emergency workers, hospital medical staff and brave members of the general public who intervened. Yet for many of these people (1 in 3), long after the news has lost interest in the these tragic events, long after the physical damage to the victims’ bodies have healed, the psychological impact will endure for many months, possibly even years from now.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects about one in three people who are exposed to a traumatic incidents like car crashes, sexual assaults, muggings or robberies, natural disasters and witnessing violent deaths in any context. It is particularly prevalent in people serving in the armed forces, those working for the emergency services and anyone getting caught up in terrorist attacks. Experiencing violence can lead to a host of debilitating psychological symptoms known collectively as PTSD. It can make leading a normal life difficult for those vulnerable to PTSD because harrowing memories of the frightening events can end up intruding into the experience of daily life. Over and over again, day and night, recollections of the horror force their way into conscious awareness in the form of flashbacks and nightmares.

    A relatively new body of evidence indicates that one of the best things those who witnessed the horrors of Sat 3rd June 2017 in London could have done in the immediate aftermath if they wanted to take some simple steps to reduce the likelihood of them developing PTSD was to immerse themselves in a marathon game of Tetris. Strange but true.

    The neurobiology of memory tells us that the six hours following a memorable event is absolutely critical to memory consolidation. In PTSD this consolidation process appears to go too far. Memories of immensely emotionally-disturbing events can become enhanced to the point where they are automatically recalled on a regular basis, regardless of where the person is or what they are doing. They usually are accompanied by the kind of intense feelings of fear, anxiety and distress that was experienced as the memories were being made.

    Constant intrusion of such memories and feelings can be incredibly disruptive to normal daily function. To make matters worse insomnia is common in people suffering with PTSD, which leaves them frazzled and irritable. Friends, family members and colleagues can have trouble grasping the full impact of PTSD on the sufferer’s daily experience and this can leave victims feeling of and isolated. Interventions to help those with PTSD do exist, but their effectiveness varies considerable from person to person. Ideally we would find a way to stop PTSD developing in the first place… prevention is, after all, better than cure.

    Enter Cambridge University’s Professor Emily Holmes. In 2009, she and her colleagues published a paper describing an elegant, ingenious, yet very straightforward approach to reducing the incidence of flashbacks after a traumatising event. Ultimately the aim was to develop a cognitive vaccine that could disrupt the processes that might otherwise lead to the development of PTSD. Their study found that those who played Tetris for 20 mins or so shortly after watching a traumatic film depicting real people enduring tremendous suffering, experienced fewer flashbacks in the weeks that following than the control group who performed a different task in the aftermath.

    In 2017, Prof Holmes and her colleagues went on to publish another paper, in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, describing a pilot study performed NOT with student volunteers in the context of a laboratory experiment, but instead with emergency workers and medical staff in the context of a real life Accident and Emergency department. Early results look promising: they found a reduction in traumatic flashbacks during the first week after the incident and concluded that a larger study would be warranted. This should garner sufficient statistical power to establish whether or not these benefits extend to longer periods of time.

    Personally, the current data has convinced me that, should I ever be unfortunate enough to get caught up in one of these horrific terrorist attacks, shortly afterwards (assuming I survived) you’d find me playing Tetris on my smartphone in an effort to keep PTSD at bay.

    In addition to these monthly blogs I tweet brain news daily (@drjacklewis). The new series of Secrets of the Brain is coming out on insight.tv at the end of the summer. And the Geek Chic’s Weird Science podcast I host with Radio X’s Lliana Bird is touring the South East of England over the summer at various festivals recording in front of a live audience. We’ll be at Latitude Festival at 17:30 on Sat 15th July with special guests Robin Ince and Helen Keen. We’ll also be at Womad on Sat 29th July. So if you want to come and see us live… get involved! Otherwise you can listen to all our podcasts on iTunes, Libsyn, Acast and more…

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  • A Book Pairing for Summer 2017

    Certain restaurants like to suggest specific wines that go well with particular dishes. The crisp, citrusy, Sauvignon Blanc to go with a dish of lemon sole, or the full bodied, smokey Malbec to go with a sirloin steak. The flavours of the wine and the dish are often said to mutually reinforce each other, such that the combination is greater than the sum of its parts. Passing through an airport bookshop earlier this month I made a lucky spontaneous decision that demonstrated a similar effect is possible in the literary world. So I thought I’d share my discovery with you: I picked up two books, one fiction, one non-fiction, and they complemented each other perfectly. I would wholeheartedly recommend the following pairing.

    Over the past twelve months or so I’ve seen lots of people wielding a copy of Yuval Noah Harari’s SAPIENS – A Brief History of Humankind in planes, trains and automobiles. When everybody seems to be reading a certain book it always piques my curiosity. Either the marketing campaign was particularly effective or, more likely, each person who chose to buy it had been recommended it as a good read by a handful of people. As regular readers of this blog will know: I’m a sucker for Wisdom of the Crowd. And it did not let me down on this occasion because SAPIENS is an absolute cracker.

    A huge volume of well-packaged, condensed, easy-to-assimilate information that touches on the major milestones in our species’ prehistory including our encounters with other, now extinct, human species, the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and a wide variety of human empires that rose and fell through the ages is presented with great speed, style and finesse. The most gob-smacking revelation for me, overall, was mention of the genetic evidence suggesting that a fair chunk of European human DNA is of Neanderthal origin and a sizeable portion of Asian human DNA originated in the Homo erectus species. We’d covered a science story on the fact that Neanderthal’s were to thank for the keratin in our hair and nails on the Geek Chic Weird Science podcast, but I’d presumed that this was the case for all Homo sapiens, not just the European ones. The concept that the human species with which our ancestors had sexual dalliances differed according to whether the Homo sapiens in question happened to reside to the east or the west of the Eurasian land mass came at me like a bolt from the blue.

    Jean M Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear is the first book in a series of works of fiction describing an orphaned Homo sapiens girl being adopted into a Neanderthal tribe. Access to evidence regarding how Neanderthals behaved, what they believed and the extent of their knowledge is inevitably scant given how long ago they were wiped off the face of the planet. But Auel’s account of their superstitions, social organisation and rigid thought processes seemed entirely plausible. I’ve always been a great fan of Bernard Cornwell’s books. I love his approach of sticking faithfully to the historical record regarding the Saxon and Viking invasions of Britain wherever it is available, but filling in the gaps with reasonable fictions that are entirely compatible with what is known from those times. I got the distinct feeling that Jean Auel takes a similar approach. Even when the storyline became slightly fantastical as the tribal witch doctor communes with the ancestral spirits to seek advice on the best course of action, the brews concocted by their medicine woman were certainly based in fact. And speculations regarding differences in the cognitive abilities of Homo sapiens and Neanderthal’s also seemed reasonable given what we can glean from the skulls in the archaeological record.

    Frustratingly, the further back into the history of our species we peer, the greater the uncertainty regarding the actual facts. I personally found the pairing of the facts presented in Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind with the fictional accounts of the nature of interactions between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in The Clan of the Cave Bear to be an absolutely delicious antidote to this problem. And I hope you do too!

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  • Virtual Reality Arcade coming soon…

    Please forgive the brevity of my recent brain posts.

    I’m working non-stop on my new book – due with the publishers at the end of the month.

    When I’m not writing, I’m finishing filming / voiceover for the new series of Secrets of the Brain.

    Haven’t had a day off for weeks!!

    I expect no sympathy, only  patience: normal service will resume later in the summer…

    In the meantime, I just wanted to share this small update:

    Four years ago I asked Mel Slater, Professor of Virtual Reality Environments and all-round legend, if he thought there was any chance that recent advances in VR technology might lead to the return of the video arcade …

    As it turns out, London’s First Virtual Reality Arcade opens this summer…

     

     

     

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  • Geek Chic Live at Cheltenham Science Festival

    Just a quick one this month to announce that Lliana Bird and I are taking our Geek Chic Weird Science podcast to a few festivals over the summer to record in front of a live audience. If you’d like to come along we’ll be launching Geek Chic Live at the Cheltenham Science Festival 13:45-14:45 on Sat 10th June 2017 in the BBC Science tent. Tickets must be booked in advance so here’s the info:

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