Friday, February 28, 2014

Brain Fitness News: February 2014

This is the brain training program I use off and on.  It costs about $10 a month for an individual subscription.  It has scientific research behind it and it related to the books "The Brain that Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge, MD and "Soft-Wired", by Michael Merzenich, one of the main scientists behind this program, Brain HQ.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: BrainHQ from Posit Science <>
Date: Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 8:05 AM
Subject: Brain Fitness News: February 2014
To: Bill <>

Learn about the latest developments in brain health.
View this email in your browser

February 2014

Forward to Friend
Dear Bill,

Fall risk is a concern for most aging adults and their loved ones. Earlier studies indicated that capabilities correlated to fall risk could be improved by BrainHQ exercises, but did not actually measure differences in fall risk from training. I am pleased to share results from a new randomized controlled trial that shows that participants who trained with certain exercises found in BrainHQ (i.e., Double Decision, Visual Sweeps, and Target Tracker) had significantly better scores on fall risk and mobility after training than the control group. The independently run study—funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) and the National Institute of Aging (NIA) and published in The Journals of Gerontology—is summarized here.

One very exciting implication of this research is to underscore the “bi-directional nature” of the mind-body connection. Just as physical exercise has been shown to improve certain cognitive functions, this study shows that brain exercise can improve certain physical functions (such as balance and walking). To our knowledge, this is the first-ever study to show that computerized brain training can improve physical health and well-being. We look forward to many more!

Best regards,

Jeff Zimman, Co-founder
Posit Science
Chronic Stress May Lead to Anxiety and Mood Disorders
UC Berkeley scientists have found that experiencing chronic stress can cause lasting changes in the brain that may predispose the brain to mental illness later in life. The researchers hope that this finding can help people with PTSD or other chronic stress-related illness reduce their risk of developing mental problems. Learn more.  

Pretty Faces Are Harder to Remember
A team of German psychologists has recently found that humans have more trouble remembering an attractive face than an unattractive one. Previously it was assumed that it was easier to memorize attractive faces, because we prefer looking at them, but the EEG and behavioral study they performed found the exact opposite to be true. Find out why.

Antioxidant Found in Strawberries and Cucumbers May Stave Off Alzheimer’s
While it has long been known that antioxidants may be beneficial to the brain, researchers studying a specific antioxidant found that it reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice. Studies have found that a daily dose of the antioxidant fisetin, which is found in fruits and vegetables (most significantly, in strawberries and cucumbers) improved memory and improved Alzheimer’s outcomes. Learn more or get a brain-healthy recipe using strawberries and cucumbers.

“Selfless” Love Turns Off Brain’s Reward Centers
We’ve previously reported that romantic love can activate the brain like a drug, but researchers recently found that experiencing “selfless” love has an opposite effect—it turns off the brain’s reward centers. MRI studies showed that the brain activation was completely different in people experiencing romantic love feelings and those who genuinely felt well wishes for other people. Find out why.

Object Rotation Training Improves Math Skills
Researchers from Michigan State recently conducted a study and found that training kids aged 6-8 in spatial reasoning skills, like object rotation, led to a  marked improvement in their math skills. The mental rotation exercises used in the study were similar to the BrainHQ Navigation exercise Right Turn. Learn more.

Olympic Athletes Share “Mind Hacks” They Use to Enhance Performance
Have you been enjoying the Winter Olympic Games? When interviewed, many Olympic athletes have stressed that their training goes far beyond the physical, since the mental side of competing is also important for winning. They’ve shared some of the “mind hacks” they use to be their best, like visualizing the outcome they want and setting the right goals. Learn more.

Coffee is the Strongest Antioxidant, 5 Common Brain Mistakes, Seaweed for Brain Health, and the “10,000 Hour” Talent Myth
Check out these recent stories from the Posit Science blog!

BrainHQ Tips and Tricks
Did you know that one of the benefits of an annual subscription to BrainHQ is a discounted gift price? Annual subscribers can buy a second (or third or fourth…) subscription for just $69 a year—a savings of more than 25%. 6-month and 3-month gifts are even more affordable. To purchase a gift, just click “Buy Gifts” at the bottom of the BrainHQ homepage. Make sure you’re logged in to get the discount!

Book of the Month
Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts (2013)
Stanislas Dehaene  
Have you ever wondered how your brain creates a conscious thought, or how it’s possible to store so much unconscious knowledge? In Consciousness and the Brain, Dehaene delves into his own lab’s work and the work of other neuroscientists to share what we do and don’t about our minds and our consciousness. Buy it from Amazon.

Useful Links

» Why BrainHQ
» Brain Training Your Way
» About BrainHQ Exercises
» World Class Science
» Peer-reviewed Research
» Brain Resources
» Brain Teasers
» Blog
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Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Every time

I don’t say that deep inside you there isn’t fear, shame, despair, anxiety or some other member of that dark, dreary, hopeless family of nasties.  I do say that whatever else you have in there, you also have light, cheer, wit, strength, humor and their cousins.  Having felt all around and having watched carefully, having been in touch with other explorers, it seems pretty clear that the nasties will win a few rounds, maybe even a whole season.

But remember your allies, your strength and your heritage.  Your greatgrandmother’s greatgrandmother had a rough time, too.  But she noticed the beauty of the sun, the moon, the clouds.  She realized that even with her eyesight limits and her silhouette, her memory and her school grades, she could detect love in the world.  She realized in the depth of winter that owls were making babies and farmers were planning their plantings.  She gave a smile of appreciation to the young mother balancing three little kids and a budget while trying to get the groceries to the kitchen.

Every time you go up those steps, you are lifting your full weight with just one leg.  Every time you tense those muscles, you are reminding your body of its power.  Every time you find and relax that tension, you are back in tune with your whole self: muscles, yes, but nerves, senses and brain powers, too.

Every time, you give your neighbor a wave, your children’s teachers a smile, the benefit of a doubt to others, every time you choose life, cheer, and sympathy for others victories as well as pains, you are increasing the good of the world. Every time you notice the habitual training you give yourself to be fearful, resentful or ashamed, and interrupt that routine to put it gently aside, you are increasing the world’s supply of love and strength. That’s the same world I live in and I am writing this note of gratitude.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tenzing Norbu and other fictional people in my head

I was thinking the other day about a childhood experience I had heard about recently when I realized that the childhood belonged to a fictional character we have been reading about.  Tenzing Norbu is a Tibetan.  His father was an official of a monastery and his mother got pregnant accidentally in a short relationship with his father.  He spent his childhood growing up with his mother in Paris but when she died, he went to the Tibetan monastery to live with his father.  Tenzing is called “Ten” and is the hero of The First Rule of Ten by the well-known psychologist Gay Hendericks and Tinker Lindsay.  They have followed up with The Second Rule, The Broken Rule and The Third Rule.  As an adult, Ten was a member of the LAPD but is now a private detective working in the Los Angeles area.

I realize that I have many fictional characters living in my head, people about whom I may know more than I do about my relatives and friends.  After all, part of the job of a fictional character is to let me know plenty about him or her, things that a real person might keep private.

For more than a decade, Mma Romatswe, owner and operator of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency of Botswana, and her family and friends have been a part of my life. (“Mma” is pronounced “ma” and is a title of respect for a woman, evidently.)  Thinking back, I remember the hero of “To Catch a Thief”, the inspiration for the Pink Panther thief. I think of Merlin and Arthur in “The Sword in the Stone”, who only became available during my adulthood but who definitely captured my attention and admiration.  As a kid, dashing males such as Robin Hood and  Zorro had me thinking and fantasizing.

As a child, we did not have well developed television, which tended to start late in the day and was only broadcasting something for a few hours.  And of course, we never heard of streaming.  It was trips to the movie theater that gave me my sketchy and slanted knowledge of the life of cowboys.  Actors such as Hopalong Cassidy (we did not consider the name ridiculous, Podner), Tim Holt, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Whip Wilson and Lash Larue acted out bravery and assisting those in trouble.  For a while, a weekly streetcar ride was the ticket to next week’s installment of continuous stories.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Extinctions past and future

A retired professor of biology, living nearby, is giving three classes on the 6th extinction.  The book The Sixth Extinction by the biology and ecology writer Elizabeth Kolbert serves as a source for the classes but many other books are also mentioned such as Too Smart for Our Own Good by Craig Dilworth, at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.

Whether it is global warming that is going to wipe us out or a nuclear war or an endless drought or floods or fire, I don’t know. I have heard of various nasty possibilities since about 1972, when “The Limits to Growth” came out.  “Limits” was based on computer models that expected by 2025 or so, that pollution would be up, important supplies such as oil, water and food would be down and in general, humankind would be in a pickle.


Personally, I think a certain amount of alarm may be good for us but the amount varies from person to person.  Going about in a state of stressed fear and fright does not seem healthy or necessary or conducive to getting the full dose of joy from our limited days. 

When I actually try to look back on warnings that really saved me or my wallet, I can’t think of many.  (I realize that unaided memory is not all that reliable.)  I could have had many helpful warnings and completely forgotten about them.  I asked Lynn what warnings paid off for her and she said that the doctor’s warning that the baby would be born within 24 hours was a biggie.

It is clear that Earth is being stressed by humans.  The biology professor said that some credible figures indicate 3 species per hour are going extinct.  She warned us not to read the Dilworth book, mentioned above, just before going to sleep.  I have not read Kolbert or Dilworth but I have looked through a synopsis of the book “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman, which tries to portray what the world would be like without humans.

However, many of us are not ready to leave.  What exactly will happen to us, I don’t know.  Like those before us, we will have to do our best and see what we are given.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chopra on forgiving yourself

January 23 2014
Why Forgiving Yourself Can Be So Hard
By Deepak Chopra author of What Are You Hungry For?

Some people are so ashamed that they can't bring themselves to tell anyone their secret. The result is the worst kind of guilt, that festers inside with no chance for relief. If you feel that you have this kind of deep guilt, you must still find a way to believe that you are forgiven. You may have to take baby steps to get there. For example:

1. Write a letter confessing your secret. Include every detail. Take your time to make sure that you have left nothing out. When you are certain that the letter is complete, perform a ritual where you burn the letter or consign it to the sea—anything that will totally obliterate it. As you do this, say, "I put my guilt behind me. Now it belongs to God (or the universe)." Repeat this ritual several times, as needed. You may not completely absolve yourself, but you will be bringing your guilt to the light, which is the only place where healing psychological scars can occur.

2. Put your misdeed on someone else's shoulders, imagining that the guilt isn't yours. Now sit in judgment. Write out in detail what punishment this person deserves, and at the same time include reasons for mercy. Consider the balance between punishment and forgiveness. Most guilty people will be much more lenient on someone else than on themselves. This exercise gives you a perspective on your guilty feelings.

3. Adopt a mantra that you say to yourself the moment that a guilty memory or feeling arises. The following phrases are particularly effective: "I'm not that person anymore;" or "My attention belongs in the present;" or "I am not here to suffer anymore." Choose the appropriate phrase and repeat it, without fail, every time you feel guilty. In this way, you are not only telling yourself the truth, for you aren't the person anymore who committed a past misdeed, but you are also giving your brain a new, more positive input. This will help to wean it off the old wiring that keeps messaging guilt long after guilt is deserved.

No matter how big or small your guilty secret, no matter if your guilt is nagging or crushing, the goal is always the same. Do whatever it takes until you truly believe that you have been forgiven.

Read more:

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Choices from a non-unified pair

Typically, our disagreements are about the future.  I think the beach would be more fun but X thinks the mountains would be.  We can try to arrive at a mutually acceptable plan in many ways.

The last time we went anywhere, we wound up doing what X wanted, so it is my turn.

We can list the pros and cons of the two possibilities, assign point values to each pro and con and add the points for the two choices.  We can go to the destination with the most points.  We can do lists separately and compare them or make just one together.

X can start to frown and pout and since I love X, I forego my choice in favor of X’s.

I can complain and basically try to out-negative X so that fatigue and my whining combine to overwhelm and tire X to the point that I get my way.

We could flip a coin.  (I used to have a coin-shaped token with such a raised face on one side that I could instantly tell with my fingers which side was which and make the toss look honest when it wasn’t.  I enjoyed the idea of being able to get my way but I never used the token. Honest!)

Either one of us can martyr-out, explaining our big heart, Christian motivation and great love and respect for the other, loudly giving in, just the sake of peace and a smile of success on the other’s face.

I can draw on my teenage strengths, sag my shoulders, emphatically state “Whatever!” and succumb to X’s desired plan. This method requires enough sulking strength to keep a steady but noticeable sulk for the entire event.

There are times when I feel only a weak desire for my choice and a stronger interest in doing whatever X chooses.  I may feel love for X but I may also be genuinely aware of times in the past when X’s choice was lots more fun than I thought it would be.

Such needs for a choice can arrive when X = my wife or a friend or a relative.  There are even times when X = one part of me while another part tugs in a different direction.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I'm not sure

I know we live in a scientific age but I see that I live my life relying on hearsay.  I have been to Washington, D.C. and seen the Capitol building and the White House.  I guess it was DC and the real Capitol and White House.  Sure looked like the pictures labeled that way.

I have heard the name of the governor of my state but I have never actually met him.  I have heard that he is the man who was elected but I didn’t have a chance to verify the votes.

My doctor tells me that the blood analysts found my blood to be ok but I didn’t actually meet any of them or have them tell me directly that.  I know where the analysts hang out but I don’t know how to verify that they do their work correctly.

When I send a check to a firm that I owe, I guess it gets delivered properly but I haven’t verified it did.  I assume they would get in touch if I hadn’t paid my bill and they aren’t bothering me.  Well, I assume they aren’t bothering me.  I assume the phone, US mail, email and streets are all ways they could get in touch.


Having to verify as with conclusive evidence is tricky.  Seems to me to be a matter of persuasion.  You show me a badge and a picture.  No, the badge looks like a toy and the picture is askew in the plastic.  I am not persuaded.

There are many books about “trust” and how business proceeds on trust.  I think it is fair to say that it does but it also proceeds on taking risks.  I bet that you are who you say you are and that your confirming documents are genuine.  I’m just not sure!

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

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