Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Whether We Like Someone Affects How Our Brain Processes Movement

 

From the 5 October 2012 article at Science Daily

Hate the Lakers? Do the Celtics make you want to hurl? Whether you like someone can affect how your brain processes their actions, according to new research from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Most of the time, watching someone else move causes a “mirroring” effect — that is, the parts of our brains responsible for motor skills are activated by watching someone else in action.

But a study by USC researchers appearing October 5 in PLOS ONEshows that whether you like the person you’re watching can actually have an effect on brain activity related to motor actions and lead to “differential processing” — for example, thinking the person you dislike is moving more slowly than they actually are…

Past research has shown that race or physical similarity can influence brain processes, and we tend to have more empathy for people who look more like us.

In this study, the researchers controlled for race, age and gender, but they introduced a backstory that primed participants to dislike some of the people they were observing: Half were presented as neo-Nazis, and half were presented as likable and open-minded. All study participants recruited for the study were Jewish males.

The researchers found that when people viewed someone they disliked, a part of their brain that was otherwise activated in “mirroring” — the right ventral premotor cortex — had a different pattern of activity for the disliked individuals as compared to the liked individuals…

..

“These findings lend important support for the notion that social factors influence our perceptual processing.”

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Bad Habits – NIH News in Health, January 2012

Breaking Bad Habits – NIH News in Health, January 2012

 Cartoon of a man bypassing cupcakes and carrying a shopping basket filled with produce.

From the article

If you know something’s bad for you, why can’t you just stop? About 70% of smokers say they would like to quit. Drug and alcohol abusers struggle to give up addictions that hurt their bodies and tear apart families and friendships. And many of us have unhealthy excess weight that we could lose if only we would eat right and exercise more. So why don’t we do it?

NIH-funded scientists have been searching for answers. They’ve studied what happens in our brains as habits form. They’ve found clues to why bad habits, once established, are so difficult to kick. And they’re developing strategies to help us make the changes we’d like to make.

“Habits play an important role in our health,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Understanding the biology of how we develop routines that may be harmful to us, and how to break those routines and embrace new ones, could help us change our lifestyles and adopt healthier behaviors.”

Habits can arise through repetition. They are a normal part of life, and are often helpful. “We wake up every morning, shower, comb our hair or brush our teeth without being aware of it,” Volkow says. We can drive along familiar routes on mental auto-pilot without really thinking about the directions. “When behaviors become automatic, it gives us an advantage, because the brain does not have to use conscious thought to perform the activity,” Volkow says. This frees up our brains to focus on different things.

Habits can also develop when good or enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers. This can set up potentially harmful routines, such as overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling and even compulsive use of computers and social media.

“The general machinery by which we build both kinds of habits are the same, whether it’s a habit for overeating or a habit for getting to work without really thinking about the details,” says Dr. Russell Poldrack, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Both types of habits are based on the same types of brain mechanisms.

“But there’s one important difference,” Poldrack says. And this difference makes the pleasure-based habits so much harder to break. …

Read the entire article here

 

 


January 31, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Infographic: How Social Media affects our Brain?

 

From the 13 December blog posting at Assisted Living Today
   http://assistedlivingtoday.com/p/resources/social-media-is-ruining-our-minds-infographic/ 

Social media use across the globe has exploded. As more and more people flock to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, it’s becoming clear that social media is having a profound effect on not just our lives but on our brains too. Scientists are researching how social media impacts cognitive functions and development, like multitasking skills, our ability (or inability) to focus, how our brains are getting rewired,  to name a few. All of which appear to be drastically affected by social media participation. To help shed more light on this phenomenon, we’ve created this infographic: “How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds.” We encourage you to share it on your favorite social media sites (ironic, huh?). You also can embed the infographic on your website using the code below. We ask only that you credit us, Assisted Living Today the leader in finding top assisted living facilities, as the source.

How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds

 

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Listening To Music Lights Up The Whole Brain

From the 6 December 2011 Medical News Today article

Finnish researchers have developed a groundbreaking new method that allows to study how the brain processes different aspects of music, such as rhythm, tonality and timbre (sound color) in a realistic listening situation. The study is pioneering in that it for the first time reveals how wide networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity, are activated during music listening. The new method helps us understand better the complex dynamics of brain networks and the way music affects us….

The researchers found that music listening recruits not only the auditory areas of the brain, but also employs large-scale neural networks. For instance, they discovered that the processing of musical pulse recruits motor areas in the brain, supporting the idea that music and movement are closely intertwined. Limbic areas of the brain, known to be associated with emotions, were found to be involved in rhythm and tonality processing. Processing of timbre was associated with activations in the so-called default mode network, which is assumed to be associated with mind-wandering and creativity.

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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