What Are Brain Orgasms and ASMR Whisperers?

In this episode of BrainStuff, Cristen delves into the euphoric sensations of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) and reveals what triggers it and how science has responded so far.

pubhealth:

Growing Number of Chemicals Linked to Brain Disorders in Children
A new study finds that toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai say a new way to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.
“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH. “They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.”
The new report follows up on a similar study conducted by the researchers in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits.
The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese; fluoride; chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides); tetrachloroethylene (a solvent); and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).
The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children.
For instance, manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills. Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, while certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays.
Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, postulate that many other chemicals contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that erodes intelligence and disrupts behaviors.
But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a lack of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation, according to the researchers.
“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write in the study, which was published in Lancet Neurology.
The researchers say it’s crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children’s brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.
“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development — now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”
(From PsychCentral.com via Harvard School of Public Health)

pubhealth:

Growing Number of Chemicals Linked to Brain Disorders in Children

A new study finds that toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia.

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai say a new way to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.

“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH. “They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.”

The new report follows up on a similar study conducted by the researchers in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits.

The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese; fluoride; chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides); tetrachloroethylene (a solvent); and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).

The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children.

For instance, manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills. Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, while certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays.

Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, postulate that many other chemicals contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that erodes intelligence and disrupts behaviors.

But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a lack of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation, according to the researchers.

“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write in the study, which was published in Lancet Neurology.

The researchers say it’s crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children’s brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.

“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development — now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”

(From PsychCentral.com via Harvard School of Public Health)

(via kammartinez)

neuromorphogenesis:

Your brain sees things you don’t

A doctoral candidate in the UA’s Department of Psychology in the College of Science, Sanguinetti showed study participants a series of black silhouettes, some of which contained meaningful, real-world objects hidden in the white spaces on the outsides. Saguinetti worked with his adviser Mary Peterson, a professor of psychology and director of the UA’s Cognitive Science Program, and with John Allen, a UA Distinguished Professor of psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience, to monitor subjects’ brainwaves with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, while they viewed the objects.

"We were asking the question of whether the brain was processing the meaning of the objects that are on the outside of these silhouettes," Sanguinetti said. "The specific question was, ‘Does the brain process those hidden shapes to the level of meaning, even when the subject doesn’t consciously see them?"

The answer, Sanguinetti’s data indicates, is yes.

Study participants’ brainwaves indicated that even if a person never consciously recognized the shapes on the outside of the image, their brains still processed those shapes to the level of understanding their meaning.

"There’s a brain signature for meaningful processing," Sanguinetti said. A peak in the averaged brainwaves called N400 indicates that the brain has recognized an object and associated it with a particular meaning.

"It happens about 400 milliseconds after the image is shown, less than a half a second," said Peterson. "As one looks at brainwaves, they’re undulating above a baseline axis and below that axis. The negative ones below the axis are called N and positive ones above the axis are called P, so N400 means it’s a negative waveform that happens approximately 400 milliseconds after the image is shown."

The presence of the N400 peak indicates that subjects’ brains recognize the meaning of the shapes on the outside of the figure.

"The participants in our experiments don’t see those shapes on the outside; nonetheless, the brain signature tells us that they have processed the meaning of those shapes," said Peterson. "But the brain rejects them as interpretations, and if it rejects the shapes from conscious perception, then you won’t have any awareness of them."

"We also have novel silhouettes as experimental controls," Sanguinetti said. "These are novel black shapes in the middle and nothing meaningful on the outside."

The N400 waveform does not appear on the EEG of subjects when they are seeing truly novel silhouettes, without images of any real-world objects, indicating that the brain does not recognize a meaningful object in the image.

"This is huge," Peterson said. "We have neural evidence that the brain is processing the shape and its meaning of the hidden images in the silhouettes we showed to participants in our study."

The finding leads to the question of why the brain would process the meaning of a shape when a person is ultimately not going to perceive it, Sanguinetti said.

"The traditional opinion in vision research is that this would be wasteful in terms of resources," he explained. "If you’re not going to ultimately see the object on the outside why would the brain waste all these processing resources and process that image up to the level of meaning?"

"Many, many theorists assume that because it takes a lot of energy for brain processing, that the brain is only going to spend time processing what you’re ultimately going to perceive," added Peterson. "But in fact the brain is deciding what you’re going to perceive, and it’s processing all of the information and then it’s determining what’s the best interpretation."

"This is a window into what the brain is doing all the time," Peterson said. "It’s always sifting through a variety of possibilities and finding the best interpretation for what’s out there. And the best interpretation may vary with the situation."

Our brains may have evolved to sift through the barrage of visual input in our eyes and identify those things that are most important for us to consciously perceive, such as a threat or resources such as food, Peterson suggested.

In the future, Peterson and Sanguinetti plan to look for the specific regions in the brain where the processing of meaning occurs.

"We’re trying to look at exactly what brain regions are involved," said Peterson. "The EEG tells us this processing is happening and it tells us when it’s happening, but it doesn’t tell us where it’s occurring in the brain."

"We want to look inside the brain to understand where and how this meaning is processed," said Peterson.

Images were shown to Sanguinetti’s study participants for only 170 milliseconds, yet their brains were able to complete the complex processes necessary to interpret the meaning of the hidden objects.

"There are a lot of processes that happen in the brain to help us interpret all the complexity that hits our eyeballs," Sanguinetti said. "The brain is able to process and interpret this information very quickly."

Sanguinetti’s study indicates that in our everyday life, as we walk down the street, for example, our brains may recognize many meaningful objects in the visual scene, but ultimately we are aware of only a handful of those objects. The brain is working to provide us with the best, most useful possible interpretation of the visual world, Sanguinetti said, an interpretation that does not necessarily include all the information in the visual input.

(Source: uanews.org)

theolduvaigorge:

Is this the most extraordinary human brain ever seen?
by Rowan Hooper
"Once you know what it is, this apparently innocuous picture of a blob assumes a terrible gravity. It is an adult human brain that is entirely smooth – free of the ridges and folds so characteristic of our species’ most complex organ.
We can only imagine what life was like for this person. He or she was a resident of what is now North Texas State Hospital, a mental health facility, and diedthere in 1970, but that’s all we know. While the jar containing the brain is labelled with a reference number, the microfilm containing the patient’s medical records has been lost.
Photographer Adam Voorhes spent a year trying to track down more information about this and nearly 100 other human brains held in a collection at the University of Texas, Austin, to no avail. The label on the jar states that the patient had agyria – a lack of gyri and sulci, the ridges and folds formed by the normally wrinkled cerebral cortex. This rare condition, also known aslissencephaly, often leads to death before the age of 10. It can cause muscle spasms, seizures and, as it vastly reduces the surface area of this key part of the brain, a range of learning difficulties.
David Dexter, who runs the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank at Imperial College London, says he has never seen anything like this before: “We do get the odd individual where certain sulci are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain.” Dexter says he is not surprised the person survived to adulthood since the brain is so adaptive, though he guesses there would be deleterious effects.
Earlier this year the University of Texas took delivery of an MRI scanner to document the structure of the brains in the collection in detail. While this might teach us more about the brain itself, the identity of the person who had this extraordinary brain – and details of his or her life – seem to be lost forever.”
***I feel like I’ve seen this image before…Any brain people want to comment on this phenomenon?
(Source: New Scientist)

theolduvaigorge:

Is this the most extraordinary human brain ever seen?

"Once you know what it is, this apparently innocuous picture of a blob assumes a terrible gravity. It is an adult human brain that is entirely smooth – free of the ridges and folds so characteristic of our species’ most complex organ.

We can only imagine what life was like for this person. He or she was a resident of what is now North Texas State Hospital, a mental health facility, and diedthere in 1970, but that’s all we know. While the jar containing the brain is labelled with a reference number, the microfilm containing the patient’s medical records has been lost.

Photographer Adam Voorhes spent a year trying to track down more information about this and nearly 100 other human brains held in a collection at the University of Texas, Austin, to no avail. The label on the jar states that the patient had agyria – a lack of gyri and sulci, the ridges and folds formed by the normally wrinkled cerebral cortex. This rare condition, also known aslissencephaly, often leads to death before the age of 10. It can cause muscle spasms, seizures and, as it vastly reduces the surface area of this key part of the brain, a range of learning difficulties.

David Dexter, who runs the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank at Imperial College London, says he has never seen anything like this before: “We do get the odd individual where certain sulci are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain.” Dexter says he is not surprised the person survived to adulthood since the brain is so adaptive, though he guesses there would be deleterious effects.

Earlier this year the University of Texas took delivery of an MRI scanner to document the structure of the brains in the collection in detail. While this might teach us more about the brain itself, the identity of the person who had this extraordinary brain – and details of his or her life – seem to be lost forever.”

***I feel like I’ve seen this image before…Any brain people want to comment on this phenomenon?

(Source: New Scientist)

(via kammartinez)

the-science-llama:

How Brains See Movement
Researchers mapped mouse and fly brains in so much detail that they were able to reconstruct the interconnections neurons were making and (in the fly-brain study) figured out how they were detecting movement. It turns out there are neurons to detect up,down,left and right for flies and the previous mapping of the brain showed how those signals were detected.

To create the mouse brain connectome, they sliced a small section of brain consisting of over 900 nerve cells (about 3x that of the fly brain) into super-thin images and reconstructed it with computers and some help from humans. As you can see it is very intricate and this is only a small portion of a brain which is many times smaller than a humans. Plus this is only 0.06% of the retina, so mapping entire human brains might be a while from now but we do have things like Eyewire where anyone can help map them.

(via thescienceofreality)

The Future of Stress | Fw:Thinking

Is stress just an engineering problem? Could we simply program our brains to relax? Chronic stress can lead to depression, cardiovascular disease, and even genetic changes that can be passed down to our children. In this episode, Jonathan looks into the future of stress and sees what role technology might have in reducing our anxiety.

But don’t worry, that’s not all we’ve got on the subject. The audio team digs deeper into what stress is, physiologically speaking, and some things you can do to combat it in What You Don’t Know About Stress Could Kill You. And they talk about the ways technology is helping and hurting our stress levels in Don’t Stress the Future.

neuromorphogenesis:

Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress

Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, according to a research team based at Princeton University.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor — exposure to cold water — their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety.

These findings potentially resolve a discrepancy in research related to the effect of exercise on the brain — namely that exercise reduces anxiety while also promoting the growth of new neurons in the ventral hippocampus. Because these young neurons are typically more excitable than their more mature counterparts, exercise should result in more anxiety, not less. The Princeton-led researchers, however, found that exercise also strengthens the mechanisms that prevent these brain cells from firing.

The impact of physical activity on the ventral hippocampus specifically has not been deeply explored, said senior author Elizabeth Gould, Princeton’s Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology. By doing so, members of Gould’s laboratory pinpointed brain cells and regions important to anxiety regulation that may help scientists better understand and treat human anxiety disorders, she said.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the research also shows that the brain can be extremely adaptive and tailor its own processes to an organism’s lifestyle or surroundings, Gould said. A higher likelihood of anxious behavior may have an adaptive advantage for less physically fit creatures. Anxiety often manifests itself in avoidant behavior and avoiding potentially dangerous situations would increase the likelihood of survival, particularly for those less capable of responding with a “fight or flight” reaction, she said.

"Understanding how the brain regulates anxious behavior gives us potential clues about helping people with anxiety disorders. It also tells us something about how the brain modifies itself to respond optimally to its own environment," said Gould, who also is a professor in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 

The research was part of the graduate dissertation for first author Timothy Schoenfeld, now a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as part of the senior thesis project of co-author Brian Hsueh, now an MD/Ph.D. student at Stanford University. The project also included co-authors Pedro Rada and Pedro Pieruzzini, both from the University of Los Andes in Venezuela.

For the experiments, one group of mice was given unlimited access to a running wheel and a second group had no running wheel. Natural runners, mice will dash up to 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) a night when given access to a running wheel, Gould said. After six weeks, the mice were exposed to cold water for a brief period of time.

The brains of active and sedentary mice behaved differently almost as soon as the stressor occurred, an analysis showed. In the neurons of sedentary mice only, the cold water spurred an increase in “immediate early genes,” or short-lived genes that are rapidly turned on when a neuron fires. The lack of these genes in the neurons of active mice suggested that their brain cells did not immediately leap into an excited state in response to the stressor.

Instead, the brain in a runner mouse showed every sign of controlling its reaction to an extent not observed in the brain of a sedentary mouse. There was a boost of activity in inhibitory neurons that are known to keep excitable neurons in check. At the same time, neurons in these mice released more of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which tamps down neural excitement. The protein that packages GABA into little travel pods known as vesicles for release into the synapse also was present in higher amounts in runners.

The anxiety-reducing effect of exercise was canceled out when the researchers blocked the GABA receptor that calms neuron activity in the ventral hippocampus. The researchers used the chemical bicuculine, which is used in medical research to block GABA receptors and simulate the cellular activity underlying epilepsy. In this case, when applied to the ventral hippocampus, the chemical blocked the mollifying effects of GABA in active mice.

Image1 : a brain region shown to regulate anxiety — of a mouse that ran for six weeks (above). The brown cells are new neurons, which are more numerous in active mice than sedentary mice, and the blue cells are mature neurons.

Image2:  In sedentary mice, stress activated new neurons in the hippocampus (red and green cell above), but after 6 weeks of running, the stress-induced activation of both new and mature neurons disappeared. The red cells are new neurons and the green cells are activated mature neurons.

stufftoblowyourmind:

Once more we discuss the science behind Internet videos. /Robert

Proving that ventriloquism is just as cool as it is creepy.

neuromorphogenesis:

Mind-controlled exoskeleton lets paralyzed people walk
       - by Helen Thomson

Two years ago, Antonio Melillo was in a car crash that completely severed his spinal cord. He has not been able to move or feel his legs since. And yet here I am, in a lab at the Santa Lucia Foundation hospital in Rome, Italy, watching him walk.

Melillo is one of the first people with lower limb paralysis to try outMindWalker – the world’s first exoskeleton that aims to enable paralysed and locked-in people to walk using only their mind.
Five people have been involved in the clinical trial of MindWalker over the past eight weeks. The trial culminates this week with a review by the European Commission, which funded the work; the project has been carried out by a consortium of several major universities and companies.
It’s the end of a three-year development period for the project, which has three main elements. There is the exoskeleton itself, a contraption that holds a person’s body weight and moves their legs when instructed. People learn how to use it in the second element: a virtual-reality environment. And then there’s the mind-reading component.
Over in the corner of the lab, Thomas Hoellinger of the Free University of Brussels (ULB) in Belgium is wearing an EEG cap, which measures electrical activity at various points across his scalp. There are several ways he can use it to control the exoskeleton through thought alone – at the moment, the most promising involves wearing a pair of glasses with flickering diodes attached to each lens.
Each set of diodes flashes at a different frequency in the wearer’s peripheral vision. The light is processed by an area of the brain called the occipital cortex. Measurements from this part of the brain can detect whether Hoellinger is concentrating on the left diode or the right. He shows how concentrating on the left starts the exoskeleton walking, while concentrating on the right stops it. All this happens in under a second.
Melillo isn’t wearing the cap right now, because the team has hit a snag. When the exoskeleton moves, its motors induce electrical noise in the EEG signal, making the readings unreliable.
So instead of mind control, Melillo is walking by moving his upper body. As he leans left, a pressure sensor just above his buttock registers the movement and moves the opposite leg of the exoskeleton. He repeats the process on the other side to begin walking. “It’s great, such an amazing sensation,” he says. “Not just walking but even being able to stand upright.”
Two days after my visit, the team identified flickering frequencies that are less affected by the mechanical noise and filmed a researcher controlling the exoskeleton with his mind alone.
The team plans to spend another five years refining MindWalker with an eye towards building a commercial product. “We’re going to make it more lightweight and smooth out the movements,” says Jeremi Gancet of Space Application Services in Zaventem, Belgium, a deputy coordinator on the project, “and possibly even incorporate it all into a pair of pants to make it a little less ‘Robocop’.”
They also want to ditch the glasses with the flashing diodes. A team led byGuy Chéron at ULB has identified the brain activity that corresponds with the intention of walking. This activity occurs about a second before you actually move and can be identified by EEG signals from the motor cortex. The team can even distinguish between the intention to walk quickly or slowly.
The creation of an algorithm that can recognise these signals reliably opens up the tantalising possibility that much more intuitive walking control could be given both to people who are paralysed and to those who are completely locked-in, unable to move even their eyes.
After some tentative first steps, Melillo is looking more confident. He won’t be swapping his wheelchair for a MindWalker just yet, but hopefully one day. “It’s great finally being able to look people in the eye,” he says.

neuromorphogenesis:

Mind-controlled exoskeleton lets paralyzed people walk

       - by Helen Thomson

Two years ago, Antonio Melillo was in a car crash that completely severed his spinal cord. He has not been able to move or feel his legs since. And yet here I am, in a lab at the Santa Lucia Foundation hospital in Rome, Italy, watching him walk.

Melillo is one of the first people with lower limb paralysis to try outMindWalker – the world’s first exoskeleton that aims to enable paralysed and locked-in people to walk using only their mind.

Five people have been involved in the clinical trial of MindWalker over the past eight weeks. The trial culminates this week with a review by the European Commission, which funded the work; the project has been carried out by a consortium of several major universities and companies.

It’s the end of a three-year development period for the project, which has three main elements. There is the exoskeleton itself, a contraption that holds a person’s body weight and moves their legs when instructed. People learn how to use it in the second element: a virtual-reality environment. And then there’s the mind-reading component.

Over in the corner of the lab, Thomas Hoellinger of the Free University of Brussels (ULB) in Belgium is wearing an EEG cap, which measures electrical activity at various points across his scalp. There are several ways he can use it to control the exoskeleton through thought alone – at the moment, the most promising involves wearing a pair of glasses with flickering diodes attached to each lens.

Each set of diodes flashes at a different frequency in the wearer’s peripheral vision. The light is processed by an area of the brain called the occipital cortex. Measurements from this part of the brain can detect whether Hoellinger is concentrating on the left diode or the right. He shows how concentrating on the left starts the exoskeleton walking, while concentrating on the right stops it. All this happens in under a second.

Melillo isn’t wearing the cap right now, because the team has hit a snag. When the exoskeleton moves, its motors induce electrical noise in the EEG signal, making the readings unreliable.

So instead of mind control, Melillo is walking by moving his upper body. As he leans left, a pressure sensor just above his buttock registers the movement and moves the opposite leg of the exoskeleton. He repeats the process on the other side to begin walking. “It’s great, such an amazing sensation,” he says. “Not just walking but even being able to stand upright.”

Two days after my visit, the team identified flickering frequencies that are less affected by the mechanical noise and filmed a researcher controlling the exoskeleton with his mind alone.

The team plans to spend another five years refining MindWalker with an eye towards building a commercial product. “We’re going to make it more lightweight and smooth out the movements,” says Jeremi Gancet of Space Application Services in Zaventem, Belgium, a deputy coordinator on the project, “and possibly even incorporate it all into a pair of pants to make it a little less ‘Robocop’.”

They also want to ditch the glasses with the flashing diodes. A team led byGuy Chéron at ULB has identified the brain activity that corresponds with the intention of walking. This activity occurs about a second before you actually move and can be identified by EEG signals from the motor cortex. The team can even distinguish between the intention to walk quickly or slowly.

The creation of an algorithm that can recognise these signals reliably opens up the tantalising possibility that much more intuitive walking control could be given both to people who are paralysed and to those who are completely locked-in, unable to move even their eyes.

After some tentative first steps, Melillo is looking more confident. He won’t be swapping his wheelchair for a MindWalker just yet, but hopefully one day. “It’s great finally being able to look people in the eye,” he says.

neuromorphogenesis:


Is Background Music a Boost or a Bummer?
“Are you multitasking if you’re listening to background music?”
As research consistently shows, multitasking reduces the efficiency, accuracy, and quality of what you do. So whether or not music introduces a distracting second task is an important question.
It’s not an easy question to answer because the more you look at the research, the more complicated the answer becomes. Dozens of studies on the issue show that music can have three important effects: It can distract your attention from whatever else you’re doing; it can affect your arousal level; and it can change your mood or affective state. The bottom line is, music can help or hinder your work depending on the nature of the task you’re trying to perform and the nature of the music. So here are some general conclusions:
1. Music can improve productivity on repetitive tasks. Workers on assembly lines or quality-control operators need to stay focused on their work even though what they’re doing is not necessarily inherently interesting, and attention typically fades over time. Upbeat music has been shown to improve efficiency and accuracy in these situations. Interestingly, this works best if the music is not played constantly, but if it’s introduced periodically at intervals when normal attention is likely to wane. In these situations, music can make the task seem less boring, and it can also increase arousal and alertness. Studies supporting this conclusion have recommended that music without lyrics be used; or that if music with words is used, the words should either be familiar or boring! (1)
2.  Music can give you a motivational jump-start before you start on both cognitive tasks and those requiring creativity. Up-tempo, pleasing music can boost your mood and be motivational. For example, in a cross-cultural study, Canadian undergraduates performed better on an IQ test after listening to an upbeat selection by Mozart than after a slow, minor-key piece by Albinoni. And Japanese children spent longer producing drawings and drew more creatively after listening to familiar children’s songs that they liked than after listening to unfamiliar classical music.
3.  Relaxing, repetitive, low-information-load, background music can enhance performance on some cognitive tasks. One study used a highly repetitive synthesizer piece with a narrow tonal range and compared it to a “dissonant, rhythmically varied and highly dynamic piece” (and to silence) as background while high school students were reading. Reading scores were significantly higher in the low-information-load music condition than in the other conditions (3). A similar study looked at the effect of Koan music, which consists of free-flowing, harmonious sounds, often used for meditation. Students performed significantly better on a series of intelligence-test items when Koan music was playing in the background than in silence (4). In both studies, the background music seems not to have interfered with processing of the information in the task, and may have aided relaxation and reduced stress.
4.  Typical popular music usually interferes with complex tasks and reading comprehension. Particularly when the music has lyrics, most popular music introduces a multitasking situation that interferes with reading comprehension and information processing. Several studies have shown this (e.g., 5, 6, 7). One study did show, however, that playing quiet classical music during a recorded lecture improved learning from the lecture, perhaps because it made the learning situation more palatable or enjoyable or helped people retain focus without introducing distraction (8).
This area is a work-in-progress. There’s still much more we need to know. But based on studies to date, here’s the advice:
1. If you’re doing a repetitive task requiring focus but not much cognitive processing, you can use upbeat music to boost your energy and attentiveness.
2. Even if your task necessitates cognitive processing or creativity, you can use motivational music beforehand and during breaks.
3. With high-information-processing tasks, monotonous, zen-like background music may sometimes promote better performance on cognitive tasks.
4. For problem-solving or highly cognitive, complex tasks, avoid typical popular music with lyrics as it will likely interfere with the quality of your work. Try rewarding yourself during breaks instead.
There are undoubtedly many individual differences in how people respond to music when they work. If you prefer silence and it works well for you, there’s no need to change your habits. But if you find silence unnerving or unsettling, try music that adds the least in terms of cognitive load, but that boosts arousal or reduces tension (whichever you need) or simply makes you feel good.

neuromorphogenesis:

Is Background Music a Boost or a Bummer?

“Are you multitasking if you’re listening to background music?”

As research consistently shows, multitasking reduces the efficiency, accuracy, and quality of what you do. So whether or not music introduces a distracting second task is an important question.

It’s not an easy question to answer because the more you look at the research, the more complicated the answer becomes. Dozens of studies on the issue show that music can have three important effects: It can distract your attention from whatever else you’re doing; it can affect your arousal level; and it can change your mood or affective state. The bottom line is, music can help or hinder your work depending on the nature of the task you’re trying to perform and the nature of the music. So here are some general conclusions:

1. Music can improve productivity on repetitive tasks. Workers on assembly lines or quality-control operators need to stay focused on their work even though what they’re doing is not necessarily inherently interesting, and attention typically fades over time. Upbeat music has been shown to improve efficiency and accuracy in these situations. Interestingly, this works best if the music is not played constantly, but if it’s introduced periodically at intervals when normal attention is likely to wane. In these situations, music can make the task seem less boring, and it can also increase arousal and alertness. Studies supporting this conclusion have recommended that music without lyrics be used; or that if music with words is used, the words should either be familiar or boring! (1)

2.  Music can give you a motivational jump-start before you start on both cognitive tasks and those requiring creativity. Up-tempo, pleasing music can boost your mood and be motivational. For example, in a cross-cultural study, Canadian undergraduates performed better on an IQ test after listening to an upbeat selection by Mozart than after a slow, minor-key piece by Albinoni. And Japanese children spent longer producing drawings and drew more creatively after listening to familiar children’s songs that they liked than after listening to unfamiliar classical music.

3.  Relaxing, repetitive, low-information-load, background music can enhance performance on some cognitive tasks. One study used a highly repetitive synthesizer piece with a narrow tonal range and compared it to a “dissonant, rhythmically varied and highly dynamic piece” (and to silence) as background while high school students were reading. Reading scores were significantly higher in the low-information-load music condition than in the other conditions (3). A similar study looked at the effect of Koan music, which consists of free-flowing, harmonious sounds, often used for meditation. Students performed significantly better on a series of intelligence-test items when Koan music was playing in the background than in silence (4). In both studies, the background music seems not to have interfered with processing of the information in the task, and may have aided relaxation and reduced stress.

4.  Typical popular music usually interferes with complex tasks and reading comprehension. Particularly when the music has lyrics, most popular music introduces a multitasking situation that interferes with reading comprehension and information processing. Several studies have shown this (e.g., 5, 6, 7). One study did show, however, that playing quiet classical music during a recorded lecture improved learning from the lecture, perhaps because it made the learning situation more palatable or enjoyable or helped people retain focus without introducing distraction (8).

This area is a work-in-progress. There’s still much more we need to know. But based on studies to date, here’s the advice:

1. If you’re doing a repetitive task requiring focus but not much cognitive processing, you can use upbeat music to boost your energy and attentiveness.

2. Even if your task necessitates cognitive processing or creativity, you can use motivational music beforehand and during breaks.

3. With high-information-processing tasks, monotonous, zen-like background music may sometimes promote better performance on cognitive tasks.

4. For problem-solving or highly cognitive, complex tasks, avoid typical popular music with lyrics as it will likely interfere with the quality of your work. Try rewarding yourself during breaks instead.

There are undoubtedly many individual differences in how people respond to music when they work. If you prefer silence and it works well for you, there’s no need to change your habits. But if you find silence unnerving or unsettling, try music that adds the least in terms of cognitive load, but that boosts arousal or reduces tension (whichever you need) or simply makes you feel good.

neurosciencestuff:


For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, ‘fear circuitry’ in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face. Now, researchers at NYU School of Medicine have explored for the first time what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD in the absence of external triggers.
Their results, published in Neuroscience Letters, and presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatry Association in San Francisco, show that the effects of trauma persist in certain brain regions even when combat veterans are not engaged in cognitive or emotional tasks, and face no immediate external threats. The findings shed light on which areas of the brain provoke traumatic symptoms and represent a critical step toward better diagnostics and treatments for PTSD.
A chronic condition that develops after trauma, PTSD can plague victims with disturbing memories, flashbacks, nightmares and emotional instability. Among the 1.7 million men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 20% have PTSD. Research shows that suicide risk is higher in veterans with PTSD. Tragically, more soldiers committed suicide in 2012 than the number of soldiers who were killed in combat in Afghanistan that year.
“It is critical to have an objective test to confirm PTSD diagnosis as self reports can be unreliable,” says co-author Charles Marmar, MD, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Psychiatry and chair of NYU Langone’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Marmar, a nationally recognized expert on trauma and stress among veterans, heads The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center.
The study, led by Xiaodan Yan, a research fellow at NYU School of Medicine, examined “spontaneous” or “resting” brain activity in 104 veterans of combat from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars using functional MRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain. The researchers found that spontaneous brain activity in the amygdala, a key structure in the brain’s “fear circuitry” that processes fearful and anxious emotions, was significantly higher in the 52 combat veterans with PTSD than in the 52 combat veterans without PTSD. The PTSD group also showed elevated brain activity in the anterior insula, a brain region that regulates sensitivity to pain and negative emotions.
Moreover, the PTSD group had lower activity in the precuneus, a structure tucked between the brain’s two hemispheres that helps integrate information from the past and future, especially when the mind is wandering or disengaged from active thought. Decreased activity in the precuneus correlates with more severe “re-experiencing” symptoms—that is, when victims re-experience trauma over and over again through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts.

neurosciencestuff:

For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, ‘fear circuitry’ in the brain never rests

Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face. Now, researchers at NYU School of Medicine have explored for the first time what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD in the absence of external triggers.

Their results, published in Neuroscience Letters, and presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatry Association in San Francisco, show that the effects of trauma persist in certain brain regions even when combat veterans are not engaged in cognitive or emotional tasks, and face no immediate external threats. The findings shed light on which areas of the brain provoke traumatic symptoms and represent a critical step toward better diagnostics and treatments for PTSD.

A chronic condition that develops after trauma, PTSD can plague victims with disturbing memories, flashbacks, nightmares and emotional instability. Among the 1.7 million men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 20% have PTSD. Research shows that suicide risk is higher in veterans with PTSD. Tragically, more soldiers committed suicide in 2012 than the number of soldiers who were killed in combat in Afghanistan that year.

“It is critical to have an objective test to confirm PTSD diagnosis as self reports can be unreliable,” says co-author Charles Marmar, MD, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Psychiatry and chair of NYU Langone’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Marmar, a nationally recognized expert on trauma and stress among veterans, heads The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center.

The study, led by Xiaodan Yan, a research fellow at NYU School of Medicine, examined “spontaneous” or “resting” brain activity in 104 veterans of combat from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars using functional MRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain. The researchers found that spontaneous brain activity in the amygdala, a key structure in the brain’s “fear circuitry” that processes fearful and anxious emotions, was significantly higher in the 52 combat veterans with PTSD than in the 52 combat veterans without PTSD. The PTSD group also showed elevated brain activity in the anterior insula, a brain region that regulates sensitivity to pain and negative emotions.

Moreover, the PTSD group had lower activity in the precuneus, a structure tucked between the brain’s two hemispheres that helps integrate information from the past and future, especially when the mind is wandering or disengaged from active thought. Decreased activity in the precuneus correlates with more severe “re-experiencing” symptoms—that is, when victims re-experience trauma over and over again through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts.

(via scinerds)