Saturday, June 12, 2010

Placid Places Soothe Mind and Body

Scene from Ka'ena Point trail
It was a postcard-perfect day in early April. My boyfriend and I left his truck at the end of the road and then spent a glorious few hours hiking the wild coastline to Ka'ena Point, the westernmost point on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The sun was out, the vistas were spectacular and the monk seals, humpback whales, spinner dolphins and Laysan albatross were putting on a show—all in all, an exhilarating yet somehow also very peaceful and relaxing day. Of course, that was before we returned to find that the truck had been stolen.It was a nasty shock, the scenario you always worry about that had finally come to pass in real life. The fact that I was kicking myself for leaving my purse cleverly hidden inside the truck only made matters worse. In an instant, my euphoric bubble burst.
Long story short, the truck (minus the purse) was recovered the next day only a little worse for the wear. And a few weeks later, there we were back hiking the same spot. Oh, we parked at a different location this time, and we took extra precautions when locking up the truck. But then we set off down the same trail again—and within a matter of minutes, the anxiety began to drain away and the feelings of peacefulness and relaxation began rolling in as dependably as the tide.
That's a powerfully relaxing spot. And I couldn't help wondering what it was about this particular place that made it feel so serene and, evidence to the contrary, secure.

Serene Scenes
Placid places are undoubtedly as individual as the people who enjoy them. But based on recent research, many have several of the following six attributes; Ka'ena Point has them all in abundance.

* Nature
The experience of nature in humanity's evolutionary past has left its mark on our modern brains. As a result, studies have found that even born-and-bred city dwellers have an innate affinity for natural environments. A burgeoning body of research shows that spending time in nature provokes effortless attention, restores mental alertness, reduces stress, decreases anger, promotes a feeling of vitality and even increases longevity. Natural settings also lend themselves to walking, hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking and other physical activities, so they encourage exercise. Plus, exploring nature with family, friends or pets strengthens healthy bonds.
* Beauty
Beauty is in the brain of the beholder, and our brains seem to be wired to appreciate many features of the natural world. We're drawn to the fractal forms—geometric patterns that repeat at ever smaller scales—of ocean waves and tree branches. We're attracted to the gentle rhythms of grass rustling in the breeze and clouds drifting across the sky. And we're beguiled by nature's harmonious balance between such patterns and vivid diversity. The result is the sheer joy we feel when gazing at a panoramic vista or colorful sunset.
* Space
Open space is the perfect antidote to the stress of cramped homes, crowded stores and jammed highways. In fact, openness seems to be one of the attributes that make natural environments so appealing. Evolutionarily speaking, this may hearken to the days when our ancestors roamed the African savanna. Today, research shows that people still associate savanna-like settings with peacefulness, tranquility and relaxation. But it's not only green space that has this effect. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that images containing blue space—in other words, water—were also associated with positive feelings and perceived as highly restorative.
* Quiet
Nature isn't silent. Yet many sounds of nature are perceived as quietly relaxing—think rolling surf, burbling brooks, rustling leaves and chirping birds. Such sounds are a stark contrast to the ringing phones, honking car horns, blaring TVs and earsplitting leaf blowers of everyday life. Maybe that's why 72% of national park visitors rank the natural quiet and sounds of nature as an important reason for preserving the parks.
* Sunlight
By all means, put on your sunscreen, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat. Once you've done that, however, take a few minutes to savor the sunshine. Most people prefer natural light over the artificial lighting in homes and offices. And there's a reason we use the term "sunny disposition" to describe someone who is cheerful. Research has shown that exposure to sunlight can boost mood, reduce tiredness and improve cognitive function.
* Wildlife
Everything about the BP oil spill is disturbing. But it's the images of oil-drenched birds that have really riveted the nation's attention. According to the biophilia hypothesis, that's because humans have a natural responsiveness to other living things. We like places that let us experience animals in their natural habitats. A recent study of wildlife tourists found that such encounters can inspire feelings of awe, wonder and connectedness.

Peak Places
Factor in all these benefits, and it comes as no surprise that many people say they've experienced one of those transcendent, time-of-their-life moments in just such surroundings. That's how I felt hiking at Ka'ena Point in April. And even the nasty shock of returning to find an empty space where the truck should have been couldn't obliterate the feeling, because it's as much a part of the landscape there as the cliffs, the sand and the sea.

Diabetes Can Lead to Loss Memory

Diabetes Can Lead to Loss MemoryA recent research from the Netherland recommends that if diabetes is not controlled, it can lead to a decline in memory, thought process, and mental flexibility; thus, controlling blood sugar level is vital, as it might prevent some of these problems.
An individual might not come to know that his memory is declining because of the fact that drop-off starts building up in middle age, which can put diabetics at a greater risk because of the condensed brain reserves. "Like a bicycle tire that's been partially deflated you'll be OK riding around but if you develop another little leak you'll be much closer to a flat tire much faster", said Dr. David Knopman, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Astrid Nooyens and colleagues at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands have scrutinized the records of health and mental acuteness scores of more than 2,600 women and men between the group of 45 and 70. After five years, it has been found out of 139 people, who had type2 diabetes, 61 were diabetics at the start of the study and 78 developed the chronic disease gradually within the time period of 5 years.
This new research has confirmed the findings of Knopman and others, who also researched about the relationship between diabetes and declines in memory functions. But this research is the first project to examine the memory and show how rapidly the drop-off can take place.

Typing with brain waves

JACKSONVILLE, FL (WABC) -- For people who can't talk or communicate because of injury or stroke, their own body can be a prison.

What if you could type on a computer screen just by thinking of the letters? Sounds impossible, right? Researchers are now able to do that in a lab.

Doctors at Mayo Clinic say one day patients locked in the isolation of their condition may be freed by the power of thought.

Using electroencephalography, doctors attach small electrodes to the scalp, which measure the electrical activity from the brain. This enables the translation from brain waves to words on a screen for people who can't communicate.

This new technology gives patients, who were once unable to speak, a chance to express themselves.

Jerry Shih, M.D. Mayo Clinic, said, "They know what they want to say. They can still think about what they want to do, but they can't express it. This is technology that would allow people like that to communicate with the world."

Patients with Lou Gehrig's disease and people who've had a strokes, or experienced spinal cord injuries can benefit from this groundbreaking brain wave translator.

Right now, the doctors at Mayor clinic are translating brainwaves into letters on a screen, but Dr. Shih envisions a day when your thoughts will do much more.

"It's certainly in the realm of possibility that in the next several years your brain waves can control an external device that can walk over to that pencil, pick it up and move it to write something," said Dr. Shih.

Research is already underway that explores using your brainwaves and your thoughts to move a prosthetic limb or push a wheelchair. According to Dr. Shih, this technology is in its infancy and may take ten years or more before it is ready for public use.

Essential Fish Oils Are Essential to Your Heart and Brain Health

Essential Fish Oils Are Essential to Your Heart and Brain Health  - Did you know that fish oils have essential fatty acids necessary to your health? If so, then you probably know these essential fish oils are also part of the omega 3 fatty acids recommended by doctors everywhere. But maybe you don't know why they're so essential. Studies show EPA and DHA fish oils are the building blocks of your brain. In other words, they help form your brain when you're a developing child and they help to keep it strong and active as an older adult.

And, if you're like most Americans, you need more of them to stay healthy and keep your brain sharp. Without them you can become forgetful, anxious and put yourself at a risk for Alzheimer's. Nutritionists say most Americans are deficient in these nutrients because of the foods we eat. Fast food and processed foods usually lack omega 3 fatty acids. But fish is rich in these essential nutrients. Why fish you ask? Fish are made up of 30% of these fatty acids. Nutrition experts say you can get these essential nutrients by eating more fish like salmon, tuna, hoki and sardines. The average person can get the nutrients they need by including fish in their diet 2-3 times a week.

Essential fish oils do more than protect your brain.

They also protect you from heart attacks and heart disease. The American Heart Association even recommends fish oil supplements to heart patients and many cardiologists are having their patients take increased dosages. Check with your doctor first. Fish oil, like aspirin, is a blood thinner so it can interfere with some coagulating medications.

Fish oil supplements are the most widely recommended omega 3 supplement. 1000's of studies show the wide ranging health benefits of these essential fatty acids.

In fact, one Harvard study showed the dangers of a diet deficient in these essential oils. The study found that between 63,000 and 97,000 Americans die each year from causes that Harvard linked to omega 3 deficient. In other words, these were preventable deaths!

You can ensure you get the essential fish oils you need by looking for a supplement with high levels of EPA and DHA. These oils improve your concentration and keep your mind sharp. They also reduce inflammation and protect you from heart conditions.

You'll also want to make sure your fish supplements are free from toxins like mercury. You can review the label which should tell you of the purification process. Most companies use a molecular distillation process to purify the fish. But the best is when you can find fish that swam in clean waters-not polluted-- and so are already clean. Then, they undergo this molecular distillation process so you get the purest source of essential fish oil.

If you're interested in learning more about essential fish oils and how they can help you, visit my website, where I share what products I have personally been using daily for several years.

Jen P. April is a passionate advocate of health and nutrition. To learn more about effective Omega 3's and supplements she recommends after extensive research, visit

Let's face it, when it comes to health claims, most things are pure hype. It's very rare indeed when something actually lives up to the hype or exposure it gets in the media.

In fact, in my years as a health researcher, omega 3 fatty acids may be the only thing that deserves all the praise heaped upon it.

What's particularly fascinating about omega 3 fatty acids is that both conventional and alternative medicine agree on how wonderful its many health benefits are.

If you know anything about alternative health, or are knowledgeable about the natural health field, you'll know this is something that doesn't usually happen too often. Normally, conventional medicine supports the interventionist approach, not the preventative one.

Studies are often released by conventional medical sources on how vitamin supplements are worthless, and using herbal remedies are almost on a par with witchcraft. Sure, I'm exaggerating -- but only a bit!

Mind you, I'm not saying I agree with this. In fact, I think these studies are often biased and distorted, and if you follow the money trail, you'll see they're often funded by pharmaceutical interests. After all, if preventative healthcare took root in a big way, the demand for prescription drugs, which you basically only need when you already have a disease or disorder, would collapse. Hmmm.

In any event, it seems the evidence about omega 3's are so overwhelming that even most conventional medical practitioners will often recommend increasing their intake in the diet through foods or via supplementation.

Many health experts and researchers believe that omega 3 fat is the one essential nutrient most missing in our modern day diet. This deficiency is now believed to play a major role in why there is such rampant heart disease, cancers, and brain disorders.

Not surprisingly, studies have shown that many of these diseases and disorders improve when omega 3 supplementation is used.

But before we talk about specific conditions that may strongly benefit from the use of omega 3 supplementation, of which purified fish oils are the best source, I'd like to tell you briefly why omega 3's are so vital for good health to begin with.

The human body requires a tremendous amount of omega 3 fatty acids to function properly.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid Fact: The human brain is comprised of 60% fats, and approximately half of that fat is DHA omega 3.

Our master organ, the one that controls our entire body, the brain, is made up of a tremendous amount of fat by weight. Most people don't know this. And a significant portion of this fat is the omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid.

This means that nature intended the human brain to be "powered" by fats, so to speak, and if you don't have enough, your brain won't be able to run properly. Although it's not a perfect metaphor, it's somewhat like trying to run a car without fuel.

However, it's even worse, because whereas a car would simply not run, the human brain instead begins to suffer from ailments and diseases.

The Miracle of Omega 3 for Health
So, why do I, and so many others, consider omega 3 practically a health miracle?

Let's consider just some of the many conditions and disorders that it may help improve.

Brain Health
Deficiencies in omega 3 fats have been linked to: depression, anxiety, mood swings, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, Alzheimer's disease, ADHD and ADD.

Millions upon millions of people suffer from just these conditions alone. Maybe even you do, or know a loved one who does.

Researchers from institutions as prestigious as the Harvard School of Public Health have shown some of these conditions will greatly improve with increased omega 3 fatty acid intake.

Other studies have shown that even if you don't have any of these conditions, memory and focus can improve with consistent use of fish oil supplements.

Heart Health
"Omega 3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of -- or who have -- cardiovascular disease."
American Heart Association

One of the best known and studied benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are for heart health. Until recently, this was the number #1 killer in the Western world (it has recently been surpassed by cancer).

Fish oil supplements, very high in omega 3 fats, have been shown to help those with heart disease, and help protect those who don't, but might be susceptible to it down the line due to family history.

How does it do this? Well, for starters, omega 3's can make platelets in the blood less sticky. This prevents them from clumping together, which can trigger heart attacks if they do as blood flow can stop.

In addition, omega 3's can reduce tryglycerides -- these are blood fats closely related to cholesterol -- and when they are high along with cholesterol, your chances for heart disease go up markedly.

Research has also shown that omega 3's can help reduce or prevent heart rhythm abnormalities by making the electrical system of the heart stronger.

Heart disease is also characterized by inflammation, and omega 3's have potent anti-inflammatory properties that can counter this.

Speaking of inflammation.....

Arthritis Aches and Pains
Did you know that a lot of the aches and pains associated with arthritis are due to inflammation? This is why studies have shown that fish oil supplementation, rich in omega 3's, can help alleviate these pains in those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Crohn's Disease & Inflammatory Bowel Disorders
The same is true for Crohn's disease, which is characterized by painful inflammation of the bowels. Indeed, in one particular year long study, 69% of Crohn's sufferers who used a fish oil supplement stayed symptom free as opposed to only 28% who were administered a placebo.

Pregnant or Nursing Mothers
It's irrefutable now that for the fetus brain to develop properly, it needs a great deal of the omega 3's, DHA and EPA.

If you are a pregnant mother, you should strongly consider using a molecularly distilled fish oil supplement so your fetus's brain has the best chance of developing properly. Of course, speak with a doctor or, better yet, a naturopathic doctor first.

If you are a nursing mother, you should also be taking an omega 3 supplement or eating enough omega 3 foods because they are an essential fatty acid. Essential means our bodies need it but cannot manufacture them on its own. Which simply means we absolutely must get them from our diets.

The omega 3 you obtain in your diet is passed along to your baby when you breastfeed.

Even if you are no longer breastfeeding, you should be careful to take in enough omega 3 fat for your own health. If you have young children, adequate levels of omega 3 intake are associated with less attention deficit and hyperactivity and higher IQ's.

Lastly, the omega 3's in fish oil have also been shown to help ease menstrual cramps.

Psoriasis, Acne, and Other Skin Disorders
If you know anyone who suffers from psoriasis or acne, you know how painful and embarrassing these conditions can be. Maybe you have them yourself. One of the primary problems in these conditions is inflammation. Although fish oils are not going to cure these conditions, its anti-inflammatory properties often help make them much better.

As I said earlier, cancer has now overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in the US. Of course, there are numerous types of cancer. Some exciting recent research is showing that omega 3's may help prevent cancer from occurring and also help prevent it from progressing if it has already occurred.

Although more studies need to be done urgently in this area, DHA and EPA omega 3's, found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements, may protect against these types of cancers: breast, prostate, testicular, ovarian. Breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, in particular, and are so common and claim so many lives that any substance like omega 3 that shows great promise against them should be studied much more extensively.

In the meantime, although the studies that have been conducted are not conclusively, it seems increasing one's intake of omega 3 fats can help in the battle against cancer.

And The List Goes On
Please understand that this page is not exhaustive. I could write another 10 pages on the miracle of omega 3 fatty acids, and include a discussion of other conditions such as lupus and Raynaud's disease. But I think you're starting to get the picture. And that picture is that if there's one supplement most everyone should take to fight disease, keep the brain sharp, and stay in peak health, it should be an omega 3 supplement.

And the best kind? Again, purified fish oil supplements, especially those made from a fatty type fish species naturally high in DHA especially, and also EPA.

What's Wrong With The Modern Diet?
Modern farming practices -- for both the meat and agricultural industries -- has made food a lot less nutritious than it used to be. One of the consequences is that foods that used to contain high levels of omega 3 fats are now a poor source.

In a nutshell, large scale farming raises meat for one purpose: profit. There's nothing wrong with profit per se, but when you are feeding millions of people, you want to raise the animals as fast as you can, make them as fat as you can, so you can produce as much meat as you can.

What this means it that the beef, chicken, lamb, etc., you name it, that you buy at the local grocery store is typically grain-fed and fattened meat. By contrast, it's the animals natural diet, like grass-grazing cattle and lamb that makes them such naturally rich sources of omega 3's. Once you force them to eat grain-based feed to fatten them up, their omega 3 content virtually disappears.

You've all heard the saying that you are what you eat. Well, animals are what they eat too. And if you eat the animals....then you are what they eat. And that is largely grains and corns.

What about fish? Unfortunately, fatty fish, the formerly best source of omega 3's, harbors many pollutants. And many of these are very dangerous, like PCB's, mercury, lead, and the like. This is simply due to industrial pollution that has accumulated in many of the oceans and waterways of the world.

Fish Oils: The Absolute Best Source
So what's the solution?

Well, if you want all the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids without the harmful toxins that you'd get by eating a lot of fish, the solution is to take a molecularly distilled fish oil supplement.

Molecular distillation allows the oils to be separated from the bad contaminants. The rich, healthy omega 3 oils can then be encapsulated into soft gels for easy swallowing. Of course, there's a little more to it than this, but this is the most important point to understand.

Not only are purified fish oil supplements the best source, they are also the most economical. A month's supply of top notch product will set you back less than $20 dollars a month. If you go buy a few filets of salmon or tuna at the local fish market, you'll spend that much just for one dinner.

If you've decided that you should start including a fish oil supplement as part of your daily health regimen, what you need to do now is know how to compare one brand against another. This, of course, will allow you to get great value for money and the best product you can buy.

I have compared dozens of brands before deciding on one.

What's I've found is it's neither the most expensive nor least expensive products that are best. Some products cost more because they are heavily marketed or have celebrity endorsements. This means they charge more so they can pay for all that marketing, not because the product is necessarily better.

On the other end of the spectrum, some products are ridiculously cheap. Upon further investigation you find out the oils aren't molecularly distilled (which means they harbor contaminants), or the fish species being used isn't rich in omega 3's, or that the oils have no process to keep them fresh. Fish oils are subject to oxidation quickly....that's a process by which they go rancid. Taking oxidized fish oils can actually harm your health!

Here are my criteria for evaluation fish oil supplements:

● Type of fish being used -- is it naturally high in DHA and EPA omega 3? And especially DHA?
● Is it purified/molecularly distilled?
● Is the fish caught locally to where the product is produced, ensuring freshness? Or is rancidity a concern?
● Does the product tell you the exact breakdown between DHA omega 3 and EPA omega 3 and not just the total omega 3 content per serving? Does it even tell you the total omega 3 per serving?
● How many servings does it contain per bottle?

If you have the answer to these types of questions, then you can do true price comparisons to see what kind of value you are getting.

For example, if product A costs $18 dollars for a month's supply, and product B costs $16 dollars for a month's supply, most people just think, well, product B is a better buy. Not so fast!

Let's just take one of the above criteria. What if product A has 1,000 mg of omega 3 per capsule, and product B has 500 mg. They both have 60 soft gels, and the recommended dosage is 2 per day, which means it's a one month supply of product for each. Well, now the $16 dollar product definitely doesn't seem like the better buy because product A is only $2 dollars more but contains twice the omega 3 fats per capsule.

So, you see, there's a little analysis and research that goes into this. And none of that analysis is difficult.

And, believe me, it's worth doing it. Omega 3's are indisputably one of the most important substances for good health and well-being and if you are going to use a product like I have for years and conceivably take it for the rest of your life, doing a few minutes of research as you have just done by reading this page, can pay off immensely over the years when it comes to your health and your family's health.

What I Personally Take
After researching the market and doing just the type of comparisons I mention above, I decided a fish oil supplement product from New Zealand was the best one available.

Here's why I decided on this product.

1. It is made from a fish species called hoki. Hoki are a sustainable, natural resource regulated by the New Zealand government. They thrive natively in the cold, deep waters off the Southern coast of New Zealand, one of the most pristine areas of the world, virtually untouched by industry and pollution issues.

2. Even more important, hoki are one of the few fish species very naturally high in omega 3's, particularly containing a higher level of DHA omega 3 than EPA omega 3. DHA can be converted by the body into EPA when more EPA is needed, but not the other way around. It's very important your fish oil supplements have more DHA than EPA.

3. The fish oil product, produced by a company called Xtend-Life Natural Products, is molecularly distilled. Why does it need molecular distillation if the fish is already coming from the cleanest area of the world? Because nature can create pollution too! Just think how much contamination is spewed into the atmosphere and waters when a volcano erupts, for example. All fish oil products should undergo molecular distillation, period.

4. Cost. Given the amount of DHA and EPA, and total omega 3 per serving, I have yet to find a better priced product than the Omega 3 fish oils produced by Xtend-Life Natural Products. This is when you do a real apples to apples comparison.

I now have been using the Xtend-Life Omega 3 fish oil product for years, including my whole family. In my opinion, it has been and will continue to be one of the best health decisions I have ever made. Especially when it comes to dollar to dollar value.

It amazes me that people will spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars (sometimes well over a thousand dollars) per month for organic produce, grass-fed meats, smoothies, gym memberships, etc., in order to try to live a healthier lifestyle -- and all of these things can be good -- but for less than $20 dollars a month they can be doing more good for their health than many of these things put together.

Even if you decide on using a different brand than the Xtend-Life fish oils, you should at least read the information presented at their page, as it will educate you much further, and in simple fashion, on how to choose a really good omega 3 product.. To your health,

Cholesterol linked to brain hormone

High cholesterol levels may be the result of chemical processes in the brain, research has suggested.

Neuro-rehabilitation may be key to the treatment of high cholesterol in the future, new research has suggested.

The circulation of cholesterol is regulated in the brain by the ghrelin hormone, according to scientists from the University of Cincinnati, who believe that this could help with treatment in the future.

Researchers found that blocking the receptor which ghrelin inhibits increases cholesterol levels.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher in the Nature Neuroscience study Matthias Tschop said: "We were stunned to see that by switching MC4R [the receptor linked to cholesterol] off in the brain, we could even make injected cholesterol remain in the blood much longer."

Recent research carried out by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions indicated that low cholesterol may help to reduce the risk of men suffering high-grade prostate cancer.

Scientists believe that lower levels of harmful fats may reduce prostate cancer risk by nearly 60 per cent.

Find out more about intermediate care at Barchester.ADNFCR-504-ID-19823521-ADNFCR

MS research projects test theory

Canadian researchers investigating the relationship between multiple sclerosis and impaired blood drainage from the brain and spinal cord will receive $700,000 in funding for four projects, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced Friday.
Between the Canadian and U.S. National MS Society, which are co-ordinating efforts, more than $2.4 million has been committed to support seven new research projects on chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), originally described by Italian Dr. Paolo Zamboni.
The studies are needed because its not yet known whether or how CCSVI contributes to MS, the society said.
The research aims to:
  • Confirm Zamboni's findings of abnormalities in the veins draining the brain and spinal cord in people with MS and whether CCSVI is a cause of the neurological disorder or related to it in some other way.
  • Resolve conflicting data from previous research, such as comparing vein abnormalities in people with MS, other neurological disorders and healthy volunteers.
  • Assess whether blockages occur, and if so, speed up therapeutic trials to determine if unblocking veins helps improve the symptoms of MS patients.
The studies will not involve surgical treatment. Some Canadians have gone overseas to private clinics to get an angioplasty-like procedure or metal stents to open up the blockages.
It is expected most Canadian participants will be recruited from existing lists of patients at MS clinics.
The teams receiving funding are led by:
  • Dr. Brenda Banwell, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto: studying vein abnormalities in children and teenagers who have MS, and healthy controls of the same age. Banwell aims to determine whether veins are abnormal at an early age in pediatric MS patients.
  • Dr. Fiona Costello, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary: Examining 120 people with MS compared with people with other neurological diseases and healthy volunteers using ultrasound and magnetic resonance studies of veins.
  • Dr. Aaron Field, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health: Using MRI scans of the head and neck in people with early and later MS, healthy volunteers, and controls with other neurological conditions. If the team's results are similar to those published by Zamboni, it would confirm the hypothesis and lead toward treatment trials.
  • Dr. Robert Fox, Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland: Studying people with MS or who are at risk for MS and comparison groups, including healthy volunteers and people with brain shrinkage from Alzheimer's disease, to determine MS activity and atrophy.
  • Dr. Carlos Torres, The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa: Using powerful 3 Tesla MRI technology to explore vein anatomy to assess for iron deposits in the brains of 50 people with MS and 50 healthy volunteers of the same age. The studies should lead to a better understanding of normal variations in vein anatomy draining the brain and clarify the potential role of venous insufficiency in MS.
  • Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, UBC Hospital MS Clinic, UBC Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Katherine Knox, Saskatoon MS Clinic, University of Saskatchewan: studying the prevalence of CCSVI in people with MS and controls without MS, using catheter venography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance venography, including in identical twins of MS patients who have not developed MS.
  • Dr. Jerry Wolinsky, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: replicating Zamboni's ultrasound methods, testing whether other imaging methods can confirm ultrasound findings, and finding the most reliable screening technique for CCSVI.
The two-year grants will begin on July 1.
The society is also calling on the federal government to provide $10 million for research into CCSVI and MS.

Voices Against Brain Cancer Hosts Event to Benefit Brain Cancer Research

WHO: -- Henry S. Friedman, M.D., co-executive Director and world-renowned Neuro-Oncologist at Duke University Medical Center's Brain Tumor Center, will receive the 2010 Gary Lichtenstein Humanitarian Award. -- Eric Lichtenstein, managing director at Knight Capital Group and co-founder of VABC, will receive the 2010 Voices Award. -- Bernie Williams, former member of the New York Yankees and passionate musician, will perform at the event. -- Omar Minaya, general manager of the New York Mets and Voices Against Brain Cancer Board Member; Richie Cannata, Billy Joel's saxophonist; Ronnie Alexenburg, Former President of Epic Records; and Avis Richards, CEO of Birdsnest Productions, a visual media production company dedicated to supporting non-profit organizations will all be attending the event. -- Chieli Minucci is the leader of the Grammy-nominated jazz group Special EFX, with over 25 albums released to date. Chieli is a three-time Emmy winner for his music in television. Chieli Minucci and Special EFX will perform at the event. -- Kirstin Cole, a CBS reporter, will be Mistress of Ceremonies. -- 2010 VABC Courage Awards will be presented to eight individuals who have each displayed tremendous strength in their fight against brain cancer
WHAT: Voices Against Brain Cancer's fifth annual gala, Sounding Off For A Cure, to fight brain cancer. Proceeds from the event will benefit innovative brain cancer research programs at, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburg and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

  --  Brain tumors can affect people of every age, gender, ethnicity and
      health history.
  --  Each year, more and more people in the United States are diagnosed
      with a primary or metastatic brain tumor.
  --  There are hundreds of different types of brain tumors, resulting in
      highly variable effects and survival rates.
  --  There are currently no known causes of brain cancer.
  --  Funds raised from this year's event will fund research, clinical
      trials and support programs for brain cancer patients and their

  WHEN: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
WHERE: Expecting 1,000 Guests - The Hammerstein, 311 W 34th St (between 7th and 8th Avenues) New York, NY 10001

Tell us the ‘real facts’ of brain cancer cases

We don’t often write about the minutes of meetings of public bodies in McHenry County.
Minutes essentially are a summary of what was said and done at a given meeting so that an accurate record exists for future reference.
Because our reporters can’t make every single meeting of every single public body in McHenry County, they regularly review minutes of meetings they don’t attend as one way of determining whether anything particularly newsworthy happened.
Earlier this week, senior reporter Kevin Craver brought to my attention a draft of the minutes of the May meeting of the McHenry County Board’s Public Health and Human Services Committee.
Under a section headlined “Reports to committee” was an item about McCullom Lake and the large number of local residents suffering from brain cancer.
The draft of the minutes noted that committee members said that education on cancer clusters was needed because home sales in the community had suffered from the issue.


Welcome to the latest fad in town — mini helmets ! Ladies, youngsters and old men alike have taken a fancy to wearing these 'brain buckets' or what one would call 'the miner's cap'. True, many complain that a full-face helmet turns out to be cumbersome during the summer season, especially with the mercury level climbing a notch higher day by day. And to add to this, we have laments elucidating from all quarters of society about perspiration, riding discomfort, ruined hairstyles and receding hairlines, apart from a sense of isolation and hearing loss when you wear a full-face helmet.
Well, the answer to these woes? Brain buckets ! But how safe are they? Are they safer in the event of a crash? What greater purpose do they serve, at what cost and at whose cost? It is bemusing that these riding caps are branded as 'Deletion helmets'. We just wonder if the term 'deletion' was mockingly pasted onto these caps with a view of enlightening the numbskulls among us as to how we stand a chance of being 'deleted' in the course of a road accident!
This week's Saturday Supplement surveys the helmet scenario in our city and why mobike victims often end up pathetically frozen up on a mortuary slab. Who's to blame? Why are our city fathers found napping over this mini helmet issue? What measures have our traffic wardens employed to ensure that the right helmets are stringently used on roads? And above all, how did the helmet originate? Read on…
It all started with the untimely demise of the great British adventurist, Sir T.E. Lawrence or 'Lawrence of Arabia' as he was popularly known. Riding his 'Brough Superior SS100' at 75kms/hr, the legend lost his balance and crashed into the Wareham woods while trying to avoid a group of boys on their bicycles. For five days, he remained in coma and on the sixth day he died due to severe head injuries and multiple neck fractures.
Dr. Hugh Cairns, one of the neurosurgeons who attended the comatose Lawrence, was so appalled by the Knight's fate that he began an independent research into inventing a head device that could save a biker's brain in the event of an accident. Fruitfully, Cairns' study led to the introduction of 'crash helmets' for both civilians and military personnel.
Today, a variety of helmets continue to inundate the market. The full-face, moto-cross, modular or the convertible and open-faced or the 'three-quarters', are some of the most popular head gears worn by motorcyclists around the world.
It's an undisputed fact that helmets greatly reduce injuries and fatalities in case of motorcycle accidents. Unfortunately in countries like USA and India, helmet legislations and by-laws have been met with stiff opposition from certain religious and cultural hege-monies on rather whimsical and obscure grounds.
In its first ever global status report on road safety, the World Health Organisation revealed in a report (2008) that India led the traffic death toll with 1,05,000 victims followed by China with 96,000 road deaths. Around 37% of India's road deaths were related to motorcycle accidents. The report also said that 89% of bike deaths happened because motor-cyclists were found riding without helmets and if they wore them, the chin-straps were not affixed. (Wea-ring a helmet without the chin-straps in place is akin to facing a Yorker from some towering West-Indian bowler without your groin pads on!)
Independent studies conducted by leading Indian neurosurgeons indicate that nearly 50% of the injured motorcyclists and 1/3rd of those killed in bike accidents invariably suffered from severe brain injuries ranging from concussions, contusions, hemorrhage to fractured skulls.
As far as our city is concerned (and it's the same with other cities too), bikes and bikers are increasing day by day. With two-wheelers being made available at down-to-earth prices, nothing seems to be beyond the reach of the common man today.
Naturally with more number of bikes on roads, accidents are bound to incr-ease. Sadly, the Karnataka Hel-met Legislation of 1993 has had very little teeth to counter this problem. Fur-ther, Section 129 (chapter 7) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and the Central Motor Vehicle Rules 1989 enu-merates on the mandatory usage of helmets for two-wheelers and pillion riders.
However, due credit should be given to the State and our city traffic authorities in bringing to book erring motor-cyclists for not complying with the helmet rules.
'So far so good' as one would say, but with the invasion of the mini-helmets, all rider safety measures seem to have gone for a sure sixer!
In what could be arguably called a pyrrhic victory for the erratic public, our city folks have managed to hoodwink the authorities at a cost. As one officer from the Kalyangiri RTO points out, “Our traffic wardens have a tough time enforcing the helmet rule on roads. Now it's become even tougher distinguishing which helmets can be worn on roads and which deserves to be banned. Thanks to the mini-helmet craze, every-one wants to flaunt one on their heads unmindful of the risks involved”.
Procured all the way from Delhi (which also doubles up as the capital of the helmet industry) these brain buckets are made up of inferior plastic foam that can split up into numerous pieces even at a collision occurring at (this is no joke) 10kms/hr !
What is even more annoying is the fact that these helmets are basically illegal and fail to qualify under the minimum helmet safety standard test. Yet our traffic cops seem to be deferent towards this as they are yet to get any sort of authorisation from their higher-ups to enforce the rule strictly.
Worse, demand for these brain buckets often exceeds the ratio of supply, as a candid Ram Avatar tells us. Native to Delhi, Ram Avatar is one among the many roadside helmet vendors plying their trade in our city. He enlightens us that the clients themselves demand mini-helmets even when he tries to sell an 'ISI' branded head gear. “In my home State, these helmets are illegal. Why, they aren't even considered to be helmets in the true sense! Hence manufactures push their merchandise further south and they earn handsome profits.”
When asked why these helmets are so popular, Ram Avatar shrugs his shoulders and says, “Maybe because of its better visibility, light structure and weight”. Moreover, it's the price of these helmets that have paved a way for its undiminished popularity.
Purchasable at a down-to-earth rate of Rs.60 to Rs.90, they are easy on the wallet, light on the head and fits perfectly into any glove box!
“But why taunt fate?” asks Ramesh Babu, proprietor of Mysore's oldest hel-met showroom (Variety-Ashoka road). Into the helmet business for the past 40 years, Ramesh harks on the purpose of wearing helmets that are safe, time-tested and durable.
What motivated him to start a helmet enterprise? The memory of friends lost in bike accidents during his salad days.
“It is the foolishness of the people that they complain about hair loss, sweaty foreheads, hearing loss and low visibility during riding if they wear helmet; whereas if they don’t wear helmets, they will not have a head to worry about”, rues Ramesh Babu ironically. “People are more concerned with their looks and don't give a peanut about their precious lives” he sums up.
Well, today you can find many college goers and old men wearing full-face designer helmets and graphic endorsed convertibles (flip-ups or modular helmets) minus the chin-straps. People need to know that wearing a helmet without the chin straps affixed together offer no protection whatsoever.
Maybe it's high time our State government did their homework in bringing an end to the mini-helmet craze.
After all, it's worth reminding oneself of the old time-honored phrase, “Safety first, convenience later!”

Does Multitasking Lead To A More Productive Brain?

Multitasking is a trademark of modern office work, but is it really more productive? Research suggests the brain is actually more efficient when focusing on one task at a time. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the benefits and drawbacks of multitasking, and ways to limit distractions.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. I'm Ira Flatow.
Has your life become loaded or overloaded with information? I mean, if you're anything like me, you've got tweets popping up, Skype chats going on, emails pinging. All the while, you're trying to get some work done and follow Steve's iPhone presentation, and of course, then your phone rings.
We are living in the age of multitasking, but is our brain actually capable of taking it all in without losing something in the process? And are you as good at juggling all these streams of information as you think you are?
The promise of the paperless office produced more paper than ever before. Are we seeing another sea change? The online world, which promised to make us more productive, is it actually distracting us too much?
Kids today have grown up texting from the dinner table. Is multitasking hurting their ability to focus not just on their homework but on people, as well? You know, it used to be rude if someone text from the dinner table, but it seems like, well, that's becoming commonplace.
Do we even expect people to look at us, not their cell phones, when they're talking on their phones or when they're talking to us, or is that basic concept of paying attention to people, just paying attention to them as you know, instead of just texting while you're talking, has that changed, too? Should we not expect that anymore?
And you parents, aren't you just as hooked to your Blackberrys and iPads as your kids?
So what if you'd like to get off that train? Is there any way to slow down that information, to free yourself from all the distractions, to turn the clock back to those old, boring, 20th-century values?
Thats what we're going to be talking about today. Remember that old commercial line: this is your brain on drugs. Well fast-forward: this is your brain online.
Give us a call, our number 1-800-989-8255, 1-800-989-TALK. And if you're on Twitter, you can tweet us. Use your by hitting that @ sign followed by scifri, and also you can go to our website at and join the conversation that's going on there now.
Clifford Nass is the author of the forthcoming book "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop." Yeah, that's out later this year. He's also professor of communication at Stanford University, and he joins us from the campus there. Welcome back to SCIENCE FRIDAY.
Professor CLIFFORD NASS (Author, "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop"; Professor of Communication, Stanford University): Delighted to be back, thank you, Ira.
FLATOW: You're welcome. Adam Gazzaley is an associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. He's also director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center there. Dr. Gazzaley joins us from Barcelona. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Gazzaley.
Dr. ADAM GAZZALEY (Director, Neuroscience Imaging Center, University of California, San Francisco): Great to be here.
FLATOW: Adam, do we have any idea what's going on in our brain when we multitask? I mean, is our brain made to multitask?
Dr. GAZZALEY: Well, we're learning a lot more. I think the advance of brain imaging and what we call functional brain imaging, seeing what your brain is doing while we challenge it, has really clarified a lot of what's happening.
A lot of this has been suspect for a long time, but we're learning a lot more of the details, and it certainly seems that are brains are not you know, it's becoming increasingly viewed that our brains are not highly adapted for multiple streams of information at the same time but rather focusing at a particular direction.
And we see that usually what happens when you demand great degrees of quality or of care, as opposed to something that's automatic like chewing gum and walking, when you demand this, what happens is opposed to actually doing two things at the same time, it seems that you switch between these things. And with each switch, there's a cost, a cost in performance that occurs.
FLATOW: So Dr. Gazzaley, there is some negative. There is a negative impact on our brain this way?
Dr. GAZZALEY: Well, it does seem that there's a negative impact on performance. We're now learning what are the neural mechanisms by which you try to multitask and maybe if those can be improved. But it does seem that if you look at the quality that you achieve doing one thing at a time as opposed to switching rapidly between them as you attempt to multitask that there is some cost over there.
FLATOW: Can you actually see this in the brain as it works? Is it possible?
Dr. GAZZALEY: Well, yeah, we can see what's going on as you engage in something that you might be doing, and we do this in experiments in our lab. We set up our participants. They're inside the scanner. They're viewing something. Maybe they're trying to remember something, and then they're challenged with something else.
And we can see that as opposed to if they were doing one thing continuously, their brain sort of switches gears to the new task and then requires that they reactivate the original thing that they were doing.
Now, this is a very simplified experiment so we could see what's occurring in the brain, but you can imagine in real life and sort of your description at the beginning, when you have emails coming in, and the music's playing with your MP3s, and you're checking your email, and you're working on your Word document at the same time, how that impairs performance.
FLATOW: Now Clifford Nass, you've done some studies that actually look at how well people are able to multitask. Do people think they're better at it than they really are?
Prof. NASS: Well, people the people who multitask most frequently think they're actually the best at it, and in fact, they're the worst at it. In fact, all the evidence we have suggests that the people who multitask the most actually are the least capable of any important aspect of multitasking.
FLATOW: Really?
Prof. NASS: Yeah, this absolutely shocked us. We embarked on our research assuming there must be some secret talent that I wish I and my other colleagues who aren't multi-taskers had, and we resulted in finding out they're pretty bad at everything.
(Soundbite of laughter)
FLATOW: How do you know if you're a good multi-tasker or not?
Prof. NASS: Well, it's hard for people to know. I mean, we actually have studies that look at the most fundamental things one needs to be able to do to multitask: filter out irrelevancy, manage your short-term memory well and actually how rapidly, as Adam mentions, you switch tasks. And in all of these cases, even when they're not multitasking, multi-taskers are just much worse at it.
FLATOW: If they're not good at multitasking, are they better at something else?
Prof. NASS: So far, the only thing we have suggestive evidence for, although it's for a tragic reason, is they seem to be better talking on the cell phone while driving. They're still very bad at it and shouldn't do it, but it turns out that when you when anyone talks on the cell phone, that becomes their primary focus, and they're really trying to filter out the road, this thing that's distracting them from the conversation.
And ironically, because high multi-taskers are bad at filtering out the road, they actually see the road more and drive a little better.
FLATOW: But of course, you're saying that you're not advising multi-taskers to do that.
Prof. NASS: Oh no, everyone is much, much worse, it's just low multi-taskers are worse still. Plus, the idea that when you're driving, the road is sort of an annoying distraction probably is not a prescription for good driving.
(Soundbite of laughter)
FLATOW: No. Adam, is technology evolving faster than our brains can adapt?
Dr. GAZZALEY: Well, you know, I think that that is that's the sort of provocative question here that certainly Clifford's study has really highlighted. It seems that the increase in the number of information streams that we attempt to engage in is really exceeding our resources and there seems to be a tremendous attraction to do it, despite the fact that many of us are aware, even while we're doing it, to some degree that maybe that document that you're working on just is not as good as if you didn't check your texts during it.
So, you know, I think it's an interesting question to think about, how we interact with our environment, how this is influenced by technology and how we respond to it, how our brains can deal with it.
FLATOW: But kids now are growing up with multitasking. I mean, kids, you know, they just sit there - and I say kids, I mean people in their 20s and 30s, too. They think it's nothing to sit there and have a conversation with you without you really being there. They're twittering and doing all kinds of stuff.
Dr. GAZZALEY: Yeah, I mean, I think that this is a really scary and important thing to consider: What are the implications of this? We don't really have long-term data on what it means to engage in such continuous multitasking from a young age.
You know, I think there's a question of whether or not you develop - and Clifford's study suggests this - you know, potentially that you develop a different cognitive style, one that does not permit you to really engage in one sustained activity at a high quality, maybe the type of activity that you need to do to read a book, where you actually turn from page to page to page to page without interruption to actually take in that information.
And, you know, I think a question that we don't know the answer to for sure is: What are the developmental implications of growing up in such a different environment than a lot of us did?
FLATOW: Cliff, can you add any to that?
Prof. NASS: Yeah, there so far, it seems that the developmental implications are very worrisome. As I said, the children, we look at college students primarily, although we're expanding to many other populations, students who have had a great deal of multitasking in their younger lives, and what we're seeing is, again, the ones who do it more lost some fundamental abilities.
Now, the other part of this you've alluded to is when I actually tried to, with a couple of colleagues, get a group of students to stop multitasking for a week just so we could see if it would have any effect, despite the fact we offered money and all sorts of things, everyone said no, it would destroy my social life. I really can't live in a world in which I can't constantly communicate with a whole bunch of other people via whole other number of media while I'm consuming content about yet other people.
And so essentially what we've done is even if we knew that multitasking was affecting our brains in a negative way, there is so much social pressure not just for the young, but in the workplace, more and more companies are demanding that you answer every email within 15 minutes, keep multiple chat windows open, you should be accessible by phone and not, you know, let things go to voicemail. So the social pressure to continue multitasking is absolutely enormous, despite the probable cognitive end, perhaps even more importantly, social harms.
FLATOW: But do we know in a work environment that this makes you any more productive or less productive?
Prof. NASS: Well, we know it makes you less productive in two senses: one in the sense that Adam referred to earlier, which was every time you switch from one task to another, you pay a price.
A second way is that we've sort of deduced or decided that deep, hard thinking, the type of stuff you do, like, when you're writing something, writing a paper or something, that you really have to think hard, or you're reading some complex news story, I think there's been a devaluation of really hard thinking, which is exactly what multitasking either prevents from one point of view or wonderfully allows you to avoid.
FLATOW: So then that will be a luxury in the future.
Prof. NASS: Well, except that so much of our science, our cultures, depend on people thinking hard. So if it is a luxury, it means we've got a whole lot of work to do in our educational system, in our knowledge discovery systems that are engineered to figure out how do we design a world in which the lack of deep thinking actually works out well.
FLATOW: Uh oh, I think we're there politically.
(Soundbite of laughter)
FLATOW: We're going to take a break and come back, talk lots more, take your phone calls, 1-800-989-8255. We're talking with Clifford Nass, author of the upcoming book "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop." I guess he did have to in this multitasking world. And Adam Gazzaley is associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry, University of California.
So stay with us. We'll be right back after this short break.
(Soundbite of music)
FLATOW: You're listening to SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking about multitasking this hour with Clifford Nass and Adam Gazzaley. Our number, 1-800-989-8255. Let's go to Howard I'm talking like a multi-tasker in Gallipolis, Ohio. Hi, Howard.
HOWARD (Caller): Yes, good afternoon, Ira. I love your show.
FLATOW: Thank you.
HOWARD: Some people I think enjoy multitasking I'm a dog groomer. I can groom a dog, answer the phone, make an appointment all at the same time without stopping what I'm doing. I think sometimes people just like the pressure.
FLATOW: Yeah, Adam, what is this about all this information that we love it so much? Are we wired to love this sort of stuff?
Dr. GAZZALEY: Well, it's clear that there needs to be a lot more work on understanding exactly why we enjoy this so much. Some it makes sense from understanding our desire and response to be engaged by novelty.
So, you know, it's well-known that novel stimuli and environment arouse the reward system, and this is part of what allowed us to evolve to be sort of engaged by novelty. And multitasking probably has a higher novelty load in general as you continuously switch to new things that feel exciting.
So, you know, perhaps that's part of it, but it certainly does seem that some of the interaction that people have with it may be, you know, almost reaches sort of what can be thought of as a level of addiction, where this crave this type of stimulation.
FLATOW: Do you agree, Clifford?
Mr. NASS: Yeah, we actually do have some evidence, we are tracking down more of it, that most high multi-taskers, people who chronically multitask, believe that new information is better than old information, whereas low multi-taskers believe that the information they're working with is more valuable.
I mean, Barbara Freed at Stanford makes the point that for the younger people, looking at other streams of information, it's because they think something thrilling is happening. For older people who, you know, check their emails frantically, it's not because we think there's something great there just lurking for us, it's that we just don't really want to think that hard or for that long or just want to get away.
FLATOW: It doesn't look like we're going to be turning the clock back on multitasking anytime soon. So, is there a way to practice it to get better at it?
Dr. GAZZALEY: There is some data, now, that multitasking, or at least dealing with interruptions and dealing with distractions, which I sort of put in a different category, things that we're trying to actively keep out of streams, and that, you know, also seems to have a great impact on performance, that these skills might be trainable.
We actually have some experiments in our lab now, trying to see if individuals - especially older individuals who show a susceptibility to both multitasking and distraction, impact on memory even greater than young adults - if they, by practicing this, can develop these skills and potentially improve memory abilities.
So there's already data out there that suggests that these skills, like most skills, are trainable to some degree, and, you know, how far we can go with that is still an open question.
Mr. NASS: And I think learning or reminding oneself that there is a joy to just focusing, that there is something delightful about it, especially in the social realm, where actually we think we're seeing the most scary, negative effects. But there's something lovely about thinking hard.
FLATOW: Well, how is it an addiction? Is it a habit? How do you break yourself? Give us a tip or two how to get back to those good old days five years ago.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. NASS: Well, what I do is, as I was writing my book - as all authors will tell you, there's many times the last thing you want to do is write. So I would say okay, if you're not going to write the book, you don't get to, you know, read a magazine or whatever. You have to clean the toilets.
And boy, my writing really got down pretty fast, and I got the book out on time. So I think putting oneself where the alternative is not just a playful information task, but instead is, you know, hard, physical labor, will really encourage mental work.
Dr. GAZZALEY: In my case, I find that sometimes I seek out multitasking. I'm doing activities that are fairly boring. They don't demand a very high quality of performance. And so I tag them together, I switch back and forth, and it makes it more pleasurable to go through.
However, I think that this new awareness, since I've been researching this more recently, you know, the awareness of the impact that it has has led me to change my style and sort of just require some discipline and say okay, I am now working on something that has a deadline, it has to be very high quality. I have two hours. I'm quitting my email. I will survive without checking my email for two hours, put my phone on airplane mode, close my door and really just try to do one thing at a time.
And I've been doing that more frequently, recently, and I find that I get a lot more done, and I think the quality is higher. So some of it I think comes down to discipline and sort of retraining yourself, recognizing the impact that this has on your performance and then just behaving differently.
FLATOW: Maybe asking for help from people, like here, take my cell phone and my iPad or whatever. Don't let me have this for the next hour.
Dr. GAZZALEY: It might help.
FLATOW: You know, or go outside at night, and, you know, instead of sitting there doing Facebook or something, go look at the stars and go outside away from all that stuff and get a different kind of input that's pleasurable.
Dr. GAZZALEY: Yeah, and just practice. I mean, try sitting through a dinner conversation, realizing that you're, in your pocket, your phone has just notified that a text has arrived and actually try to not check it and see, you know, see how that feels and see how you can work through that and realize that you can survive without this constant need for updating all your information streams.
FLATOW: Go ahead.
Mr. NASS: I'm sorry. And in the social world, there really is a great joy, I think one that perhaps younger people have lost, in really attending to someone else, really listening hard to what they're saying and really saying I'm just going to totally think hard here. It makes the other person feel fabulous, and it's quite rewarding.
FLATOW: Well, but, you know, you say some people have lost it. Some people have never been told about it. They're young enough that this is what they grew up with as being acceptable behavior.
Dr. GAZZALEY: I think that education in this realm is important. You know, and that's why I think it's critical, as more of these studies come out, that the information just passed along so we could make better-informed decisions, especially in children growing up, where they might not, you know, be aware both of the social implications, as well as safety implications and cognitive implications of this type of behavior.
FLATOW: Fran(ph) in Laurel, Maryland, hi.
FRAN (Caller): Hi, how are you doing?
FLATOW: Hi there.
FRAN: I think everybody is pretty much on point here. I'm 50 years old in this world, and I've seen this stuff evolve up to this technological point. And I agree with everything that you're saying.
These things are very dehumanizing, and they're controlling our time and our lives, and, you know, I go into restaurants, and I see the parents allow their kids to do their computers, you know, while you're eating. That is so wrong.
You know, you're supposed to be with your family, discussing the day and discussing the issues, and enjoying what the meal is meant to be, and that is enjoyed for the nutritional value of it.
And when we had let the kids, you know, take the iPods and do all that, it takes away from that time that you have with one another. You know, we're only here a short time, and you need to, you know, get to know one another, and what you were saying was correct. It takes away from our being able to have relationships with one another.
FLATOW: All right, Fran, thanks for dropping in on us, today, and have a good weekend.
FRAN: You, too.
FLATOW: Bye-bye. 1-800-989-8255. Let me see if I can get one more call in here from Mansur(ph) in Ann Arbor.
MANSUR (Caller): Yes, hi, how are you?
FLATOW: Hi there.
MANSUR: Just a quick question. My daughter, who is a high schooler, and we have been arguing back and forth for a while. She does her homework with music in her ears, nonstop, and I say, well, you can't concentrate on the homework. And she says she can do it better with music. So, who amongst us is right?
FLATOW: Well, Adam, what do you think? You know, this is almost like ancient history now. I remember when my kids did homework, oh, it's just music that they're doing. It's only one thing, right?
(Soundbite of laughter)
FLATOW: That's, like, years ago, maybe two years ago. I used to say the same thing and say how do you do your homework with the music on? Now, how do you do the homework with the tweeting and the music and the phone and everything else?
Dr. GAZZALEY: Yeah, the music question is a challenging one. I don't know if Clifford agrees with this, but, you know, if you look at the data, there's definitely some mixed data in the world, in the literature of looking at the impact of background music.
So there is some evidence that possibly having distracting information around you that you're forced to push out might help you focus more. There's been some studies in the workplace with different actually not necessarily music but at least white noise showing some benefit, as opposed to a total silence or listening to the chatter of each other working.
So I think that that one still needs a bit of investigation, and just to clarify, you know, this multitasking, what we're talking about, when you choose to engage in a secondary task while you're already doing something; and then there's this entirely other world that's very complex of distraction, the type of information that you're trying to block out or maybe exposing yourself to to block out, that is also interfering with our goals.
And we have a lot of evidence that this really decreases this ability to block out these distractions, as you get older, and it affects your memory.
So I think that we still want to figure out a lot more about what type of distractions might be helpful and allow you to focus, and what really harm you.
FLATOW: Clifford, any final notes here?
Prof. NASS: Yeah. We're actually - Adam's right. Music is very complicated. The things we do know are - if you're listening to vocal music, a music with voices, while you're reading, that is definitely a distraction. Instrumental music is the one where, really, the jury is out. We're starting a major study exactly on that. So if you want to compromise with your kids, it's - if there's no voices, that's okay.
The reason is that voices engage the exact same part of your brain that listens to - that processes words, whereas instrumental music is processed on the other side of your brain. So there's likely to be less interference. But again, the jury is out, and it's an area we really are diving into because it is so important.
FLATOW: Well, this has been quite interesting. I want to thank both of you for taking time to be with us today.
Clifford Nass is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop." We'll have you back when the book is out, Cliff, okay?
Prof. NASS: Please do.
FLATOW: Okay. He's also professor of communication at Stanford University. Adam Gazzaley is associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. He's also a director of the neuroscience imaging center there. Thanks again for taking time to be with us today.
Dr. GAZZALEY: My pleasure.
FLATOW: You're welcome.
Prof. NASS: My pleasure. Thank you.

Good News! Your Brain Is Getting Smarter

picEntering middle age is not all bad. In fact, it's all good. Research shows the human brain may actually get smarter with time.

Forgetfulness, distractedness, muddled thoughts--all classic signs of middle age. You might think that everyone on the other side of 40 needs their head examined.
Fortunately, Barbara Strauch has done just that. In her new book, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain, Strauch, 58, a New York Times health and medical science editor, parses scientific research, brain scans and life span studies to arrive at a revolutionary--and eminently reassuring--conclusion: Middle-aged brains are smarter. Better yet, middle-aged people, roughly those between 40 and 68, are happier. Despite the hype about losing millions of brain cells as we age (not true, says Strauch) and the all-too-real senior moments, middle-aged minds are better able "to make accurate judgments about people, about jobs, and about finances--about the world around us. Our brains build up patterns of connections, interwoven layers of knowledge that allow us to recognize similarities of situations and see solutions." In other words, unlike our rash younger brains, our cool-headed middle-aged brains can see the forest for the trees.

Excerpt: The Best Brains Of Our Lives
This is due, in part, to myelin (the fatty white coating on brain neurons), which continues to grow until late middle age. As myelin increases, it builds connections that make sense of our surroundings. This white matter may be "middle aged wisdom" itself, in the words of one Harvard University scientist.

Strauch talked to ForbesWoman about why she has "a zippity-do-da sense of well being in middle age," why we should all eat more blueberries and fish oil and the reason teenagers are good for us.

CXCR4 may help brain fix damages from multiple sclerosis and other disorders

Robyn KleinThe researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that a protein which helps build the brain in infants and children may aid efforts to restore damage from multiple sclerosis and other neuro – degenerative diseases. In a mouse model of MS researchers identified that the protein CXCR4 repairs myelin which is a protective cover that encloses the nerve cell branches.
Mouse models imitate MS symptoms by bringing about chronic immune cell infiltration in the brain. According to Klein cells that cause a continuous immune damage makes it difficult for researchers to highlight actions undertaken by the brain to repair myelin. Myelin is damaged by MS and other disorders and this damage is linked to loss of the loss of branches within the myelin.
“In MS patients, myelin repair occurs inconsistently for reasons that aren’t clear. Understanding the nature of that problem is a priority because when myelin isn’t repaired, the chances that an MS flare-up will inflict lasting harm seem to increase,” says senior author Robyn Klein, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of neurobiology.
Researchers used a non-inflammatory model which involves giving mice food containing cuprizone which is a compound that causes death of cells which form myelin in the central nervous system. After 6 weeks researchers observed that these cells, known as oligodendrocytes, were dead and that corpus callosum, a structure that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, had lost its myelin. If cuprizone is removed form the mouse diet, new cells drift to the area which reinforces myelin by becoming mature oligodendrocytes.
Klein’s analyses began with the method stimulated by dying oligodendrocytes. During this the mice were still on the cuprizone diet and the dying cells reviewed other support cells in the brain. This caused them to express inflammatory factors. Klein revealed that levels of a receptor for inflammatory factors, CXCR4 was at its highest at the sixth week. Researchers continued feeding the mice cuprizone for 12 weeks due to which levels of inflammatory factor and its receptor would drop drastically. At 12 weeks the mice were unable to restore myelin and this revealed a potential connection between myelin repair and CXCR4.
“This was a surprise, because the main thing CXCR4 has been known for is its role in forming the brain, not healing the brain,” Klein says. “But we did know that injury increases the number of brain cells that make CXCR4, so it wasn’t an unreasonable place to look.”
Klein suggests that neural precursor cells destined to become oligodendrocytes also repaired myelin damage. These cells have high levels of the CXCR4 and they come up to the corpus callosum from an area below the ventricles. This non cellular area is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
“Apparently the neural precursor cells have to stop proliferating before they can migrate, and CXCR4 plays a role in this change,” Klein says. “CXCR4 also seems to be essential to the cells’ ability to develop into mature oligodendrocytes and form myelin.”
The mice were unable to update myelin and it was because the researchers blocked CXCR4 from becoming propelled. The cells ability to make CXCR4 was lowered and neural precursor cells remained in the ventricle and grew in number. It was observed that they did not move to the corpus callosum in order to begin repairs.
“We do not yet know if this myelin repair pathway is somehow damaged or impaired in MS patients,” Klein says. “But I like the idea of turning on something that the brain already knows how to make by itself, allowing it to heal itself with its own molecules.”
Klein plans to see if she may restore myelin repair particularly in genetically engineered mouse models of MS it was observed that it should have genetically altered lent virus which extends levels of an inflammatory factor. This factor activates CXCR4 and she further says that she will work with Washington University colleagues to evaluate the new model. This would be done with advanced imaging techniques and is an attempt to further clarify the relationship between loss of nerve cell branches and myelin damage in MS.
These findings appear online in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

'Doctor, I can feel his brain on my hand...'

DR ARIEF RACHMAN was one of the humanitarian workers onboard the aid ship Mavi Marmara that was raided and attacked by the Israeli commandos on May 31. He had just finished the Fajr prayer on the back of deck 4 when he first heard repeated shoutings, "Allahu Akbar!"; he ran downstairs to his cabin, grabbed his life jacket and ran back again to the right side of the deck.

The following was his story:
As soon as I opened the door to the deck, a strong gush of wind hit me and I realised that the Israeli helicopter was above us. Then I heard the explosions, "Dum! Dum! Dum!" from noise grenades, and realised how critical the situation had become. So I ran upstairs to deck 5 where Indonesian volunteer Nurfitri Moeslim Taher approached me and said, "I'm staying with you."

We were behind the captain's deck, and we saw the flurry of activists running in our direction - only seconds before the Israeli soldiers rappeled onto the ship. Around two minutes afterward, the first victim was brought to me, a long-haired, bulky man in a black t-shirt who was hyperventilating. We cut off his life jacket and checked for injuries; there was none. I told him to breath properly, and he soon recovered. He gestured towards his ears and I understood that he had probably stood too close to the explosions.

The man stood up and ran outside again, yelling, "Don't let them in to the captain's deck!"

The second victim was brought in, also in shock but with drops of blood on his sleeves. After checking him and finding no wounds, I shouted for several men to bring him to the passenger cabin. It was then that I heard noises, "Pull him here! Pull him here!"

I turned and saw a man squatting whilst holding the head of the third victim - lying inert in the corridor near the cafe on the deck. I shouted to the man who was squatting, who in fact was my first patient, to pull the victim towards me because they were exposed and I would be exposed too if I went to them. I did not want to take any risks - a useless doctor is a dead doctor. If I were to die there, I would be of no use to others.

The squatting man apparently did not hear me, he did not move. So I grabbed several men to come with me and ran towards them, and pulled the victim to a more sheltered spot. Under the dim glow of the lamp, I saw my third patient, a bearded man, his face expressionless.

I touched his neck and found no pulse. A little snoring-like sound came from him. I then detected a small wound, not much bigger than a pencil tip, between his two eyes.

Someone shouted and asked me to do a CPR on him, but I said that the victim had been shot on the head and probably brain-injured. A CPR would do no good.

Suddenly, the man who was still squatting and holding the victim's head began to wail like a wild animal. Again. And again. And then he whispered hoarsely to me, "Doctor, I can feel his brain on my hand..."

The bullet that had entered between the victim's eyes, I suspected, had gone right through his head, destroyed his brain and left a big gaping hole on the back of his head.

The man had been shot at close range.

I asked several volunteers to get a stretcher, and it was then that I spotted Fahmi Bulent Yildirim, the president of the Turkish humanitarian organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) who organised the Freedom Flotilla, standing behind me. His face was stony, and he tried to go towards the captain's deck but he was prevented from doing so by many people around him.

Bulent took off his white shirt. Someone tied it to a wooden stick and began to wave it...

All of the sudden, I felt silence around me. I felt empty. I felt defeated. A victim was dead and lost to me.

I had always thought that we would win. I had thought that no matter what, the Mavi Marmara would reach Gaza. I moved to the lower deck and saw the lobby outside of the information booth there had turned into an ER. I saw at least six victims being administered to. I saw blood everywhere.

I saw a woman sitting close to the head of one dead body, in tears and in prayers. Later I learned that they were a Turkish couple - the husband was shot before the wife's eyes.

I and other men prayed that Allah accept those who died as Syuhada. I then got up again and walked towards the sick bay to tend to even more wounded people...

75 Miles

The following is the story of Nurfitri Moeslim Taher, an Indonesian school teacher:

It was almost midnight when Fahmi Bulent Yildirim told everybody onboard the Mavi Marmara that there had been communication with the Israeli side, and that our ship was then 75 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza, but that we were moving away anyway.

I stood outside and counted at least 19 ships and boats around the Mavi Marmara including two warships.

I helped a fellow passenger put on her life jacket shortly before I heard shots. I was then already with Dr Arief Rachman, helping the first victim, a man by the name of Osama Qashoo. It was Osama who later returned to us with our third patient, that Arief and I pulled into safety.

Osama held the man's head as we were pulling, and I could see blood trailing behind us. We had been trying to check the back of the victim's body, when Osama pulled out his hands from behind the head and showed us the blood and what could have only been the splatter of brain tissues.

Dr Arief yelled for a piece of cloth. There was none nearby, I had no choice, so I took off my headscarf and gave it to him so he could wrap the man's head. Osama began to wail. And wailed. And wailed.

With his bloodied hand, he caressed the man's head over and over, smearing even more blood to the hair and face, and continued to wail. Until Bulent came and sharply told Osama, "That's enough."

I stood up and wrested the scarf around Bulent's neck and used it to cover my hair again.

For days afterward I could not stop seeing in my mind, the blood and the brain tissue. I do not know which had been more traumatic, the sight, or Osama's wailing.

I saw Bulent take off his white shirt and had somebody wave this white flag of ours outside. The shootings did not abate.

Dr Arief and I ran downstairs and I saw a man with a gaping wound in his abdomen. I tried to do as much as I could before the Israelis took over the ship and we were all herded into the halls of the passengers.

I could still see the laser pointers of the Israeli snipers; when one friend tried to get up from his seat and walked toward me, I snapped at him. "Sit down. You have the laser light between your eyes!"

Then we were all herded out the halls, searched, and handcuffed. Together with hundreds of the activists, I was made to sit under the sun for hours on the fourth deck.

I dozed off, jerked back into wakefulness, and dozed off again. After the attack, to me there was no longer anything more heart-gripping.

After yet another spell of sleepiness, I felt I had to go to the bathroom really badly, so I got up from my chair and was immediately greeted with a shout from one of the black-fatigued, masked soldiers: "Sit down!"

I sat down, and stood up again and tried to plead. Until finally somebody relented and let me go - to the men's bathroom. I didn't know why. I met Al-Jazeera journalist Jamal Elshayyal who told me to go to the shower cubicle, and said he would stand guard outside.

Only later did I know the reason why I was prevented from going to the women's toilet: there were two dead bodies there.

Dzikrullah W Pramudya and Santi Soekanto are contributing editors of The Brunei Times who were onboard the aid ship "Mavi Marmara".