Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top 10 exercises to boost your brain power

You keep your body active by doing regular workouts. Similarly, your mind also requires certain brain fitness workouts that can help your mind process information more quickly. This increases your ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time.

To help you achieve this, you will find simple but effective brain training games and exercises such as solving math problems to achieve greater mind fitness. Include this brain stretching exercise in your daily routine to get boost your brain power. Here are the top 10 daily brain exercises that can help you stay mentally sharp at any age.

Art projects:

Art is a great source of exercise for your brain, as it helps to boost that part of the brain that works without words and can only express itself non-verbally. Art requires you to be creative, use fine motor skills, and think analytically.

Hence, art encourages the brain to think out of the box, and trains your brain to think on different planes. All this while being fun as well.

Expand your vocabulary

Learn new words, sign up for newsletters, read articles closely, and list out words that you are not familiar with.

This technique will help you outsmart the conversation with your boss, as well as sharpen your memory, by increasing your vocabulary.

Use your non-dominant hand

While doing basic tasks which require no concentration, try using the non-dominant hand; say if you are right-handed, try using your left hand to eat, brush etc.

This activity will require extreme attention, and you will find yourself focusing on completing these simple tasks.

Do your own math

For your daily calculation, do not use calculators. Instead, opt for the old fashioned mental math. As we grow older, it gets difficult to do even the normal math in our heads and we opt for calculators.

It's better not to take the help of the calculator, and do math in your head. This is a very common way to keep your brain active. If you are not good at calculations, then put in som practice.

Listen to your favourite song again and again

If you like a specific song, keep listening to it over and over again as this will help your brain memorize the lyrics and after some time you will know the lyrics of the entire song.

This activity will help your brain boost its memorizing power.

Multi tasking is good for you

Performing activities like working at the computer, putting your little sister to sleep, listening to music, solving math etc - all at the same time, requires a lot of attention.

All these are simple basic activities, which can be done together; but, distractions can cause confusion. Practise multi tasking simple tasks so that it increases your concentration levels.

Study a foreign language

The advantage of learning a new language is that it is a great source of exercise for the mind and it's a great way to boost your professional career as well.

Further, people who have knowledge of foreign languages are always in great professional demand. Besides, studying something new always keeps your brain busy.

Skip GPS - Opt for maps

Thanks to new technology, reaching an unknown destination has become very easy. However, we are becoming too dependent on these technologies as we are losing our mind's power of analysis.

We need to stop letting these gadgets do all our tasks for us, and use maps instead. This utilizes your imagination and analytical skills.

Use a brain training video game

When you are free or when you have nothing to do, engage in playing video games. Not all video games are brainless. Some video games like Halo, would require lots of reasoning and thinking.

Engaging in playing games like this or even solving Sudoku puzzles will help your brain power develop.

Avoid using a shopping list

Always shopping with a list in hand is a simple job. The real task begins when you memorize all the things in your head and then do the shopping.

Initially it will be a little tedious, you will forget some things. But as time passes by, and as your mind becomes more active, you will get all the items without the help of a shopping list. />1

How Making Brain Tumors Glow Saves Lives

Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center(NEW YORK) --

It all started with a headache.

Back in 2010, Kelsey Stewart thought the new head pain he had been feeling was a sinus infection. He saw a doctor, who prescribed him some anti-inflammatory medication that he hoped would take care of the problem.

But once he started vomiting uncontrollably -- one day, he recalls, he vomited 21 times -- he went to the hospital for further evaluation.

There, a CT scan of his head and further testing revealed the bleak truth: Stewart had brain cancer. And it was not just any kind, but a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). GBM is a very aggressive kind of cancer known for its grim prognosis.

"We were terrified," Stewart says. "Everything you read about GBMs is just death everywhere, death, death, death. My neuro-oncologist said she's never seen anyone survive this."

Doctors told him that, without surgery, he was not expected to live more than a year. But even with surgery, risks were high. Operations to remove brain tumors are complicated. They are located in the delicate brain tissues, and a tumor often appears remarkably similar to healthy tissue in the brain. This means that the line between diseased and healthy tissue is almost indistinguishable, leaving surgeons few clues on where to cut.

Fortunately, his brain surgeon had been working on an innovative solution to address this challenge.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Cohen-Gadol at Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center had developed a method to make cancerous tumors glow, using a special new microscope filter and small amounts of a glowing compound called fluorescein.

"We wanted to find a way using this new technology to increase the safety for the patient and at the same time maximizing tumor resection," he explains.

In the operating room, Cohen-Gadol infused a small amount of a fluorescein into Kelsey's bloodstream. Within the baseball-sized brain tumor, microscopic breaks in the blood vessels allowed tiny amounts of fluorescein to leak out into the cancerous tissues to light up under the microscope. Through the filter of his microscope, the tumor glowed fluorescent yellow – almost like white clothing appears under a black light.

Cohen-Gadol says that the glowing tumor was "like a roadmap," helping him identify tumor more easily and facilitating a more thorough removal.

Currently, many neurosurgeons are seeking similar ways to remove brain cancers more easily and thoroughly. One emerging area of research involves an experimental compound that makes brain tumors glow, called 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA). Other surgeons in Japan have tried using fluorescein, but without the newly invented filter that Cohen-Gadol used, they had to use precariously high doses of the glowing compound until they could see an effect.

In the United States, fluorescein is the only drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and available to all hospitals -- not just the few enrolled in the ALA trials. Therefore, this compound can theoretically be used by any neurosurgeon schooled in the techniques of the microscope filter Cohen-Gadol used.

"There is no question that without the dye, it is very challenging to remove these tumors; you have to use imagination and adjunct strategies like mapping the brain." said Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a professor of neurosurgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution who was not involved in Stewart's treatment. "Using these dyes makes it a step easier for the patient to optimize outcomes for the patients.

"If these tumors fluoresce with a small amount of fluorescein, this can be of tremendous benefit for us to be able to remove these tumors from the patient."

In fact, this technology can even be applied in other diseases in the brain. Cohen-Gadol says that fluorescein can also help in identifying brain aneurysms -- a condition in which there is an abnormal, dangerous ballooning of blood vessels. He says that when looking for aneurysms, the healthy vessels glow yellow-green while the aneurysm remains uncolored, which makes for "an amazingly beautiful picture."

Cohen-Gadol says he has used the fluorescein technique in more than 30 brain cancer patients already. In Stewart's case, Cohen-Gadol managed to remove 99 percent of the tumor using the technology. Other doctors tell him it's the cleanest removal they've ever seen. A few months later, he used the technique again to remove two smaller tumors in Stewart's brain.

And after he was given less than a year to live, Stewart is now going on three years of survival. For this, he is extraordinarily grateful.

"Dr. Cohen-Gadol being able to see more tumor and go after it was a big advantage for me," says Stewart. "Whatever new technology is out there to improve the chance of survival, you want to get as much as you can."

Brain Cancer Research in Seattle Leads to New Treatment Options for Patients

Since its opening in 2008, the Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment (the Ivy Center) at Swedish Medical Center's Neuroscience Institute has led the expansion drive of major research projects and expanded treatment options for patients living with brain cancer in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the world.  The Ivy Center was founded in 2008 to create a world-class treatment and research facility focused on delivering excellent patient care and advancing progress toward more effective treatments for brain cancer.
While great strides have been made in the treatment of breast, colon and other common cancers, only three new drugs to treat brain cancer have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the past 35 years, and these drugs prolong the lives of patients by only a few months. Such a center was needed at the time, said Greg Foltz, M.D., a neurosurgeon and director of the Ivy Center, because brain cancer had been for far too long a neglected or "orphan" disease.
In fact, today the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common form of malignant primary brain cancer, is only about 15 months — only slightly better than it was a century ago, Dr. Foltz said. "We felt we needed to focus our efforts on   coming up with better treatment options," said Dr. Foltz. "We felt someone had to champion this cause so we embarked on a mission to get more researchers and physicians focused on this disease. And we did."
Today, the Ivy Center at Swedish has partnered with and led major brain cancer programs with the Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation, Institute for Systems Biology, Allen Institute for Brain Science, University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Accium Biosciences and The Elliott Foundation. This has led to a variety of new brain cancer treatment options and research programs for people living with brain cancer in our region. "Previously, none of this existed," said Dr. Foltz.
Five Years of Progress Made
The goal of the Ivy Center was to create a place where brain tumor patients and their families would have access to the best care and latest clinical research. The Ivy Center has achieved this making it possible for the center's neurosurgeons, oncologists, radiologists and nursing staff to work in close collaboration with the program's team of scientists.  This collaboration allows clinicians and scientists to provide patients with the best of care as well as direct access to promising new therapies and clinical trials.
The Ivy Center's clinical team provides comprehensive, integrated care that includes the latest neurosurgery techniques and technology, including intra-operative MRI-guided navigation, precision Gamma Knife radiosurgery as well as the support of a team of physical and occupational therapists, counselors, and other specialists who provide each patient with comprehensive, personalized care.
"People with brain cancer have needs that transcend the traditional requirements of most patients. Care is not just about an operation, it's not just about a medication," said Dr. Foltz. "Brain cancer is a life-changing event, so it's very important from the first meeting that these patients know that we're there for them, that we care deeply about them and we're going to provide all the resources that are possible to help them fight their disease."
Holly Zimmerman, a Bellevue, Wash. resident who has been battling brain cancer and is leading a team in this year's Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, can speak personally to the importance of the first meeting. "A small seizure led doctors to the discovery of a tumor in my parietal lobe—what immediately followed was brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and a very scary prognosis for me and my family," said Zimmerman. "This disease is unique and it takes an extraordinary team of medical professionals to conquer it. As a one-year survivor of brain cancer, I have great hopes."
New Strategies in the Search for a Brain Cancer Cure
Over the past five years the Ivy Center has established an international reputation for its expertise in the genetic analysis of individual tumors. At the Ivy Center, a genetic profile is created of every patient's tumor with the goal to identify each tumor's individual weaknesses and to develop new, personalized treatment strategies that target these weaknesses.
The Ivy Center's genomic database — now one of the largest brain tumor research projects in the country — was developed in collaboration with the world-renowned Institute for Systems Biology. This collaboration brings together physicians and scientists in the fields of neurosurgery, neuropathology, systems biology, genomics and biostatistical analysis. Together they are determining how networks of genes and proteins interact in brain cancer to discover new targets for diagnostic tests and treatments.
In another partnership, the Ivy Center and the Allen Institute for Brain Science are creating a 3-D map of gene activity within brain tumors.  These maps can then be compared with maps of gene activity in normal brain tissue to identify which genes are malfunctioning in the cancer tissue. Once these genes are identified the goal is to develop diagnostics and treatments that target these malfunctioning genes.
All data from these projects are being made available online to researchers around the world for free.
Clinical Trials for Brain Cancer Patients Brought to the Pacific Northwest
The Ivy Center's expertise in the genetic analysis of brain tumors has led to its participation in a number of groundbreaking clinical trials:
  • Toca 511 Trial: The Ivy Center team is one of only eight sites in the country participating in the Toca trial. In this trial, a genetically engineered virus is used to insert a gene into glioblastoma cells. The gene produces a protein that activates a chemotherapy drug. Because the virus only inserts the gene into cancerous cells, the drug will only harm tumor cells. This approach allows high doses of the lethal drug to accumulate in the tumor cells, while sparing healthy cells nearby.
  • Temozolomide Trial: In this trial the Ivy Center team is leading a trial with the Seattle biotechnology company Accium Biosciences.  In the study, researchers use Accium's 15-ton particle accelerator to analyze tumor tissue to determine precisely just how much of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide reaches its target. This information will help determine which patients are most likely to benefit from the drug and which patients should try a different treatment.  By using this new approach, it is hoped doctors will be able to better optimize brain cancer therapy so that they deliver the right drug to the right patient at the right dose.
  • DCVax Brain Cancer Vaccine Trial: In this groundbreaking study, a cancer vaccine is being used to train patients' immune systems to attack and kill their brain cancer cells. Once trained, it is hoped these immune cells will track down and destroy any brain cancer cells that remain after surgery and to be ready to fight off any new tumor cells should the cancer recur.
Building a Community for Care and a Cure
Finally, since its founding the Ivy Center has made community involvement a high priority. The center's community outreach efforts range from involving as many patients as possible in research to develop new treatments, to building community support for patients and their families to help them cope with the disease, to enlisting the community in fundraising and education efforts.
The Ivy Center was established with a lead gift from Ben & Catherine Ivy, and $11 million in philanthropic funds have been raised in support of the Center thus far. As a nonprofit, the Ivy Center depends heavily on community support to fund new research initiatives and patient participation in clinical trials, which is often not covered by insurance.
"We are never going to find more effective treatments for brain cancer without the help of the community," said Dr. Foltz.
A highlight of these efforts is the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, which has become a popular annual event that now draws thousands of participants and has raised more than $1.8 million for brain cancer research, care and advocacy.
Proceeds from Seattle's Brain Cancer Walk have supported the Pacific Northwest region's most promising brain cancer research projects as well as programs and services that benefit brain cancer patients, including clinical trials, advocacy programs, as well as comprehensive patient care and support services in the Pacific Northwest.
Over the past five years, the Ivy Center's team of health providers and researchers has made real progress in understanding brain cancer and its treatment, said Dr. Foltz. "I am very hopeful that in the near term — we're not talking decades — but in the next three to five years that we will see new therapies that will significantly help these patients," Dr. Foltz said.
About Swedish
Swedish has grown over the last 103 years to become the largest non-profit health provider in the Greater Seattle area with 11,000 employees, more than 2,000 physicians and 1,700 volunteers. It is comprised of five hospital campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard, Edmonds and Issaquah); ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek; and Swedish Medical Group, a network of more than 100 primary-care and specialty clinics located throughout the Greater Puget Sound area. In addition to general medical and surgical care including robotic-assisted surgery, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatric specialties, organ transplantation and clinical research. Swedish is affiliated with Providence Health & Services, which is a Catholic, not-for-profit organization founded by the Sisters of Providence in 1856 with 27 hospitals, 214 physician clinics and almost 53,000 employees across five states. Based in Renton, Wash., Providence Health & Services provides strategic and management services to integrated health-care systems in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon and Washington state.

Debate on brain scans as lie detectors highlighted in Maryland murder trial

Detecting brain functions such as deception with MRI technology.
Brain images courtesy Medforlaw.

Gary Smith says he didn’t kill his roommate. Montgomery County prosecutors say otherwise.
Can brain scans show whether he’s lying?
Smith is about to go on trial in the 2006 shooting death of fellow Army Ranger Michael McQueen. He has long said that McQueen committed suicide, but now he says he has cutting-edge science to back that up.
While technicians watched his brain during an MRI, Smith answered a series of questions, including: “Did you kill Michael McQueen?”
It may sound like science fiction. But some of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, who are using the same technology to study Alzheimer’s disease and memory, say it also can show — at least in the low-stakes environment of a laboratory — when someone is being deceptive.
Many experts doubt whether the technology is ready for the real world, and judges have kept it out of the courtroom.
Over three days, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eric M. Johnson allowed pretrial testimony about what he called the “absolutely fascinating” issues involved, from the minutiae of brain analysis to the nature of truth and lies. But he decided jurors can’t see Smith’s MRI testing.
“There have been some discoveries that deception may be able to be detected,” Johnson said, but he added that there’s no consensus that the results can be trusted. “These are brilliant people, and they don’t agree.”
Still, researchers and legal experts say they can envision a time when such brain scans are used as lie detectors. Standard polygraphs are generally not admitted in trials because some consider them deeply flawed. During his police interrogation, Smith said he would submit himself to a polygraph, but Johnson said such results would not be allowed as evidence.
Smith’s attorney, Andrew V. Jezic, argued in court that the MRI test should be allowed, and neuroscientists sparred over the credibility and usefulness in a jury trial.
Prosecutors hate the idea, saying that replacing living, breathing suspects with a stack of colorful brain images would upend the legal system. “The jury’s the decider of credibility,” said John Maloney, Montgomery deputy state’s attorney, who argued that Smith’s brain scans are worthless.
But Smith, who is facing his second murder trial in the case after an appeals court threw out an earlier conviction, says it’s an important tool to back up his account. “After fighting for everybody else’s freedom . . . to be put in prison for a crime I did not commit was extremely frustrating,” Smith said. “It may not be perfect, but it’s definitely something reliable and should be considered.”
Smith and McQueen, who had served together in Afghanistan and shared a Gaithersburg apartment, hung out the night of Sept. 25, 2006, drinking beer and smoking marijuana, court papers say. They went to a VFW and played pool. Just before 1 a.m., Smith called 911. “Oh my God, help me,” he sobbed, telling the dispatcher that he had found McQueen dead. “I dropped him off at the house, and I came back, and he had a big hole in his head.”
When officers arrived, they found Smith, with blood on his hand, face and clothes, vomiting outside the apartment, court papers say. McQueen’s body was in a metal chair in front of a flickering television. They didn’t find a gun.
In evidence that is key to the prosecution’s case, Smith would later give detectives three accounts of what happened, court papers say.
The first time, Smith said he’d been out and returned to find McQueen dead with no gun in the house. Pointing to possible suspects, he said McQueen had argued with some Hispanic men in the past. In version two, Smith returned to find McQueen dead with a gun in his hand. In version three, Smith was in the apartment and McQueen shot himself.
Smith said McQueen used Smith’s gun, and he panicked. He removed the bullets and tossed them and the gun in a nearby lake.
Outside of crimes caught on video or solved with DNA, few pieces of evidence offer clear proof of guilt. Eyewitnesses can make mistakes, and problems have been found in hair and fiber analysis and arson investigations. Maryland judges tell jurors to use their common sense and life experiences to decide whether witnesses are being truthful.
Frank Haist, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, analyzed Smith’s brain scans. He was hired as a consultant in Smith’s case for No Lie MRI, a firm commercializing the technology. In his own research, Haist has used brain MRIs to study how people of different ages and races and those with autism process faces.
If Smith chooses to testify at trial, Haist said, “he would be asked and the jury would like to know: ‘Did he shoot Michael McQueen?’ Obviously, his answer would be no.” Jurors would see whether Smith was sweating or not, Haist said. They would see whether he appeared nervous. And they would make judgments.
The scans, he said, would give them one more factor to consider.
“You’re making a decision based on the way he looks, the way he acts. This is just another way he acts. It’s just looking at the way his brain is acting,” Haist said.
Here’s how it works: Scientists use a machine called a functional MRI, which is similar to traditional magnetic resonance imaging but focuses on brain activity, not just structure.
Over more than a decade, researchers have devised a series of experiments using those scans to see what lying looks like inside the brain. A University of Pennsylvania study asked subjects to lie about holding a five of clubs. In another study, men in Hong Kong were shown images and asked to lie about their feelings about them. Accuracy rates for picking out the deceptions topped 90 percent in some cases.
Harvard Medical School assistant professor Giorgio Ganis hit 100 percent in a study that asked students to lie when they saw their birth date. “We probably got a little bit lucky,” Ganis said.
In Smith’s case, technicians instructed him to lie as he answered several questions about his military service, including: “Were you ever deployed in Iraq?” He was but said he wasn’t.
The first time, Smith said he’d been out and returned to find McQueen dead with no gun in the house. Pointing to possible suspects, he said McQueen had argued with some Hispanic men in the past. In version two, Smith returned to find McQueen dead with a gun in his hand. In version three, Smith was in the apartment and McQueen shot himself.
Smith said McQueen used Smith’s gun, and he panicked. He removed the bullets and tossed them and the gun in a nearby lake.
Outside of crimes caught on video or solved with DNA, few pieces of evidence offer clear proof of guilt. Eyewitnesses can make mistakes, and problems have been found in hair and fiber analysis and arson investigations. Maryland judges tell jurors to use their common sense and life experiences to decide whether witnesses are being truthful.
Frank Haist, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, analyzed Smith’s brain scans. He was hired as a consultant in Smith’s case for No Lie MRI, a firm commercializing the technology. In his own research, Haist has used brain MRIs to study how people of different ages and races and those with autism process faces.
If Smith chooses to testify at trial, Haist said, “he would be asked and the jury would like to know: ‘Did he shoot Michael McQueen?’ Obviously, his answer would be no.” Jurors would see whether Smith was sweating or not, Haist said. They would see whether he appeared nervous. And they would make judgments.
The scans, he said, would give them one more factor to consider.
“You’re making a decision based on the way he looks, the way he acts. This is just another way he acts. It’s just looking at the way his brain is acting,” Haist said.
Here’s how it works: Scientists use a machine called a functional MRI, which is similar to traditional magnetic resonance imaging but focuses on brain activity, not just structure.
Over more than a decade, researchers have devised a series of experiments using those scans to see what lying looks like inside the brain. A University of Pennsylvania study asked subjects to lie about holding a five of clubs. In another study, men in Hong Kong were shown images and asked to lie about their feelings about them. Accuracy rates for picking out the deceptions topped 90 percent in some cases.
Harvard Medical School assistant professor Giorgio Ganis hit 100 percent in a study that asked students to lie when they saw their birth date. “We probably got a little bit lucky,” Ganis said.
In Smith’s case, technicians instructed him to lie as he answered several questions about his military service, including: “Were you ever deployed in Iraq?” He was but said he wasn’t.

“We know what Gary’s brain looks like when he’s trying to lie,” Haist said. And when he was answering questions about whether he killed McQueen, “it doesn’t appear the same as when he’s lying.”
But Haist said the tests can’t conclusively determine when someone is being honest.
“The MRI is not a truth machine,” he said. “I can’t say with certainty that he is telling the truth.”
Other experts said the scans don’t prove whether Smith is being either deceptive or truthful.
New York University neuroscientist Liz Phelps told the court that there is “no evidence” that the scans are useful in revealing a “real-world, self-serving lie.”
Stanford neuroscience professor Anthony D. Wagner, called by prosecutors, said that “it’s premature” to use the tests in court. “I, personally, don’t know how the literature is going to play out in the long run. . . . I’m not concluding that it can never be shown,” he said.
Smith first went to trial in 2008, and he was convicted of a form of second-degree murder known as “depraved heart murder,” which does not require that the state prove intent in the killing but rather “an extreme disregard for human life.” After the verdict, jurors told The Washington Post that they didn’t linger on the question of motive, instead focusing more on Smith’s behavior after the shooting. The jury keyed on Smith’s dumping of the gun and bullets. “That was one of the defining moments of finding his guilt,” one juror said.
Smith spent nearly four years behind bars before Maryland’s highest court threw out the conviction and sent the case back for a new trial, finding that the judge unfairly blocked testimony on McQueen’s state of mind.
McQueen had been arrested in Atlanta on a DUI charge, and Smith’s defense attorney wanted jurors to hear from an officer who said McQueen “appeared depressed . . . and said ‘this is the last thing I need in my life right now,’ ” according to court papers.
After McQueen’s death, his family rejected the idea that he was depressed or suicidal. McQueen’s father, who has since died, asked the judge to hold Smith accountable “for not the death — but the murder” of his son.
“I expected to live my whole life with my brother,” Otto McQueen told the judge. “I didn’t get that. None of our family got that.”
Beginning this week, a new jury will be seated to hear Smith’s case. It won’t hear about Smith’s MRI results because Johnson ruled that they were inadmissible even though he was captivated by the debate.
The Harvard birth-date experiment was cited by both sides as an example of the power the MRI might wield and its potential shortcomings.
Researchers put undergraduates in a functional MRI and showed them a series of irrelevant dates. The students were asked to press a “no” button if the date didn’t mean anything to them. Ganis also threw the subjects’ birthdays into the mix, telling them to lie and press “no” when that date displayed. Using a computer trained to recognize brain patterns, the researchers could accurately detect when the students were being deceptive.
But the students also were taught how to outwit the machine by “imperceptibly” moving a finger or a toe — basically to imagine moving them — when irrelevant dates appeared. That itself made the dates relevant, Ganis said, and the accuracy rate plummeted to 33 percent. “You are recalling something meaningful when you see the meaningless dates,” Ganis said. “The MRI can’t tell what’s going on.”
Ganis said that he has nothing against using MRIs for lie detection in the future but that more needs to be learned first about how the guilty could use similar tactics to trick the machine.

Research pinpoints brain's 'gullibility' center

Whether it's an email from an unknown gentleman on another continent pleading for money or a financial scammer selling a promising penny stock, the young and old tend to be more easily duped than middle-aged people.
Now, researchers have pinpointed the area of the brain responsible for this gullibility and have theorized why it makes children, teens and seniors less likely to doubt.
The ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex of the brain -- a softball-sized lobe in the front of your head, just above your eyes -- appears to be responsible for allowing you to pause after hearing or reading something and consider whether it's true, according to a study published recently in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
"When most adults hear or read something, they believe it at first, and begin to process it," explained study author Erik Asp, a researcher in the department of psychology at the University of Chicago who conducted the study while at the University of Iowa. "And then they start asking questions. But we're all susceptible to believing something initially."
In children, the prefrontal cortex is still developing, not reaching full maturity until the late teens or even early 20s. As you age, the brain area responsible for doubting may begin to deteriorate, gradually reducing your propensity to question. The area is the last thing to develop in the brain and may be the first area to begin to show some decline, Asp explained.
"The decline in function is normal. It can happen at 60, 70 or 90," Asp said. "But we found that people with prefrontal cortex damage tend to be less likely to question, more prone to believing conspiracy theories and overall have less nuanced thinking."
Asp said it's important to know that signs of gullibility in teens and seniors are biologically based, and not the result of sloppy thinking. "They aren't someone's fault. Knowing it's a natural process may help people anticipate the problem and deal with it effectively," he noted.
In the study, the University of Iowa researchers selected 39 participants from its Neurological Patient Registry and 10 healthy people for comparison. They showed eight consumer ads to 18 people with focal brain damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, 21 people with focal brain damage outside that area, and also to the healthy individuals.
Those with damage to the specific area of the prefrontal cortex were far more vulnerable to being deceived. They were more than twice as likely to believe misleading ads and were more inclined to purchase products advertised in those ads, as compared to those who had damage outside that area of the brain or who were healthy. This happened even when disclaimers saying the ads were misleading were visible.
The size of the damaged areas in the prefrontal cortex did not appear to affect an individual's tendency to doubt.
Asp explained that at the cellular level, cells called oligodendrocytes are responsible for putting myelin around a part of nerve cells called axons. Myelin insulates nerve fibers, not unlike how a household electrical wire insulates power. It permits the rapid transmission of impulses from nerve to nerve. Damage to myelin can cause some neurological diseases.
In the prefrontal cortex, one oligodendrocyte typically supports multiple axons. But in other parts of the brain, such as the posterior cortex, the average oligodendrocyte is only responsible for maintaining the myelin for a few cells.
Researchers theorize that the broader scope and responsibility of these cells in the prefrontal area of the brain has something to do with why there would be a decrease in doubting ability as people age. Understanding these cellular differences could potentially lead to a treatment target, Asp said.
"This research moves the science forward about understanding the mechanics of how people interpret untrue information," said Dr. Paul Sanberg, a distinguished professor in the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, in Tampa. "It might make people more understanding of gullibility."
The bottom line, said Jordan Graffman, director of the brain injury research program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, is that families, friends and caregivers of older adults need to be available to support decision-making. "Being duped is more likely if you're isolated," he said

Cannabis harms young brains, study finds

C3ksvxy5-1346050668 Despite calls for it to be legalised, a new study has found taking up cannabis in adolescence when the brain is undergoing critical development can cause long-term harm

More effort should be directed towards preventing the uptake of cannabis by young people argue US researchers, after a study of more than 1,000 New Zealanders found it could cause memory loss and drops in IQ scores by mid-adulthood.
The study, which followed the participants until age 38, found those that started using cannabis in adolescence and continued to use it experienced a greater IQ decline compared with adult-onset users.
In their paper, published in PNAS, Madeline Meir and colleagues write that quitting or reducing cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among that same group, suggesting that taking up cannabis in adolescence when the brain is undergoing critical development, could have neurotoxic effects.
“Adolescence is a particularly critical period of brain development and maturation,” said Nadia Solowij, Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Psychology at University of Wollongong.
“As such, it may be more vulnerable to insult from drugs than the more mature adult brain.”
While evidence has been accumulating for impaired function in both adult and adolescent samples, Professor Solowij said evidence for ongoing impairment after cessation of use has been mixed.
“This study was able to rule out a range of potential confounds that are often suggested to underlie reports of adverse effects on cognitive function in cannabis users.”
The study’s findings add to the case for preventive public health education to reduce adolescent initiation and use of cannabis, said Professor Wayne Hall, NHMRC Australia fellow deputy director at The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research.
Professor Hall said in the past it has been difficult to decide whether cannabis was the cause of cognitive impairment, or cognitively impaired young people were more likely to become involved in regular cannabis use.
“This prospective study greatly strengthens the case for regular cannabis use being a cause of cognitive decline by mid adulthood in young people.”
Robin Murray, Professor of Psychiatric Research, at, Kings College in London, said we have known for some time that heavy use of cannabis increases risk of schizophrenia-like psychoses.
“There are far fewer studies on its effect on minor psychiatric illness or on everyday life. However, there are a lot of clinical and educational anecdotal reports that cannabis users tend to be less successful in their educational achievement, marriages and occupations…This study provides one explanation as to why this might be the case.”

Gene Might Predict Brain Tumors' Aggressiveness

A gene variant that increases the risk of certain types of brain tumors has been identified by U.S. researchers, who say their findings could help identify people at risk of developing these tumors and improve their treatment.
The team found that people who carry a "G" instead of an "A" at a specific location in their genetic code have about a sixfold increased risk of developing certain subtypes of gliomas, which account for about 20 percent of brain cancers diagnosed in the United States.
The study was published online Aug. 26 in the journal Nature Genetics.
The researchers said they still have to confirm whether this location in the genetic code is the source of tumors. Even if it's not, "it is pretty close," study senior author Dr. Robert Jenkins, a pathologist at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minn., said in a Mayo news release.
"Based on our findings, we are already starting to think about clinical tests that can tell patients with abnormal brain scans what kind of tumor they have, just by testing their blood," Jenkins added.
"Being able to tell people that the mass in their brain is this type of tumor is actually good news, because it has a much better prognosis than other brain tumors," he explained. "So what is it that predisposes people to develop less aggressive, but still lethal, gliomas? That makes understanding the function of this variant even more important."
The hunt for regions of the human genome that might be associated with the development of gliomas began a few years ago and led researchers to a portion of chromosome 8 that contained DNA sequence variations (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs) associated with brain tumors.
In this study, the researchers pinpointed an SNP called rs55705857 and found that the less common "G" version of this SNP was strongly associated with slower growing gliomas.
More information
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about brain cancer.

What Happens To Our Brains During Exercise (And Why It Makes Us Happier)

Most of us are aware of what happens to the body when we exercise. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs becomes easier if we exercise regularly. When it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn’t so clear. Leo Widrich, co-founder of social media sharing app Buffer, set out to uncover the connection between feeling happy and exercising regularly.

What triggers happiness in our brain when we exercise?

“Yes, yes, I know all about it, that’s the thing with the endorphins, that makes you feel good and why we should exercise and stuff, right?” is what I can hear myself say to someone bringing this up. I would pick up things here and there, yet really digging into the connection of exercise and how it effects us has never been something I’ve done. The line around our “endorphins are released” is more something I throw around to sound smart, without really knowing what it means.
Here is what actually happens:
If you start exercising, your brain recognises this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after exercising.
At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. Your endorphins main purpose are this, writes researcher MK McGovern:
“These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.”
There is a lot going on inside our brain and it is oftentimes a lot more active than when we are just sitting down or actually concentrating mentally:

So, BDNF and endorphins are the reasons exercise makes us feel so good. The somewhat scary part is that they have a very similar and addictive behaviour like morphine, heroin or nicotine. The only difference? Well, it’s actually good for us.

Don’t do more, but focus on when

Now here is where it all gets interesting. We know the basic foundations of why exercising makes us happy and what happens inside our brain cells. The most important part to uncover now is, of how we can trigger this in an optimal and longer lasting way?
A recent study from Penn State shed some light on the matter and the results are more than surprising. They found that to be more productive and happier on a given work day, it doesn’t matter so much, if you workout regularly, that you haven’t worked out on that particular day:
“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.”
New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Reynolds wrote a whole book about the subject matter called The First 20 Minutes. To get the highest level of happiness and benefits for health, the key is not to become a professional athlete. On the contrary, a much smaller amount is needed to reach the level where happiness and productivity in every day life peaks:
“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk – all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”
So really, you can relax and don’t have to be on the lookout for the next killer work out. All you have to do is get a focused 20 minutes in to get the full happiness boost every day:
“On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.”(University of Bristol)

Make it a habit

Starting to exercise regularly or even daily is still easier said than done. At end of the day, there is quite a lot of focus required to get into the habit of exercising daily. The most important part to note is that exercise is a keystone habit. This means that daily exercise can pave the way not only for happiness, but also growth in all other areas of your life.
In a recent post from my colleague Joel, he wrote about the power of daily exercise for his every day life. Coincidentally, he follows the above rules very accurately and exercises daily before doing anything else. He writes:
“By 9:30am, I’ve done an hour of coding on the most important task I have right now on Buffer, I’ve been to the gym and had a great session, and I’ve done 30 minutes of emails. It’s only 9:30am and I’ve already succeeded, and I feel fantastic.”
I’ve spoken lots to Joel about his habit of exercising and here are some of the most important things to do in order to set yourself up for success and make your daily exercise fun:
  • Put your gym clothes right over your alarm clock or phone when you go to bed: This technique sounds rather simple, but has been one of the most powerful ones. If you put everything the way you want it for the gym before you go to sleep and put your alarm under your gym clothes, you will have a much easier time to convince yourself to put your gym clothes on.
  • Track your exercises and log them at the same time after every exercise: When you try to exercise regularly, the key is to make it a habit. One way to achieve this is to create a so called “reward”, that will remind you of the good feelings you get from exercising. In our big list of top web apps, we have a full section on fitness apps that might be handy. Try out Fitocracy or RunKeeper to log your work outs. Try to have a very clear logging process in place. Log your work out just before you go into the shower or exactly when you walk out of the gym.
  • Think about starting small and then start even smaller: Here is a little secret. When I first started exercising, I did it with 5 minutes per day, 3 times a week. Can you imagine that? 5 minutes of timed exercise, 3 times a week? That’s nothing you might be thinking. And you are right, because the task is so easy and anyone can succeed with it, you can really start to make a habit out of it. Try no more than 5 or 10 minutes if you are getting started.

The highest level of happiness happens at the beginning

As a quick last fact, exercise, the increase of the BDNF proteins in your brain acts as a mood enhancer. The effects are similar to drug addiction one study found. So when you start exercising, the feeling of euphoria is the highest:
“The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time.” (McGovern)
So, if you have never exercised before (or not for a long time), your happiness gains will be the highest if you start now.

Brain-dead politics assures chaos till 2016

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — “Liberals and conservatives do not just see things differently. They are different, in their personalities, even their unconscious reactions to the world around them,” warns senior editor Emily Laber-Warren in Scientific American Mind, one of the more fascinating reports on behavioral-science research on the political brain.
Yes, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, you can tell them apart from their DNA, brain scans, behavioral patterns ... seriously, guys like Eastwood, Trump and Romney don’t just “see” the world differently than Spielberg, Soros and Obama ... they are very different human beings from the outset. Yes, they see different, but they also think, decide, behave, vote and invest different.
How different? Here’s a simple test: Do you cheer loudly when a tough guy like Dirty Harry points his .357 Magnum, challenging the bad guy to “go ahead, make my day.” And did you feel relieved when the frazzled Dreyfus character in Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” marches up to the UFO to gets the hell off your great Earth?
In her “Calling a Truce in the Political Wars,” Laber-Warren elaborates on the differences between conservative and liberal thinking by paraphrasing humorist Dave Barry: “Republicans think of Democrats as godless, unpatriotic, Volvo-driving, France-loving, elitist latte guzzlers.” “Democrats dismiss Republicans as ignorant, Nascar-obsessed, gun-fondling religious fanatics.”
That’s why “Congress is in a perpetual stalemate because of the two parties’ inability to find middle ground on practically anything.”

No compromise till 2016: Will your retirement portfolio lose too?

OK, so you ask, what’s all this really mean for my investing strategies, now and especially after the November elections? Yes it depends on who wins: Will conservatives get absolute control of Washington? What if liberals hold onto the presidency and the Senate? Or if the conservatives add the Senate to their control of the house, but Obama is still president?
Remember the president has enormous power to appoint over 5,000 administrative positions, including the SEC and other regulatory agencies, plus the Fed chairman, as well as any Supreme Court and other federal court vacancies?
So, given your unique brain psychology, how will you invest successfully with four more years of irrational chaos when both parties get even more aggressive jockeying for the 2014 and then the 2016 races?
Yes, you got a helluva lot at stake folks: Should you invest in defense contractors? Conservatives want to increase spending on the Pentagon budget. Liberals want to cut back as our wars wind down, use the savings for social programs, highways.
How about Wall Street bank stocks? They’re betting on the conservative free-market agenda. And what if the Affordable Care Act program is reversed? And you get a voucher? Or buy more health-care insurers, hospitals, drug stocks now?
Yes, you bet your investment choices will be impacted by psychological “differences,” and big-time, no matter who wins the election.

Why your political brain has a huge impact in portfolio strategies

So let’s look at the new behavioral research, see if it increases our understanding of the “differences” between conservative and liberal thinking and their impact on your investing strategies. We found several fascinating differences in Scientific American Mind:
More wars ahead? A study by psychologist Michael Dodd and political scientist John Hibbing at the University of Nebraska “found that when viewing a collage of photographs, conservatives’ eyes unconsciously lingered 15% longer on repellent images, such as car wrecks and excrement — suggesting that conservatives are more attuned than liberals to assessing potential threats,” which might also be why they bet on the NRA and Pentagon.
Controlling or curious? In a study of the contents in the dorm rooms of 76 college students, researchers found “conservatives possessed more cleaning and organizational items, such as ironing boards and calendars, confirmation that they are orderly and self-disciplined. Liberals owned more books and travel-related memorabilia, which conforms with previous research suggesting that they are open and novelty-seeking.”

NYU psychologist John Jost, co-author of this study adds: “These are not superficial differences. They are psychologically deep.” And he adds that “the capacity to organize the political world into left or right may be a part of human nature.”
Yes, that left-right division is locked, hidden in our DNA, our brains, thinking processes, inherited, our destiny.

Will Washington ever get past the irrationality, stop sabotaging America?

In “The Righteous Mind,” another NYU psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, sees a time of cooperation ahead, out of necessary: “Although conservatives and liberals are fundamentally different, hints are emerging about how to bring them together — or at least help them coexist.”
And they “need not revile one another as immoral on issues such as birth control, gay marriage or health-care reform. Even if these two world views clash, they are equally grounded in ethics,” says Haidt.
Hope for a reconciliation may seem quixotic, certainly before the 2012 elections. But when Scientific American Mind focuses on fear, psychologists “found that conservatives are fundamentally more anxious than liberals, which may be why they typically desire stability, structure and clear answers even to complicated questions.”
Scientific American Mind quotes social psychologist Paul Nail of the University of Central Arkansas, “Conservatism, apparently, helps to protect people against some of the natural difficulties of living ... The fact is, we don’t live in a completely safe world. Things can and do go wrong.” So conservatives tell themselves, “if I can impose this order on it by my world view, I can keep my anxiety to a manageable level.”
But do conservatives really experience more fear and anxiety? That’s questionable. Still, generally we can see “anxiety is an emotion that waxes and wanes in all of us, and as it swings up or down our political views can shift in its wake.” As a result, “when people feel safe and secure, they become more liberal; when they feel threatened, they become more conservative,” according to Nail’s research after the 9/11 attacks.

But will Big Oil agree with environmentalists on climate research?

The core message of Laber-Warren’s “Call a Truce in the Political Wars,” is, of course, that these “psychological insights might tone down the bitter feuding between Democrats and Republicans.”
Unfortunately, the evidence and research may actually suggest just the opposite by focusing on America’s broken political system as we go into the November elections, further suggesting that in 2013 the feuding will intensify, and even get far more aggressive at least until the 2016 elections ... no matter who wins this year! Why? Behavioral science is no magic bullet.
Scientific American Mind highlighted one area of hope in the most contentious climate arena. In one experiment, “psychologists reframed climate change not as a challenge to government and industry but as “a threat to the American way of life.”
The research was conducted by Irina Feygina, an idealistic NYU doctoral student who Scientific American Mind believes may have “found a way to bring conservatives and liberals together on global warming.”
Feygina’s research process: “After reading a passage that couched environmental action as patriotic, study participants who displayed traits typical of conservatives were much more likely to sign petitions about preventing oil spills and protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Scientific American Mind makes a quixotic leap of faith, concluding that “environmentalism may be an ideal place to find common political ground.”
Unfortunately, America as a whole is in collective denial about the environment. And this issue goes to the heart of Big Oil revenues that exceed $150 billion annually, far in excess of the $1 billion cost of getting the oil-friendly politicians in office. Big Oil has zero interest in compromising.

So what’s an investor to do as our brutal political infighting accelerates?

While we have the highest respect for Scientific American Mind, the same can’t be said for the behavioral sciences. This new research, rather than revealing a new path forward, simply confirms the fact that behavioral science has, in the last decade, become the investor’s worst enemy, another powerful weapon in Wall Street’s vast arsenal manipulating America’s 95 million investors. One that cannot be trusted.
In the final analysis, Scientific American Mind editor Laber-Warren admits that when it comes to many moral issues, “liberals and conservatives will never see eye to eye.” Maybe they “can try to cultivate mutual respect.” But even that seems highly unlikely, not now, not in 2013, nor likely any time before the 2016 elections.
Worst case scenario: Only a global catastrophe will shock politicians out of their self-defeating gridlock that’s savaging America’s future.
So where should savvy investors put their money? We began hoping to find solutions in Scientific American Mind’s work ... but in the end, we only see ahead more chaos and gridlock as irrational politicians will have far more impact on investing and retirements than market fundamentals.
No, expect no compromise, at least not till after 2016 elections ... or after the coming crises, catastrophes and global economic crash, whichever comes first. Till then political ideologies will intensify, interfering unpredictably and irrationally in economies and financial markets worldwide ... no matter who runs government.
Best strategy? Get out of the stock market, now, till 2016 ... although, unfortunately, your political brain won’t let you!

Teen cannabis use may damage brain for life, warns major study

Fears that drug 'rewires' adolescent minds as scientists find persistent smoking reduces IQ
Teenagers who smoke cannabis regularly could be permanently damaging the development of their brain and are likely to end up with significantly lower IQ scores than teenagers who do not use the illicit drug, a major study has found.

People who started smoking cannabis as adolescents were found at the age of 38 to be still suffering from a drug habit they had started more than 20 years earlier, scientists said.
The findings will help to dispel the common belief among teenagers that cannabis is a harmless drug and will lend weight to calls for more to be done to prevent cannabis use among teenagers, the researchers said.
The study suggests that weekly cannabis use before the age of 18 results in an average decline in IQ score of eight points, which is enough to move someone of average intelligence into a category that is well below average.
Scientists said that the study is the first to show that cannabis use in adolescence – but not cannabis use that begins in adulthood – can cause a significant long-term decline in IQ that does not appear to be reversible when people stop using cannabis.
The researchers believe this is evidence that cannabis can interfere with the development of the adolescent brain, which continues to undergo neural growth and "rewiring" during early teenage years.
"Quitting or reducing cannabis use did not appear to fully restore intellectual functioning," said Madeline Meier, of Duke University in North Carolina. She was the lead author of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. " IQ decline could not be explained by alcohol or other drug use or by reduced years of education among persistent cannabis users… marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents," Dr Meier said. "Somebody who loses eight IQ points as an adolescent may be disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers for years to come." The study used data gathered from a cohort of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand. IQ tests carried out when they were 13 were compared with IQ tests completed when they were 38.
Five per cent of the cohort said they had started persistent cannabis use – defined as weekly sessions – before the age of 18.
These individuals were compared with the rest of the group both in terms of IQ and other possible interfering factors, as well evidence based on detailed interviews with friends and family.
"The people who used pot persistently as teens scored significantly worse on most of the tests," Dr Meier said. "Friends and relatives routinely interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks."
An average loss of eight IQ points out of an average score of 100 would mean a drop of IQ to 92, which would be enough to move someone from a group shared by 50 per cent of the population to a lower group shared by just 29 per cent of the population.
"Research has shown that IQ is a strong determinant of a person's access to a college education, their lifelong total income, their access to a good job, their performance on the job, their tendency to develop heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and even early death," Dr Meier said.
"Individuals who lose eight points in their teens may be disadvantaged, relative to their same-age peers, in most of the important aspects of life and for years to come."
Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, said the study is the first to distinguish between cognitive problems that might result from using cannabis in adolescence, from those that existed prior to the cannabis use.
"The findings are pretty clear that it is not simply chronic use that causes deficits, but chronic use with adolescent onset," he said.

Seattle Woman Reboots Her Brain After Aneurysm at 35

PHOTO: Maria Ross of Seattle suffered a brain aneurysm at age 35, but was able to "reboot" her brain after rehabilitation.

It was 2008, a chaotic time for Maria Ross, a 35-year-old marketing expert who had just started a new job and moved into a new house in Seattle. She ignored the headaches that had been plaguing her and just attributed them to stress.
"Suddenly, a migraine hit me after a theater audition," said Ross, an amateur actress. "One minute I was fine and the next I was grabbing on to a pole. It was like my brain was shooting out of my head and rushed to my feet."
"I pulled myself together, thinking it was nerves," she said. "I have a history of high blood pressure and a type A personality. We'd had a lot of stress in our lives."
It wasn't stress, but the symptoms of a brain aneurysm that would hit her a month later when Ross's husband found her unconscious on the bathroom floor. She suffered blindness and depression before she was back on her feet again.
Today at 39, Ross is back at work, running her own business, Red Slice Branding. She has mostly recovered from the aneurysm that nearly killed her and has self-published a memoir, "Rebooting My Brain," which offers hope and humor to others with brain injuries.
"There are people in rehab who can never go back to their jobs again," said Ross. "Some can't speak or walk. I wrote the book for them."
"Is not a medical book, but I cite information and resources that worked for me," she said. "The biggest advice I give to people is get therapy. That's what helped me get into life again." A brain aneurysm or cerebral aneurysm is a weak bulging spot on the wall of the brain artery, much like one on a balloon or an inner tube. Over time, the artery pounds against the thinning wall and an aneurysm silently forms. The pressure may cause it to rupture.
An estimated 6 million Americans -- or one in 50 people -- have an unruptured brain aneurysm, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. About 30,000 of them suffer a rupture each year, nearly half of them fatal. An estimated 10 to 15 percent never make it to the hospital, and those who do can have permanent neurological damage or other disabilities.
Ross suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which caused bleeding into the compartment surrounding the entire brain. In the most serious cases, the bleeding can cause brain damage, paralysis or a coma, and often death.
Doctors don't fully understand what causes a person to develop an aneurysm, but suspect a genetic tendency that is exacerbated by environmental factors like smoking and high blood pressure.
After Ross's migraine-like headache at the theater, more headaches came and went. She saw a doctor, but he didn't know her patient history because she had just moved to Seattle, and only monitored her blood pressure and recommended yoga and acupuncture.
But a month later, another headache struck, one so severe she began vomiting and collapsed, slipping into a coma.
"My husband had decided to come home early that day," said Ross. "He called the ambulance right away to the hospital, and as fate would have it, I was only five miles from one of the best in the country."
When Ross arrived at University of Washington's Harbor View Medical Center , she was comatose and had the lowest possible score to evaluate her chances of survival, according to Dr. Raj Ghodke, co-director of the Brain Aneurysm Center and an neurointerventional surgeon.
"In the other classification system for aneurysms, she had a grade 4 out of 5 and had a very big bleed from the aneurysm," he said. "Based on that grading system when it was written, 80 percent would die, but with medical advancements it was down to 30 to 40 percent. She did beat the odds."
Survival depends largely on how quickly a patient gets to the hospital for treatment. "But she was healthy and young and those things were in her favor," said Ghodke.
He performed a coiling procedure, entering Ross's artery through her groin and winding a coil through the carotid artery and eventually inside her cranium to essentially plug up the artery and stop the bleeding.
Ross was in an induced coma and hooked to a breathing tube and on ventilation so her organs didn't shut down. "They told my husband, 'We saved her life,' but we had no idea I would be brain damaged, unable to walk or talk," she said.
The aneurysm had caused her retinas to hemorrhage, a condition called Terson's syndrome, which happens in about 13 percent of all cases of subarachnoid hemorrhage, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. As a result, Ross was blind for six weeks.
"Combine this with no short-term memory and a mix of ICU sedatives, and I actually do not recall the entire month of August 2008, except for snatches here and there," said Ross, whose sight was restored within about a year.
Doctors operated on one eye so she could see during rehabilitation and the other eye cleared on its own, she said. After a year, she was good enough to begin driving again.
Ross said keeping a sense of humor and acceptance were the key to her survival.
"We humans need to use humor to get us through the tough times," she said. "It lightens the load and clears our heads from the stress. There was some gallows humor in the ICU ... A lot of people are afraid to laugh or smile in a dire situation, but you should embrace that."
In-patient rehabilitation consisted of physical, occupational and speech therapy, followed by an out-patient group in cognitive and psychotherapy. "There is a lot of emotional fall-out from a brain injury," Ross said.
Ross was able to return to work within six to eight months, but she has had some residual cognitive deficits.
"I did have brain damage," she said, without a hint of verbal or cognitive stumbling. "I saw the black spot of the scan where the cells died."
Today, Ross can be "overwhelmed" by too much stimulus, which she said is common in a brain injury.
"The filter in your brain gets broken, like at a bouncer at club in the brain being replaced with someone new and green," she said. "You can have too much information come to you at the same time."
When Ross recently went to Times Square in New York City, she had difficulty because of the lights, the sounds and the people -- "Five hundred things going on at the same time," she said.
She has difficulty concentrating on tasks and her short-term memory is not what it used to be.
"I have note pads and sticky pads all over the house and in my purse," she said.
"I may have to ask the same question over and over again in conversation. My husband says that at time I get a lot more confused when he tries explaining something to me."
Ross is so grateful for the rehabilitation that she received, that she now volunteers at University of Washington Medical Center as a patient adviser and speaker.
"It's a way for me to give back for their amazing care," she said.
Attitude plays a huge role in recovery, according to Ross. "I found a way to adapt around the deficits -- accepting rather than keep fighting it. I was trying to get back the old me. Now, I deal with the new me and work around it and my recover got faster. I was my own worst enemy."
Her goals were modest. "My dog was crucial to my recovery -- he gave me a goal. People say, I almost died, I want to travel the world. All I wanted was to walk the dog for a half hour every day."
Ross said at first people told her to write a book about her experience, but she resisted. "No one will care about me," she said. "I'm not a celebrity."
But after meeting others in rehabilitation, she changed her mind. "A lot of people with brain injuries can't articulate what they went through," she said. "I am blessed enough to still have my gift of gab and writing."
Ross's doctor, Ghodke helped edit the book and now recommends all his aneurysm patients read it. "It's the first time I got so much on what someone goes through," he said. "This is so important that people know about it. We have a rare insight into this condition from someone who writes so well and made this phenomenal recovery."
Since writing the book, she has been heartened by hearing from brain injury survivors from around the world. And she has learned to accept her limitations."
"The new me is definitely more patient," said Ross. "I definitely try to be more present. I am definitely more thankful. And I work in a healthier way because I have to. It's really enriched my life and I am lucky I see it as a gift."

Hacking the mind: 3 new brain hacks expose new realm of security & privacy risks

Brain hacking is a hot subject right now and has moved from science fiction into reality. At the Usenix Security Symposium, one mind hack looked to create better security and an “unbreakable crypto” system; another brain hack focused on threats to privacy by extracting secrets with brain computer interfaces. Yet other scientists have created a helmet  to make an Inception-like world in which reality can be manipulated.
With all the hacks and users continually using and reusing pathetically weak passwords, neuroscientists and cryptographers came up with an “unbreakable crypto” system that relied on implicit learning so your subconscious could remember a 30 character passphrase. However, the trick is that the password couldn’t be consciously recalled and obtained via “rubber hose attacks” meaning torture. The method relied on learning the password with a computer game similar to Guitar Hero, but that plants “a secret password in the participant’s brain without the participant having any conscious knowledge of the trained password.”
The game creates a random sequence of 30 letters chosen from six buttons corresponding with notes marked as S, D, F, J, K, L, explained Extreme Tech. The game lasts for about 45 minutes during which users make around 4,000 keystrokes that subconsciously teach the long, random password. “Neuroscience Meets Cryptography: Designing Crypto Primitives Secure Against Rubber Hose Attacks” was presented at the Usenix Security Symposium. If you are interested, you can download the research paper [PDF], slides [PDF] or watch the video presentation.
The flipside of such security deals with invading privacy by extracting your secrets with commercially available brain computer interfaces (BCI) which are used for hands-free gaming. “The security risks involved in using consumer-grade BCI devices have never been studied and the impact of malicious software with access to the device is unexplored,” scientists wrote. “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain-Computer Interfaces” explored how the “technology could be turned against users to reveal their private and secret information.” They used $200 - $300 off-the-shelf, neuro-tech headsets such as those made by Emotiv or NeuroSky and then read brainwaves on 28 different people. They were able to “extract hints directly from the electrical signals” about “private information” such as the location of their homes, “persons known to the user” and bank PIN numbers.
The Usenix Security conference posted the video presentation and research paper, but the researchers relied on identifying “P300” responses that we all have when our brain recognizes someone or something familiar. This is the same type of brain activity that is measured in Veritas Scientific’s “mind-reading” helmet machine that could obliterate privacy of the mind and could make Orwell’s Thought Police a reality. Although the U.S. military expressed an interest in Veritas' brain-spying device, the truth-telling technology is expected to eventually be used by “law enforcement, criminal trials and corporate takeovers.”
The scientists who studied and recently presented brain hacking via BCI also noted that the technology will continue to improve. Developers already have access to make apps, but games could be crafted to secretly extract sensitive information from the brain. Eventually there could be “brain malware.” We’ve looked at something similar such as how DNA hackers might weaponize a virus to infect your brain and behavior, and how future zero-day exploits may also target your body biology, and not just your computer or mobile device.
Lastly, the Laboratory for Adaptive Intelligence, part of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, created a helmet made of cheap and commercially available components to make an Inception-like world in which reality can be manipulated. Nature.com reported on a Substitutional Reality (SR) System: A Novel Experimental Platform for Experiencing Alternative Reality that could be used to study cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. In Inception, the participants had a “kick” to bring them out of the “dream world;” but there is no kick to distinguish reality from a “dream state” for some psychiatric conditions.
Keisuke Suzuki, one of the research paper [PDF] authors, told the Guardian, “In a dream, we naturally accept what is happening and hardly doubt its reality, however unrealistic it may seem on reflection. Our motivation is to explore the cognitive mechanisms underlying our strong conviction in reality. How can people trust what they perceive? Answering these questions requires an experimental platform which can present scenes that participants believe are completely real, but where we are still able to manipulate the contents.”
Additionally Suzuki believes hacking the mind with SR will "open a new direction in cybertherapy. Virtual reality technologies effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias by repeatedly exposing patients to traumatic episodes in immersive devices. The SR system provides the conviction of being in the 'real' world, which is absent in current VR technologies."
Be it cool or somewhat creepy, brain hacking is no longer something that only applies to science fiction. While there are certainly good potential uses, brain hacking also opens the door to all sorts of new security and privacy risks.

Books are tonic for the brain!

LONDON: Reading is not just another leisurely activity or a way of brushing up your literacy skills and factual knowledge — it acts as a tonic for the brain too.
Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield suggests that reading helps to expand attention spans in kids. “Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end — a structure that encourages our brains to think in sequence, to link cause, effect and significance. It is essential to learn this skill as a small child, while the brain has more plasticity, which is why it’s so important for parents to read to their children. The more we do it, the better we get at it,” Greenfield said.

Reading can enrich our relationships by increasing our understanding of other cultures and helping us learn to empathise, the Daily Mail reports.

“In a computer game, you might have to rescue a princess, but you don’t care about her, you just want to win,” explains Greenfield. “But a princess in a book has a past, present and future, she has connections and motivations. We can relate to her. We see the world through her eyes.”

New device removes clots from brain

LONDON: A new device that removes clots from the brain could be a game changer in the treatment of strokes, say researchers.
In a recent clinical trial, the SOLITAIRE Flow Restoration Device, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration this March, outperformed the standard treatment. SOLITAIRE is among an entirely new generation of devices designed to remove blood clots from blocked brain arteries.

It has a self-expanding, stent-like design, and once inserted into a blocked artery using a thin catheter tube, it compresses and traps the clot. The clot is then removed by withdrawing the device, reopening the blocked blood vessel, the British journal The Lancet reports.

“This new device is significantly changing the way we can treat ischemic stroke (caused by blockage of an artery to the brain),” said Jeffrey L. Saver, director of the University of California Los Angeles Stroke Centre and a professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

“We are going from our first generation of clot-removing procedures, which were only moderately good in reopening target arteries, to now having a highly effective tool,” added Saver, who led the study, according to a California statement. Results of the study showed that the device opened blocked vessels without causing symptomatic bleeding in or around the brain in 61 percent of patients.

The standard FDA-approved mechanical device, a corkscrew-type clot remover called the MERCI Retriever, was effective in 24 percent of cases. The use of SOLITAIRE also led to better survival three months after a stroke.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Look after your lungs & brain

brain and lungs B+S
How to prevent dementia and lung cancer. Picture: Supplied

MILLIONS are at risk of lung disease and dementia – find out if you’re one of them and what you can do to protect your health.
- The Australian Lung Foundation says:

1.  Don’t smoke. If you do, quit

“The most important thing is to acknowledge the harm smoking is doing and try to quit,” says Professor Matthew Peters, spokesman for The Australian Lung Foundation (ALF).

Smoking puts you at high risk for lung cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, chest and lung illnesses and the deterioration of asthma.

One of the deadliest parts of a cigarette is carbon monoxide, which takes the place of oxygen in your blood, robbing the lungs, heart and other organs of the oxygen they need.

“If you’ve tried to quit and failed, increase your motivation by talking to a free quit expert at Quitline on 13 78 48,” Peters says.

2. Exercise regularly, in moderation  

With regular exercise, the body’s cardio-respiratory system works efficiently to transport oxygen to the muscles and tissues, providing overall strength and improving energy. Lung capacity does not necessarily improve, but a healthy level of fitness may reduce the amount of work the lungs have to do.

The lungs’ most important job is to absorb oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide, an essential part of life. “Plus, every drop of blood must flow through the lungs,” Peters says. “If one is damaged, the capacity of the heart to pump blood is reduced, no matter how strong the heart is.”

Peters recommends 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, three to five times a week.

3. Complete the Lung Health Checklist 

As lung problems are difficult to diagnose, the ALF recommends completing the lung health checklist. 

Do you:

+ Have a new, persistent or changed cough?

+ Cough up mucus, phlegm or blood? 

+ Get out of breath more easily than others your age? 

+ Experience chest tightness or wheeze? 

+ Have frequent chest infections? 

+ Experience fatigue or sudden weight loss?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your lung health could be at risk. See your doctor with any concerns. You can find the checklist at www.lungfoundation.com.au

- Alzheimer’s Australia says:

1. Eat foods that aid brain health

Like the rest of the body, the brain operates at its best when fed a nutritious diet.

Suha Ali, national dementia risk reduction manager at Alzheimer’s Australia, says while a balanced diet is always advised, there are foods that enhance brain health.

“A Mediterranean-style diet which includes lots of fish and fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended because it is rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants,” she says.

“Evidence has suggested a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3s may play a significant role in reducing our risk of dementia.

“Avoid trans-fats, which can be found in processed and packaged foods, and reduce consumption of saturated fats,” Ali says.

2. Be physically active and get regular medical checks

“Several studies have found being active in early, mid and late life is good for cognition and brain health, suggesting it may reduce the risk of dementia,” Ali says.

Like the heart, she says the brain is highly vascular, so exercise is essential for maintaining adequate blood flow to the brain. Alzheimer’s Australia recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise.

If you are over 45, you should be tested for diabetes and high cholesterol every one to two years, or on your GP’s advice.
Studies have shown high cholesterol in mid and late life can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, while having diabetes can increase the risk by 65 per cent.

3. Challenge your brain with new activities

Research suggests that any activity involving thinking and learning may protect against dementia.

“There is very good evidence that challenging the brain can help build brain reserves, which act like a brain back-up,” Ali says.

Alzheimer’s Australia suggests regularly engaging in activities such as learning a language, enrolling in a course, reading, playing board games and cards, doing jigsaws and crosswords, going to the movies and theatre, and researching a favourite topic.

There is also a risk reduction program called Mind Your Mind (www.mindyourmind.org.au), which includes the BrainyApp, which allows you to assess, track and improve brain-heart health.

--------- “I’ll live a long life because of an early diagnosis”

Colette Beeston, 47, was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease three years ago.

“I grew up on a sheep and wheat station, a dusty environment full of chemicals. In my early 20s I started smoking. This increased to two or three packets a day until I quit in 2002.

“In 2008 I started getting chest infections and found it harder to exercise so I booked an appointment  with my doctor.

“The results came back with early stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It can be maintained with daily medication and exercise, so I try to walk, jog or cycle daily. I should live a long life because I was diagnosed early.”