Monthly Archives: January 2013

Early bilingualism develops sharper brain: Study

A new research has demonstrated that adults who have been bilingual since childhood are granted with sharper brains and working more efficiently.

The study conducted by a team of researchers from the University Of Kentucky College Of Medicine revealed that those seniors with the ability of speaking two languages since they were children had better “cognitive flexibility” than the monolingual adults.

The team studied some 110 adults between ages 60 and 68 in two groups of monolingual and bilingual since childhood.

The participants were analyzed by brain imaging tests while they did a cognitive flexibility test, according to the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers found that both the monolingual and bilingual participants were able to complete the task, however, the ones who were bilingual were able to do so more quickly.

The study also indicated that the frontal cortex brain regions of bilingual seniors used less energy compared with those ones in participants who were able to speak only one language.

“The results also suggest that lifelong bilingualism may exert its strongest benefits on the functioning of frontal brain regions in aging,” said the study researcher Dr. Brian T. Gold.

Meanwhile, an earlier research published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences suggested that being bilingual could actually help to protect the brain from age-related disease such as Alzheimer’s.



Essential Fatty Acids and What They Do For You

Both plants and animals can make fats, using building blocks known as fatty acids. The fatty acids we human can make are call nonessential fatty acids because we don’t have to get them from the food we eat. However, there are certain fatty acids that we cannot make ourselves. These are the fats we cannot live without. By eating foods rich in essential fatty acids and supplementing our diet with them, we give ourselves the advantage of improved physical and mental health.

Every cell in the body requires (and thrives on) essential fatty acids for optimal function. Much like the way a factory operates, the cell takes in raw materials from its surrounding fluids and integrates these materials within itself. The outer membrane of the cell is composed almost entirely of fat (with embedded proteins), and this fatty layer outside the cell, called the lipid membrane, helps keep the cell fluid, flexible, and able to function and communicate with neighbouring cells.

Laboratory animals subjected to a diet poor in essential fatty acids develop skin problems, fatty liver,  blood lipid and blood sugar irregularities, poor reproductive health, and poorly developed brains and nervous systems. The fear of ingesting fat, caused largely by the medical industry’s misunderstanding of the way fats heal and harm, caused Western societies to consume low fat diets that contribute to growing health concerns: high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and reduced cognitive function.


What is the brain?

The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, adult sea squirts and starfish do not have one, even if diffuse neural tissue is present. It is located in the head, usually close to the primary sensory organs for such senses as vision, hearing, balance, taste, and smell. The brain of a vertebrate is the most complex organ of its body. In a typical human the cerebral cortex (the largest part) is estimated to contain 15–33 billion neurons, each connected by synapses to several thousand other neurons. These neurons communicate with one another by means of long protoplasmic fibers called axons, which carry trains of signal pulses called action potentials to distant parts of the brain or body targeting specific recipient cells.


Use Garlic and Onions – Nature’s Healers

Sally Beare – 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People

Garlic and onions are powerful healing foods with a long history of use for all kinds of ailments. It is said that Hippocrates used garlic fumes to treat ovarian cancer, while monks in the Middle Ages chewed garlic cloves to ward off the plague. Once known as “the stinking rose,” garlic is an incredible superfood that deserves all the praise if gets, and onions have very similar properties.

Garlic is an all-around medicine that has been used to treat asthma, candida, colds, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. It is an immune-system-boosting food containing at least twelve different antioxidants, including two of the most important ones, selenium and zinc. The S-allymercoptacystein is shown to reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells in vitro. Animal studies also show that garlic inhibits cancerous tumours. One anticancer property of garlic is its ability to stimulate the body’s own production of natural killer cells, which destroy the cancer cells we all make daily in our bodies.

Garlic and onions have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties; garlic was used to prevent wound infections by the ancient Romans and in World War II by the Russian army. If you are suffering from any kind of infection of the digestive tract, swallowing one to four cloves of raw garlic daily is an excellent way of ridding the intestines of pathogens while leaving friendly bacteria unharmed. Studies also show that eating garlic cuts the risk of colorectal and stomach cancer by to half.

Onions help protect the heart by lowering blood pressure and acting as a blood thinner and anti-inflammatory preventing blood clots, and they boost the immune system. They are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid which blocks cancer cell promoters.

Super Brain Yoga

Peripheral Heart Action Training

I first read about peripheral heart action training in a booklet I bought from MuscleMag International. Dr. Fred Hatfield PhD (known as Dr. Squat for squatting an enormous 1014 lbs in competition) and his son, also wrote about it in their ebook Getting Start with a Weight Training and Nutritional Approach to Fitness, an excerpt from a text of the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

 ”The (peripheral heart action) PHA system developed by Chuck Coker, inventor of the “Universal” machine, constitutes the single-most efficient method of deriving general fitness we have ever come across. Nearly all of the components of fitness are served, depending on how the sets and reps are arranged.” Hatfield and Hatfield. Getting Start with a Weight Training and Nutritional Approach to Fitness, pg. 30.

That says a lot about a system of weight training whose name most people never heard.

The system itself is quite simple. Perform a rotating pool of exercises on a given training day and repeat the cycle if necessary. One could think of it as a system of circuit training with a twist. What’s special about the PHA system is that the exercises are arranged in a way that blood flow is directed to distant bodyparts as opposed to a specific area of the body. For example, instead of doing back to back exercises of an upper body movement (eg. overhead press, bench press, and bent over row), a PHA routine might have the following body part order:

1. Lower limb (feet, legs, thighs, and hips)

2. Upper limb (hands, forearms, arms, and shoulders)

3. Midsection/lower torso (abdominals and low back)

4. Upper torso (chest, middle and upper back, neck)

That’s a wide distribution of body parts with exercises that when properly executed recruit more total muscle mass than training an isolated bodypart. Local muscular fatigue is minimized and cycling of blood flow through wider regions of the body provides greater opportunity for recovery because lactic acid (lactate) is not allowed to pool in an isolated muscle. Improved lactate clearance translates to improved muscular endurance. Ultimately, the aim of PHA training is to change the distribution of blood flow with each exercise so that fatigue and muscle pump are reduced. This is a great way for athletes to train in the gym as opposed to following a typical bodybuilding routine or cookie cutter strength routine.

Table 1 gives three example cycles that could be used for a PHA routine.

Table 1: Example cycles for Peripheral Heart Action training.

Cycle 1

Cycle 2

Cycle 3

1. Barbell back squat

2. Chinup

3. Leg Raise

4. Dumbell press

1. Toe raise with bar on shoulders

2. Back raise

3. Kelso shrug

4. Overhead shrug

1. Front squat

2. Bench press

3. Situp

4. Bent over row

 The cycles shown in the above table can be altered in many different ways to produce results even if the exercises are kept the same.  The main variables that can be adjusted are:

  1. exercise order (as long as PHA training principles are maintained)
  2. the total number of reps per cycle
  3. the total repetitions of a cycle
  4. weight lifted for a specific exercise
  5. tempo and lifting velocity.

In general, repetitions should be performed with a controlled rhythmic pace. Tempo could be adjusted to  changing the duration of each phase of the lift. So, the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering or yielding) phases of an exercise in addition to changing the duration of the static contraction at the end of concentric and eccentric phases. You can pause between reps but avoid pausing the lockout of each rep in order to keep a dynamic pace required for an effective PHA workout.

I suggest starting off with 50% to 60% intensity (intensity is defined as a percentage of a barbell exercise’s 1 rep max) to establish your fitness baseline for that routine, working up to an average training intensity of 70% per workout. If you’re unsure of your 1 rep max, then use a weight that will allow to do 10 to 15 reps to get a slight pump. Another way to think of PHA is a training a bodypart to get it slightly pumped then switching exercises to get a pump in a distant part of the body. A great training rule to follow is to leave some energy in the tank, so stop your sets 1 to 2 reps short of failure and finish your workout feeling stronger and more energized than you started.

The routine can be programmed for three day per week, say Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. Eventually more cycles can be added to each training day and more training days can be added.

This type of workout is ideal for the weekend warrior who has a tendency to get injured because of inadequate exercise during the week.

So, try this old but effective training system as a compliment to your current strength and health lifestyle.


Do You Show Signs of Premature Aging?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is everything you do a big effort?
  2. Have you started to lose your muscle tone and skin tone?
  3. Do small things irritate you?
  4. Are you forgetful? Confused?
  5. Have voices begun to fade?
  6. Do you wobble a little when  you walk?
  7. Do you get out of breath when you climb stairs?
  8. Do you have high blood pressure, diabetes, and blood lipid issues?
  9. How limber is your back?
  10. Do your joints creak?
  11. How well do you adjust to cold and heat?
  12. Do I seem to be slipping and not quite like myself anymore?


Meet Your Memory: What Is It?

People can learn anamazing number of different things. We can learn to walk, dance, and swim. We can learn to type, repair watches, and program computers. We can learn to drive cards, ride bikes, and fly airplanes. We can learn languages, chemical formulas, and mathematical proofs. We can learn to read road maps, make out income tax returns, and balance checkbooks. The list of things we can learn todo could be continued almost indefinitely.

Of course, all this learning would be useless if we could not remember. Without memory we would have to respond to every situation as if we had never experienced it. The value of memory is also shown by the fact that we reason and make judgments with remembered facts. In addition, we are able to deal with time, relating the present to the past and making predictions about the future, because of what is stored in the our memories. Even our own self-perceptions depend on our memories of the past.

The uses and the capacity of the human memory are indeed amazing. You can store billions of items of information in your memory. Your two-pound brain can store more than today’s more advanced computers. But people also forget. We forget things we would like to remember. We forget names, anniversaires, birthdays, and appointments. We forget what we learned for an exam in school (usually within a short time after the exam, and sometimes before the exam).

What is your memory? How does your memory work? Some understanding of the theories underlying memory techniques can help in using the techniques more effectively and also in being motivated to use them.

What are the stages and processes of memory?

Remembering is generally viewed as consisting of three stages:

  1. Acquisition or encoding is learning the material in the first place.
  2. Storage is keeping the material until it is needed.
  3. Retrieval is finding the material and getting it back out when it is needed.

To help remember these three stages, we can refer to them as the “Three Rs of Remembering”: Recording (acquisition), Retaining (storage), and Retrieving (retrieval).

Another way to remember the three stages of memory is by referring to the “Three Fs of Not Forgetting”. Corresponding with Fixating, Filing, and Finding.

The three stages of memory can be illustrated by comparing the memory to a file cabinet. You first type the desired information on a piece of paper (Recording). Then you put it in a file cabinet drawer under the appropriate heading (Retaining). Later you go to the file cabinet, find the information, and get it back out (Retrieving).

Sometimes when a person cannot locate what he wants in a file cabinet it may be because the information was never recorded; sometimes it may be because the recorded information was never put into the cabinet; but often it is because the information was not put in the cabinet in such a way as to be easy to find. Suppose a person using the file cabinet throws letters and documents haphazardly into the drawers. A few months later he goes to the cabinet to retrieve a specific document. He would likely have a problem getting it. Why? Because it was not recorded? No, the document had been typed. Because it was not retained? No, the document had been put in the cabinet. How the document was stored is the problem.

Similarly, most problems in remembering come at the retrieval stage than the storage stage. We are all every aware that memory is limited more in getting things out than getting them in. More can be stored in memory than can be retrieved. There is not much we can do to improve retrieval directly, but retrieval is a function of how the material is recorded and retained. Therefore, improved  methods of recording and retaining will improve retrieval, both from a file cabinet and from your memory. The principles and methods discussed in this book will help you record and retain information in such a way as to be able to retrieve it more effectively.

It is useful to distinguish between material in memory that is accessible and material that is available. This distinction can be illustrated by the boy who asks his father, “Dad is something lost when you know where it is?” His father replies, “No, son.” Clearly relieved, the boy responds, “Good, your car keys are at the bottom of the well.” The keys were available but they were not accessible. Similarly, material that is misplaced in a file cabinet is available because it is stored, but it is not accessible because it cannot be retrieved. However, if the material is not even in the file cabinet  then it is neither accessible nor available. Likewise, material that is recorded and retained in your memory may not be accessible even if it is available; you know it is in there somewhere, but you just cannot find it. In this siuation, the answer to the boy’s question may be, “Yes, something can be lost even when you know where it is.”

In addition to the three stages of memory there appear to be at least two different processes involved in memory - short-term memory (also called primary memory and working memory) and long-term memory (also called secondary memory). The distinction between short-term memory and long-term memory is more than just a semantic distinction between remembering for a short time and remembering for a long time. Most psychologists view short-term memory and long-term memory as being two separate storage mechanisms that differ in several ways, although some psychologists have suggested that they are not really different mechanisms but merely different manifestation of the same mechanism (such as different levels of processing).

Memory Myths

For years, claims like the one to follow have been in advertisements for memory-training books and courses.

You, too, can have a photographic memory! With this new miracle memory system, you will never again forget anything. It requires no work or willpower, and anyone can use it immediately. Once you learn this secret of a super-power memory you will be able to learn everything perfectly and effortlessly!”

If you think such claims are too good to be true, you’re right. Yet these claims continue to attract people because they play on the myths of memory that govern people’s understanding of memory.

The following myths are excerpted from “Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It”

Myth 1: Memory is a Thing

Myth 2: There is a Secret to Good Memory

Myth 3: There is an Easy Way to Memorize

Myth 4: Some People are Stuck with Bad Memories

Myth 5: Some People are Bless with Photographic Memories

Myth 6: Some People are too Old (or Young) to Improve their Memories

Myth 7: Memory, Like a Muscle, Benefits from Exercise

Myth 8: A Trained Memory Never Forgets

Myth 9: Remembering Too Much Can Clutter Your Mind

Myth 10: People Only Use 10 Percent of Their Brain Potential

Bright Screens Could Delay Bedtime

Using a tablet or computer in the late evening disrupts the body’s melatonin production.

If you have trouble sleeping, laptop or tablet use at bedtime might be to blame, new research suggests. Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center at Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute and her team showed that two hours of iPad use at maximum brightness was enough to suppress people’s normal nighttime release of melatonin, a key hormone in the body’s clock, or circadian system. Melatonin tells your body that iti is night, helping to make you sleepy. If you delay that signal, Figueiro says, you could delay sleep. Other research indicates that “if you do that chronically, for many years, it can lead to disruption of the circadian system,” sometimes with serious health consequences, she explains.

The dose of light is important, Figueiro saysl the brightness and exposure time, as well as the wavelength, determine whether it affects melatonin. Light in the blue-and-white range emitted by today’s tablets can do the trick – as can laptops and desktop computers, which emit even more of the disrupting light but are usually positioned farther from the eyes, which ameliorates the light’s effects. The team designed light-detector goggles and had subjects wear them during late-evening tablet use. The light dose measurements from the goggles correlated with hampered melatonin production.

On the bright side, a morning shot of screen time could be used as light therapy for seasonal affective disorder and other light based problems. Figueiro hopes manufacturers will “get creative” with tomorrow’s tablets, making them more “circadian friendly,” perhaps even switching to white text on a black screen at night to minimize the light dose. Until then, do you sleep schedule a favour and turn down the brightness of your glowing screens before bed – or switch back to good old-fashioned books.

-Sephani Sutherland