New Studies show your brain is still awake even in deep sleep

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It has always been believed that the human brain gets its "rest" during the non-REM phase of sleep, as shown by previous brain imaging studies. You know, much like a computer shutsdown so it can rest. The fact that you do not remember anything during sleep (except for occasional recollections of a dream during REM sleep) seems to support this.

 

However, recent studies published in ScienceDaily (Oct. 17, 2008), have shown that even during our deepest stages of sleep or "slow-wave-sleep," there is a transient and recurrent increase of activity in some parts of our brain.

 

With the use of functional MRI (fMRI) combined with EEG, researchers have evidence of slow oscillations interpreted as an increase of brain activity during non-REM sleep. These areas of activation during deep sleep are pointing towards the functions of sleep in memory consolidation. It's much more like your "computer" isn't shutdown, it goes on auto-defrag.

 

This study, supported by the National Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium, the University of Liege, and the Queen Elizabeth Medical Foundation is another breakthrough in establishing sleep's crucial function to our intelligence.

 


Drinking and video games can make you intelligent

in the groove
 
 
No, this is not a trick. Drinking wine and computer games could really boost your intelligence, at least this is what Nancy Kalish on Prevention.com tells us. Before you parents of college kids fall off your chair, read on.


This is what Miss Kalish recommends: do some mental exercising puzzles (crossword, soduko,etc.) for about an hour and then "cool down with a glass of wine." Besides improving your brain health, this could even ward off Alzheimer's disease. Oops! We forgot to mention... Moderation, she cautions.


We have to point out, however, that drinking more than a glass could hurt you more than it would benefit your brain (before you guys go rushing to your parents to show this post for a free pass to the bar!)

 

In fact, WebMD, in its Cancel Happy Hour: Alcohol Shrinks Brain article, says drinking 7 to 14 times a week (considered "moderate drinking") would harm your brain: even moderate drinking could cause your brain to slightly deteriorate.


Nintendo's Brain Age, on the other hand, has been widely accepted as a brain-boosting video game. Dr. R. Kaplan, in a post at Smartkit.com adds Dance Dance Revolution and In The Groove to the list. He said that numerous research, using Synchronized Metronome Tapping , have shown remarkable improvement from respondents. These improvements range from coordination and attention to reading and math fluency.


Got an exam coming? Get to the video gaming dance floor and start dancing for some brain push-ups!

Mind-controlled devices: Matrix Reloaded

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Technology is fast catching up with fiction.
 
It was just a decade ago when the Wachowski brothers thought about mind-controlled computer simulations and created the mind-blowing blockbuster Matrix trilogy. In the movie, the Matrix is the mental projection of people's digital selves in a virtual world. Remember this, "Do not try and bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth...that there is no spoon"?
 

Now, the computer gaming horizon is getting stirred up by the rapid development of a mind-computer interface. With this technology, supposedly, you can game as if you're Neo strapped to a chair with a large socket plugged in to your skull. Except that there would be no humungous socket drilled to your skull -- you simply put on a trendy X-Men wireless headset.


Neurosky and Emotiv are leading the pack of these mind-reading geeks.


A year after Neurosky was founded (2004), it boasted of its brainwave-reading technology that interfaces with consumer electronic products such as mobile technology (teamed up with China Mobile in 2005), toys (teamed up with Sega Toys in 2007), and finally teaming up with Square Enix to produce the mind-computer interface which was then only available to Thomas Anderson (OK, I'm just showing off...it's Neo!) and Morpheus's gang.


Emotiv seems to have stolen Eurosky's thunder lately with the (brain)waves the company has been stirring. Read this report from CNN.


While the future looks bright with this development, some remain skeptical about this brain-computer interface. It takes a lot of practice to fine-tune one's hand-eye coordination.


Then again, even Neo had to train his brain before he could stop bullets in mid-air.

Mind-controlled devices: for PC-games and beyond

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If you think mind-control and telekinesis used to be the type of stuff you could only find in sci-fi flicks or paranormal literature, think again. 
 
Emotiv Systems is creating "the ultimate interface for the next-generation of human-machine interaction...(it) has created technologies that allow machines to take both conscious and non-conscious inputs directly from your mind."  Using electroencephalography or EEG, Emotiv Systems has developed a way for you to communicate with your computer with your thoughts, via your brain's electrical activity.  While this techonology offers endless possibilities for a wide span of industries, Emotive Systems is currently setting its sights on the entertainment gaming industries. 
 
Look Ma, no hands! 
 
No wires, no mice, no keyboards, no joysticks, this brain-computer interface is now becoming a reality with the use of wireless headset called Epoc.  A lot more like the telepathic superpowers of X-Men's hero Professor X (when you control your game characters) or the villain Magneto (when you control objects) Epoc gives you this mind-control power once you slip on this headgear.  It does its work by reading the electrical signals from your brain and translating them into commands that control the computer. 
 
To clearly illustrate its capabilities, Epoc comes bundled with a computer game.  You need not strain yourself with the rigors of "hand-eye coordination" with this gadget.  You can "lift" or "bend" things on the monitor by just willing the action in your mind.  Hello Francis Xavier! 
 
It is also interesting to note that while science could not explain telekinesis, it now succeeds in simulating it through Epoc.  This mind-boggling device is expected to hit the market by the end of the year.

Vitamin B-12 may stop brain shrinking and memory loss

old man
A study released earlier this week, reports that vitamin B-12 can prevent brain shrinking. It says the vitamin could possibly protect older people from dementia and memory loss.

We immediately pounced on this piece of news with much interest. You see, one of the worst fears anyone has about growing old is dementia. Take my Aunt Bertha or my Grandpa Collins for instance. Both now in their old age, couldn't even recall my name, much less engage in long conversations. It is not uncommon for the elderly to be besieged by problems with memory, speech, focus, etc.

Wikipedia defines dementia as the progressive decline in cognitive functions due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Your regular medical book would tell you that there is no cure for dementia once you are afflicted with it. Doesn't it make aging a scary prospect?

Whatever happened to "aging gracefully?"

Nobody wants to be anyone's grumpy old man. The only solution to this is prevention. Hence, our heightened interest with anything that says it could stop brain shrinkage, dementia, and memory loss.

The study published this week in Neurology (you can find the abstract here), involved measuring the brain volume loss of 107 people aged 61 to 87, every year for five years. Those with greater brain volume decrease, were found to be those with lower vitamin B-12 levels.

Study team leader Anna Vogiatzoglou of Oxford University said, "Many factors that affect the brain health are thought to be out of our control, but this study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to consume more vitamin B-12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory."
Don't get too excited yet Baby-Boomers. This finding still needs further study, but many agree that it would not hurt to increase your vitamin B-12 intake.

However, for futher good news, you may cling on to the same experts' current prescription to prevent dementia: active lifestyle (mentally and physically). iMusic for one, offers a funky way to exercise your brain by keeping it sharp and focused for peak performance. The same experts say that it also appears that another means of reducing risk of dementia, is regular moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine, spirits).

Now, that last one deserves a toast from our bar habitues. Andy Capp should show this to Flo.

 


How Emotionally Intelligent are you?

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For the past two decades Intelligence Quotient (IQ), has been some sort of a standard test to predict a person's academic or professional performance.  An IQ test involves measurement of one's intelligence based on logical reasoning, spatial skills, logic, math, verbal skills, etc.
 
Researchers however were noticing the fact that while some may score highly on IQ tests, something is still missing in the equation of predicting performance and success.   There are people who score exeptionally high on these tests but fail miserably in their careers, and there are students of high IQ who drop out of school.
 

One of the major missing parts in the success equation is Emotional Intelligence (EQ).  Emotional Intelligence is a concept made popular by the groundbreaking book by Daniel Goleman.  EQ, many experts agree, is a better way of predicting a person's success compared to the traditional IQ tests. 
 

HIGH Emotional Intelligence Quotient 
 

We found a website, iVillage.co.uk, that offers a free EQ test.  The website says Emotional Intelligence is about having empathy for others.  "It is about standing up for what you believe in a tactful and respectful way.  It is about not jumping to conclusions, but getting the whole picture before you read.  The key to emotional intelligence is an understanding of your emotions and the emotions of others, and acting in the most appropriate way based on that understanding." 
 

A person with a highly developed EQ can adjust (and can be independent) from his own feelings.  They can recognize the different nuances of their feelings and use them in a positive way. 
 

LOW Emotional Intelligence Quotient 
 

People with low EQ typically have trouble dealing with, and expressing, their feelings.  In most cases, they have little confidence in themselves, and find it difficult to show empathy for other people.  As well as being uncomfortable with intimacy. 
 

We tried taking the test by not answering most of the questions, and by deliberately giving the wrong answers.  This is what we got for results:
  • Trouble communicating with other people  shouting guys
  • In constant self-struggle 
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong moment 
  • Trouble showing anger or difficulty in dealing with anger directed to them 
  • Not able to stand up for themselves 
  • Flies completely off the handle with confronting others 
  • Finds it difficult to admit mistakes/often unable to apologise to those they have offended 
  • Generally have low levels of self-worth 
  • Doesn't like challenges and shuns commitment 
  • Afraid of change 
  • Have trouble staying motivated and staying focused when down 
  • Not able to set goals/often gives up trying 
  • Pessimistic  


Now, that's a scary feedback for anyone with low EQ!  The good news is, Emotional Intelligence can change.  It is possible for those with low EQ to increase as well as for those with high EQ to decrease their Emotional Intelligence levels. 
 

Increase your EQ 
 

People with low Emotional Intelligence can improve by learning to identify their emotions and learning to deal with them possitively.  They should learn to take responsibility for them. 

They can do this by brushing up on literatures about EQ and social skills, join a support group or find a counselor.  Taking anger management courses, or including stress-reducing activities in their daily routine such as exercising, going to the gym, taking up a hobby or a sport that requires constant contact with other people.  People with low EQ should also seek the support and understanding of family members and friends.      


Brain-doping execs on the rise?

brain doping
There is a growing concern among medical ethicists about pills that boost productivity. This practice seems to be gaining popularity in Silicon Valley where career prospects often depend on a person's intelligence and ability to work non-stop for impossibly long hours.
 
Physorg.com cites the prestigious journal, Nature, reporting about an informal survey conducted on 1,400 people. One-fourth of the respondents admitted they had taken drugs to improve their concentration and memory. These drugs include Ritalin, a stimulant for treating ADHD and Provigil, for sleep disorders.

Here's a testimony: "Upon taking the first pill I noticed nothing. As the hours progressed, I found myself doing things I usually hate, dishes, laundry, cleaning my room, and completing homework with absolutely no feeling of sleepiness. At times, I sat and waited for the usual feeling of dozing off, but it just wouldn't come. I then completed all my tasks and fell asleep at about 0100h. I woke to my alarm, after unusually vivid dreams at 0500h, and went to an early morning meeting. The 'morning' feeling was gone. I wasn't lethargic, or falling over myself trying to shower or dress, and was basically ready to go. At times, I felt as if I were shivering, but I was not actually moving. Somewhat resembled an orgasm, in ways, not euphoric, but quite pleasant."

Add to this Provigil's e-mail to TechCrunch that claimed Provigil is "approved to improve wakefulness in adults who experience excessive sleepiness (ES) due to one of the following diagnosed sleep problems: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), shift work sleep disorder (SWSD), or narcolepsy. PROVIGIL is not a replacement for sleep and is not intended to treat sleep deprivation."

No matter how great this sounds to improving one's productivity, this still smells like getting drugged to us. Wait till someone from the boardrooms gets the idea and prescribes this to everyone to boost productivity.

Goosebumps!

There are a lot of other better ways at improving productivity without polluting your brain with chemicals. Brain steroids you want? You can try iMusic's brain-boosting features. You need not pop any pill, just listen to music.

Games to increase your brain power




puzzle pieces
 
Tune up your brain, you say?

 

Mind games that require lateral thinking are a fun way to exercise your brain.  You see, like your muscles, the brain also needs constant conditioning to keep those neuron sparks sparking.  When you read or study, you are uploading gigabytes of information to your brain. 

When you are solving a problem the usual way, your brain actually scans for stored information or formulas that can be used to process the problem.  On the other hand, when you solve a problem through lateral thinking, your thinking patterns shift away from entrenched or predictable thinking.  You venture into new and unexpected ideas through a different approach. 

Even parlor tricks or magic, or those matchstick puzzles, are a good way to "massage" your brain through lateral thinking.  Take for example this "thinking outside the box" game:  you connect nine dots (arranged 3X3) continuously without lifting your pen from the paper, and without writing over a connection twice.

 

dot puzzle

 

Your exercise at lateral thinking makes you shy away from the usual line of thought to solve this puzzle.  Just like your muscles, the more you exercise your brain, the more robust it gets and the more primed it becomes for optimal performance. 

No room for atrophy here.  You just make your brain get more conditioned and get used to using creative problem solving techniques as a normal part of approaching different scenarios. 

Check out these Mind-stretchers and see your score.  More importantly, you do not only take these tests to find out how "intelligent" you are, you actually make your brain healthier everytime you take creative problem solving tests or puzzles. 

How to Boost Your Energy Without Caffeine

While we extol the benefits of drinking coffee in moderation, we also have some bits and pieces of tips that could help boost your energy minus the coffee. Lest you think we are selling Starbucks. You see, some people could just not stand coffee. Some of these folks are those who have acid reflux, or those who are trying to kick the habit. And no, we are not talking about Gatorade either. We are talking about water, sunshine, exercise, healthy diet, and a positive outlook.

 

WATER

Your body is composed mostly of water (60% of your weight). However, can you imagine how little water some people drink each day? Losing even as little as 1 to 2 percent of water from your body weight (mild dehydration) can sap your energy and make you feel tired. Some of the signs of dehydration include fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, dizziness, and lightheadedness.

 

OK, Buddy, you don't need coffee. You need water. Drink enough water to keep your brain and body primed.

 

 

SUNLIGHT

Think cloudy day vs. bright sunny day. See how the former makes you feel glum while the latter is associated with the upbeat feel-good, outdoorsy live-life-to-the-fullest mood? Sunlight triggers serotonin that controls sleep patterns, body temperatures, improves sex drive, good mood, and wards off depression.

 

Sunlight helps your body manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D increases oxygen in your blood. This, in turn, increases your energy, sharpens your mind, and makes you feel good. If you don't have the benefits of a natural sunlight in your workplace, having brighter lightings would help keep you more alert than working in a dim environment.

 

 

HEALTHY DIET AND EXERCISE

We need not remind you that you are what you eat. Having a healthy diet and regular exercise means a well-conditioned body, increased energy, improvements in your body functions, strengthened immune system, and better weight.

 

Doesn't this make you feel light-footed already?

 

 

GOOD DISPOSITION

Stress and depression are issues you need to deal with promptly. And no, you can't drown them with coffee. Being a pessimist gets you feeling old and grumpy. Don't be overly negative over things. Have you heard of the phrase, "Bring your own sunshine"?

 

Don't let bad incidents let you down--that's the difference between a whiner and a winner.

 

 

TAKE A NAP

New studies have shown that napping improves verbal, perceptual, and motor skills. See ("New Report: Napping Better than Coffee as Picker-Upper')


BOOST YOURSELF WITH iMusic WAKEUP SUITE


Skip that trip to the coffee shop and invigorate yourself to a fresh, energized and razor-sharp mind-state. iMusic WakeUp Suite is a comprehensive physiological activation system that does not only turbo-charge you in a matter of minutes, but also trains your brain and balances your brainwaves for a better performing you.

(Updated: Dec. 11, 2008)

 

 


Procrastination is a performance-buster!

 

OK.  You may be the smartest dude in the office.  But why does your boss ignore you and heads straight to Chuck Bartowski's cubicle instead? Laggard, your to-do-list is longer than the lyrics of Don McLean's "American Pie" and is as old as Mount Rushmore.

 

We sure hope you won't feel alluded to when you check out this timetable that Nescafe' posted  (which we modified a little) on their website:

* 5 minutes - Sort out desk, sharpen pencils

* 5 minutes - Decide on what to do (check/revise/update to-do-list)

* 5 minutes - Arrange files, and table clutter 

* 10 minutes - Look out the window, daydream

* 5 minutes - check/send text messages, make a phone call

* 20 minutes - Open e-mail, click on links, open myYahoo!/Facebook/etc.

* 10 minutes - Open work file and do some tasks. 

* TOTAL OF 1 HOUR! 

 

Procrastination is not your inability to manage time or the result of your lack of planning.  It is about your lack of self-regulation.  A procrastinator's failure to deliver on time is not limited to the workplace alone.  Procrastinators also tend to fail to pay their bills on time, miss buses or flights, they file their income tax returns late, etc. 

 

Procrastinators lie to themselves by saying things like, "I work better under pressure," or "It's ok to submit it late," when, in truth, they usually fail due to pressure.  And they know so well their necks are headed to the chopping block, for not finishing the task on time. 

 

Psychology Today lists 10 things you need to know about procrastination.  It also says procrastinators can change, and it suggests a highly structured cognitive behavioral therapy as a means to a cure. 

 

Anyone needs to see his shrink?