Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dancing Makes You Smarter

Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell. 

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. 

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none. 

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework. 

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing. 

            Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

            Bicycling and swimming - 0%

            Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

            Playing golf - 0%

            Dancing frequently - 76%. 

That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Presidential Lectures: Douglas R. Hofstadter: Extras

Once upon a time, I was invited to speak at an analogy workshop in the legendary city of Sofia in the far-off land of Bulgaria. Having accepted but wavering as to what to say, I finally chose to eschew technicalities and instead to convey a personal perspective on the importance and centrality of analogy-making in cognition. One way I could suggest this perspective is to rechant a refrain that I’ve chanted quite oft in the past, to wit:
P5080125-1.jpg "Analogy"
P5080125-1.jpg "Analogy" (Photo credit: spootonium)
One should not think of analogy-making as a special variety of reasoning (as in the dull and uninspiring phrase “analogical reasoning and problem-solving,” a long-standing cliché in the cognitive-science world), for that is to do analogy a terrible disservice. After all, reasoning and problem-solving have (at least I dearly hope!) been at long last recognized as lying far indeed from the core of human thought. If analogy were merely a special variety of something that in itself lies way out on the peripheries, then it would be but an itty-bitty blip in the broad blue sky of cognition. To me, however, analogy is anything but a bitty blip — rather, it’s the very blue that fills the whole sky of cognition — analogy is everything, or very nearly so, in my view.
End of oft-chanted refrain. If you don’t like it, you won’t like what follows.
The thrust of my chapter is to persuade readers of this unorthodox viewpoint, or failing that, at least to give them a strong whiff of it. In that sense, then, my article shares with Richard Dawkins’s eye-opening book The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976) the quality of trying to make a scientific contribution mostly by suggesting to readers a shift of viewpoint — a new take on familiar phenomena.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Meditation in Tibetan Buddhism by Dr. Nicholas Ribush

The main thing studied in Buddhism is the mind, but not the mind in general so much as one's own mind. Actually, I found the learning process extremely scientific and not particularly at odds with my medical training. The teacher would lay out the principles of Buddhist philosophy and psychology and we would then think about them, subject them to critical analysis, and meditate on them, using these teachings as a mirror for our own mind. Day in and day out for thirty days we got up early, meditated, listened to teachings, meditated, discussed, listened to more teachings, meditated and went to bed. By the end, while still not accepting everything I'd heard, I knew I had to stay to find out more.
I found out that the mind and the body are interrelated but completely different in nature. The body is physical, made of atoms; it has shape and color. The mind is formless, clear light in nature, and has the ability to perceive objects; there's no way it can come from the brain. The body starts at conception; the mind is beginningless. At conception, the consciousness, which comes from the previous life, enters the fertilized egg. Each individual's previous lives are infinite in number and it is one's own discrete stream of consciousness that passes through them all. Thus, our present mind is the result of everything we have ever been and done, and our future mind and lives depend upon what we do today. This is the same for all of us.
The good news is that all sentient beings have the potential to reach enlightenment, the highest possible state of mind, everlasting, blissful happiness, because we all have clear light nature of mind. Enlightenment is what the Buddha himself attained way back in India more than 2,500 years ago, what he shared with his disciples, and what has been taught by a succession of Indian, Tibetan and other masters in an unbroken lineage going back to the historical Buddha himself.
A sentient being is a being whose mind is ignorant; a buddha is a being who was once a sentient being but became enlightened by totally purifying his or her mind of ignorance and fully imbuing it with the qualities of compassion and wisdom. Buddhist meditation teaches us to cleanse our own minds of ignorance and the other delusions that spring from it, such as attachment, jealousy, pride and hatred - which obscure our mind's clear light nature and are the actual cause of all the suffering we experience - and to develop desirable attributes such as love, compassion, tranquility, concentration and divine intelligence, which are the cause of all happiness.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Visit with Sleep Doctor

Just had  a visit with the sleep doctor.  Not much to report except that I have a very mild case of sleep apnea which is probably due to some mild weight gain.  So, lose weight and I will sleep better.  No need to get a CPAP machine for which I am very grateful.

I started taking  melatonin and am working to get the correct dose.  Started with 0.5 to 1.0 mg.  Had a good six hours sleep and felt rested but I didn't get my full 8 hours.  So I bumped up the dose and tried 1.8 mg.  Slept a lot.  Woke up and felt very tired.  So I will try 1.5 mg tonight.

Getting proper sleep is a big deal for my vision and hearing.  Started noticing my vision and hearing improved.

Copyright © 2010-2012 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

First "Organic" Internet Makes Telepathy Come Closer

Scientists have connected the brains of a pair of animals and allowed them to share sensory information in a major step towards what the researchers call the world's first "organic computer".
The US team fitted two rats with devices called brain-to-brain interfaces that let the animals collaborate on simple tasks to earn rewards, such as a drink of water.
In one radical demonstration of the technology, the scientists used theinternet to link the brains of two rats separated by thousands of miles, with one in the researchers' lab at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the other in Natal, Brazil.
Led by Miguel Nicolelis, a pioneer of devices that allow paralysed people to control computers and robotic arms with their thoughts, the researchers say their latest work may enable multiple brains to be hooked up to share information.
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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Back to blogging!

February was quite an eventful month so I didn't have much time to blog.

So what was I up to?

I started going great guns on knitting and jewelry making.  I am making a pretty cool multicolored shrug with variegated yarn.  Also, whipped up a couple of bracelets with beading. 

Ceramics has been rolling along.  I have been handbuilding a number of vases.  One rather funky vase with a tree and African masks.  A couple of off kilter trays and casserole dishes. One off center pot which I glazed with a cool glaze of eggplant over a shiny black.  One truly centered cup glazed in an oatmeal glaze.  So some success amid a number of trial efforts.

Chinese painting is a bit of a wash.  A lot of effort for not much results.

Been going to music therapy.  My therapist and I have been starting to get more in sync with each other. 

Also, my sense of depth perception has been improving.  I am wondering if it is a delayed effect from previous vision therapy or somehow the effect of some bilateral exercise from knitting and using more of my spatial sense of vision during my artistic endeavors, or what.

I noticed this before starting on yet another round of vision therapy.   Am having a real sense of moving through space.  Will update you on that in another post.

Also, hubby has had surgery and a number of complications from it that has kept me on the run since the middle of February.  In the next week or two, we should be through the post surgical appointments and I should have my life back.

Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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