What was the Whole Earth Catalog?

20 Nov

I still have several editions on my book shelf!

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

The case of Tatiana And Krista Hogan

17 Nov

Tatiana And Krista Hogan are co-joined twins who share brain tissue. According to Wikipedia they are joined at the thalamus, brain structure that projects sensory information onto the cerebral cortex. According to a post on the CBC website:

Neurological studies have stunned the doctors. Tatiana can see out of both of Krista’s eyes, while Krista can only see out of one of Tatiana’s. They also share the senses of touch and taste and the connection even extends to motor control. Tatiana controls 3 arms and a leg, while Krista controls 3 legs and an arm.
Amazingly, the girls say they also know one another’s thoughts without needing to speak. “We talk in our heads” is how they describe it.

The CBC has produced a documentary about the twins, unfortunately not yet available in the U.S.

A polyglot’s language learning advice

15 Nov

Alex Voloza speaks eight languages. In this post he gives some language learning tips:

“It is very important to spend time with the language every day. Three hours on a Sunday and then no work during the week will not do the trick. You need to spoon-feed your brain with the language on a daily basis by engaging in different activities, including listening, reading, writing and speaking. Listen to an audio course, repeat phrases you hear, use flash cards for vocabulary, and talk to yourself in the language. There are also many times when you can squeeze practice into your days – for example, when in traffic, when out jogging, or even when you’re doing the dishes.”

Here is part of an interview with Voloza.

Memory champion Nelson Dellis recommends his favorite tools

13 Nov

Mindfulness meditation reduces symptoms of depression

10 Nov

Here is a well designed study looking at the effects of mindfulness meditation on depression. The abstract reads:

Background

Training in mindfulness has been introduced to the treatment of depression as a means of relapse prevention. However, given its buffering effects on maladaptive responses to negative mood, mindfulness training would be expected to be particularly helpful in those who are currently suffering from symptoms. This study investigated whether a brief and targeted mindfulness-based intervention can reduce symptoms in acutely depressed patients.

Methods

Seventy-four patients with a chronic or recurrent lifetime history were randomly allocated to receive either a brief mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) encompassing three individual sessions and regular home practice or a control condition that combined psycho-educational components and regular rest periods using the same format as the MBI. Self-reported severity of symptoms, mindfulness in every day life, ruminative tendencies and cognitive reactivity were assessed before and after intervention.

Results

Treatment completers in the MBI condition showed pronounced and significantly stronger reductions in symptoms than those in the control condition. In the MBI group only, patients showed significant increases in mindfulness, and significant reductions in ruminative tendencies and cognitive reactivity.

Conclusions

Brief targeted mindfulness interventions can help to reduce symptoms and buffer maladaptive responses to negative mood in acutely depressed patients with chronic or recurrent lifetime history.

Do animals dream?

8 Nov

The answer appears to be yes:

University of Chicago biologists Amish Dave and Daniel Margoliash looked into the brains of zebra finches and discovered something similar. These birds are not born with the melodies of their songs hardwired into the brains; instead, they have to learn to sing their songs. When they’re awake, the neurons in part of the finches’ forebrain called the robutus archistriatalis fire following their singing of particular notes. Researchers can determine which note was sung based on the firing patterns of those neurons. By piecing together the electrical patterns in those neurons over time, Dave and Margoliash can reconstruct the entire song from start to finish.
Later, when the birds were asleep, Dave and Margoliash looked again at the electrical activity in that part of their brains. The firing of those neurons wasn’t entirely random. Instead, the neurons fired in order, as if the bird was audibly singing the song, note for note. It might be said that the zebra finches were practising their songs while they slumbered.

You can find the original papers here.

Standing improves attention

6 Nov

When I work at my desk, I use a variation of the Pomodoro Technique. I set the timer app in Windows for 25 minutes and work until it goes off. Then I take a five minute “break” and do something that involves standing for five minutes. This includes reading while standing.

Here is a study that suggests that standing may improve attention. The press release from the Association for Psychological Science explains:

Their new findings lend support to recent research suggesting that the attentional stress caused by maintaining an upright posture actually improves selective attention.

 

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