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The great Haruo Nakajima

22 Mar

You may not have not heard the name Haruo Nakajima, but you have undoubtedly seen his acting. Nakajima played the monster Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) in many movies. It is true that there have been many bad Godzilla movie, but the first one is a significant film. The American release with its terrible dubbing and the added presence of Raymond Burr gave viewers the wrong impression. You must see the original film as it was intended for Japanese audiences. It is a deep metaphor for the position of post war Japan and the meaning of nuclear weapons.

(hat tip to BoingBoing)

Here is the trailer for the original movie:

And, just for comparison, is the trailer for the film as it was released in the United States:

“Prevention may prove the best way to manage the dementia epidemic”

20 Mar

So argues this important piece in Scientific American (sorry, it’s behind a paywall). So far drugs that target Alzheimer’s have been disappointing. Our best evidence suggests that lifestyle interventions (exercise, improvements in diet, and cognitive engagement) really do help.

Can mice meditate?

17 Mar

Over at Deric’s Mindblog there is a post about this paper on mouse meditation! Here is the abstract:

Meditation training induces changes at both the behavioral and neural levels. A month of meditation training can reduce self-reported anxiety and other dimensions of negative affect. It also can change white matter as measured by diffusion tensor imaging and increase resting-state midline frontal theta activity. The current study tests the hypothesis that imposing rhythms in the mouse anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), by using optogenetics to induce oscillations in activity, can produce behavioral changes. Mice were randomly assigned to groups and were given twenty 30-min sessions of light pulses delivered at 1, 8, or 40 Hz over 4 wk or were assigned to a no-laser control condition. Before and after the month all mice were administered a battery of behavioral tests. In the light/dark box, mice receiving cortical stimulation had more light-side entries, spent more time in the light, and made more vertical rears than mice receiving rhythmic cortical suppression or no manipulation. These effects on light/dark box exploratory behaviors are associated with reduced anxiety and were most pronounced following stimulation at 1 and 8 Hz. No effects were seen related to basic motor behavior or exploration during tests of novel object and location recognition. These data support a relationship between lower-frequency oscillations in the mouse ACC and the expression of anxiety-related behaviors, potentially analogous to effects seen with human practitioners of some forms of meditation.

Here’s the Indian version of the Mickey Mouse show:

Improvement at any age

15 Mar

This interesting piece in The New York Times argues:

When athletes train consistently, recover smartly and get a little lucky, there’s no physiological reason their bodies should fall off a cliff in their 30s.

(…)

From following physiology literature and spending time around late-career elite athletes, I was already well aware that old dogs can both learn new tricks and slow the rate at which they lose old ones.

In honor of Pi Day

14 Mar

By the way, I am much more impressed by someone who recites pi with eyes closed than by someone wearing a blindfold, since blindfolds can be easily gimmacked.

Does vagal nerve stimulation explain mind-body interventions?

13 Mar

In yoga, pranayama means breath regulation, and refers to a set of breathing techniques. The always interesting Dr. Greger has posted a video suggesting that the effects of breathing on the vagus nerve may explain the effectiveness of yogic pranayama and other mind body interventions.

Ben Carson on memory

10 Mar

By all accounts Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is a talented neurosurgeon. But he seems to be surprisingly ill informed about modern memory science:

…on Monday, he told a factually wrong parable about the brain. Specifically, Carson said, the brain was incapable of forgetting and could be electrically stimulated into perfect recall — a statement that, even though made by one of the most famous former neurosurgeons alive, was far more fiction than science.

It came in an anecdote meant to motivate the federal employees, a bit Carson developed on the public speaking circuit. He described the brain’s surprising power as a way to show the audience that they were more capable than they believed.

Except his description did not hit the mark. “It remembers everything you’ve ever seen. Everything you’ve ever heard. I could take the oldest person here, make a little hole right here on the side of the head,” Carson said, circling his left temple with a finger, “and put some depth electrodes into their hippocampus and stimulate. And they would be able to recite back to you, verbatim, a book they read 60 years ago. It’s all there. It doesn’t go away. You just have to learn how to recall it.”

Here’s the story in the Washington Post.

The insinuation that Carson could zap a patient into reciting, from cover to cover, a book read in 1957 was not true, experts said.

“Using electrodes placed in the human brain to implant memories or to recall forgotten memories is simply not possible at this time,” Darin Dougherty, a psychiatrist and the director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s neurotherapeutics division, told Gizmodo.

Dan Simons, a University of Illinois psychologist who studies attention and memory, told Wired that Carson’s claim was “utter nonsense.” Simons said it failed on nearly all counts: Humans cannot recall large swaths of text unless memorized for that purpose. Doctors cannot force patients to remember anything in crystal detail, even with deep brain stimulation. No human brain holds within it “a perfect and permanent record of our experiences,” the psychologist said.

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