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I’m sure you know your brain works better following exercise?
A team of researchers in Ireland made this discovery through a relatively simple experiment. They asked a group of students to watch a rapid lineup of photos.
Each photo included a name and face of a stranger. Then, after a brief break, the students tried to recall the names of the faces that had moved across the computer screen. After this initial test, half of the students were asked to ride a stationary bicycle at a strenuous pace until they reached exhaustion. The other half of the students sat quietly for 30 minutes. Then both groups took the test again to see how many names they could recall.
The group of students who exercised performed much better on the memory test than they had on their first attempt. The group who simply sat in another room did not improve. As part of this experiment, the scientists also collected blood samples, through which they discovered a biological explanation for the increase in recall among the students who exercised. Immediately after the strenuous activity, students in the exercise group had much higher levels of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which promotes the health of nerve cells.
So make some time daily, weekly for that walk, work-out, run, hike etc.
LSD and other psychedelics have an uncanny ability to dissolve reality tunnels and facilitate psychedelic ego death, which can be highly beneficial.
LSD and other psychedelics are powerful medicine for the mind, and goodness knows the Western psyche has a deep sickness embedded within it. Our health and the wellbeing of the environment continue to suffer from preventable causes such as stress, over consumption, and resource depletion, all underpinned by the narrative that this is “normal” and that visions of a better, healthier way are unrealistic. We’re largely addicted to fast food, fossil fuels, and entertainment, yet at the same time, share a deep and murky sense of unease that perhaps this way of life is neither sustainable or fulfilling. This is the world created by the ego —the sense of personal and social identity that is propped up by long stories of justification — and it is the favorite target of psychedelics like LSD, which love to shatter realities and let you know, in cathartic and sometimes terrifying ways, that everything you know is wrong. And this can be a very good thing, if you’re ready to hear the message.
What Are Reality Tunnels?
Psychedelic advocate Timothy Leary described this ego-generated perception of self and the world as a “reality tunnel.” As one of LSD’s earliest and most committed adopters, he was among the first to have his own reality tunnel ripped apart by psychedelics, revealing its existence much like a fish comprehending water for the first time after being pulled out of it. It’s no surprise that Leary and subsequent psychonaut philosophers like Robert Anton Wilson honed in on the concept of reality tunnels as essential to understanding the value of psychedelics, because it dovetailed perfectly with other new understandings that were coming to the fore in the 20th century such as yoga, radical changes in arts and music, dissatisfaction with conventional culture, and mistrust of corporate and government power.
Psychedelics like LSD dissolved these propped-up realities and made it clear that life and our perception of it has infinitely more potential than commonly thought, revelations that were supported by millennia-old Eastern philosophy and evidenced in the incredible force behind the cultural revolution of the 60s.
Leary’s message and the explosion of psychedelics in the 1960s affected Western culture much like an LSD trip would affect someone not ready to take it. Things got kind of weird and scary, and with one foot over the threshold of our reality tunnel, we decided as a society to take two fearful steps back and shut the door, convincing ourselves that what we briefly witnessed was dangerous nonsense. But times are changing, and the abyss is beckoning us to move towards it once again, this time more slowly and carefully. Today, we are ready to take the dose with the right set, setting, and intention.
The Science of Psychedelic Ego Death
Fast forward to the 21st century, and today we have new scientific understandings of what psychedelics are and how they influence our brain and psyche. Plunging off the diving board out of your reality tunnel with LSD just because you can is rightfully considered reckless by today’s psychedelic advocates, and instead we are honing in on the therapeutic applications of this medicine and understanding how exactly it’s neurological magic works. While the approach has become more careful and nuanced, the goal remains essentially the same- to harness the incredible power of psychedelics and integrate the lessons they have to teach us in a lasting way.
A recent groundbreaking study on LSD by Imperial College London and the Beckley Foundation is a shining example. Using advanced brain imaging techniques, they were able to see which parts of the brain became active under the influence of LSD, allowing researchers to better understand the psychedelic experience. Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris who lead the experiment explained:
Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialised functions, such as vision, movement and hearing — as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.
A unified brain is more free to make associations that are not commonly made, like how the foods we choose to consume effect geopolitics, or how a recurring conflict you have with your spouse stems from a childhood trauma. These unveilings allow subconscious unease to be brought to light and released, and they make way for the larger ultimate realization that we are not bound to any of our egoic thought-patterns other than by our habitual reinforcement of them. The reality tunnel we live in is malleable, and we are free to choose at any time to change its shape and scope. Psychedelics can be properly understood as a medicine to assist in this process, with the ability to target very harmful thought patterns such as those that underlie PTSD and addiction.
Dr. Harris also went on to describe the relationship between LSD and ego death:
Our results suggest that this effect underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during an LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call ‘ego-dissolution’, which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world. This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way — and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug’s effects have subsided.
At the End of the Tunnel
Leary would certainly be happy to see this research being done, and one would hope, embrace the present-day resurgence of interest in psychedelics with science and therapy at its head rather than overt cultural revolution. What is clear is that he was right about LSD’s ability to break down reality tunnels and the immense benefits that can come from such an act. Slowly but surely, this work for the advancement of psychedelic studies that Leary and all psychedelic researchers and advocates are part of is expanding and altering the course of our shared reality tunnel, and that is a very good thing.
Psychotherapists and other experts are harnessing the transcendent power of psychedelics to treat mood disorders…
Implication for cancer: the group of scientists from PrincetonUniversity admitted that
the current aggressive approach to cancer treatment has largely failed.
According to a molecular biologist Susan M. Rosenberg and colleagues like Robert H. Austin, a physicist at Princeton University, organisms have evolved mechanisms that enable them to drive their own evolution in times of stress. Environmental pressure can boost mutation rates rapidly, even in cells that are not dividing, enabling them to adapt more quickly to new conditions.
Organisms under stress have a higher mutation rate…
…Austin says his experiments suggest that
putting too much stress on cancer cells by hitting them with high doses of cancer drugs could accelerate their evolution to develop drug resistance
Instead, he is culturing cancer cells on his death galaxy to find the right low-dosing and timing of cancer drugs that keep the cancer cells from spreading without killing them—hopefully delaying the evolution of resistance as long as possible.
At least in an ovarian cancer model in mice, the approach seems to work. In 2009, Robert Gatenby, a radiologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, and his colleagues reported that interrupting, or down-adjusting, therapy as long as the tumor volume didn’t increase prolonged survival in these mice compared with the standard aggressive regimen.
If you give them standard high-dose therapy, the tumor can almost completely go away and then come back very rapidly and be resistant,
If you use an adaptive approach, we can consistently get control of the tumor.
Gatenby is now testing the approach in a 40-patient open clinical trial in patients with late-stage prostate cancer….
If the brain could brag that’s pretty much all it would do. It’s easily the most complicated organ in your body, and, more than that, the nimblest computer that has ever existed. But the brain has a bug and everyone knows is: memory. No matter how powerful its operating system becomes, its storage system stinks.
Even in childhood, when the brain is as clear and uncluttered as it will ever be, memory is still imperfect, given to random failures, depending on how rested we are, how attentive we’re being and a range of other things. Now, a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests an unusual strategy for improving it: drawing.
As long ago as 1973, investigators were studying the memory-boosting advantage of so-called dual-coding—the way that a combination of both thinking about an object or activity and drawing a picture of it can make us remember it better. Research did show that the strategy worked, but the studies were both sparse and flawed, failing to account for the mere fact that it takes longer to draw a picture than, say, write a word, and whether writing the word in a more time-consuming way—using elaborate calligraphy, for example—would thus boost recall too.
In order to tease out those and other variables, a group led by psychologist Jeffrey D. Wammes recruited sample groups of students and ran seven different trials of essentially the same experiment on them. In all of the trials, the scientists started with a list of 80 simple words—all nouns and all easy to draw, such as balloon, fork, kite, pear, peanut and shoe. A random series of 30 of those words were flashed on a screen along with instructions either to draw the object or write down its name. After the 30 words, they would perform a filler task—listening to a series of tones and identifying whether each was low-, high-, or medium-pitched. That task had nothing to do with the study, except to get the subjects’ minds off of what they had just done, so that the memories could either consolidate or, just as often, vanish. Finally, they would write down a list of as many of the objects from the first test as they could.
In most of the trials, the subjects got 40 seconds to draw their picture, but in one they got just four seconds. In another variation, they would draw the object or write the word or, as a third option, list its descriptive characteristics. In another, the third option would be to visualize the object. In yet another, they would write the word as elaborately and decoratively as possible.
But no matter how many variations of the test the researchers ran, one result was consistent: Drawing the object beat every other option, every single time.
We observed a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written. Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn words.
said Wammes in a prepared statement.
Just why this is so is not clear. One past theory had been that drawing requires what the researchers call a deeper LoP—or level of processing. But the trial in which the subjects were required to list the characteristics of an object went pretty deep too, and it didn’t make a difference. Another theory had been that drawing simply takes longer, but the four-second trial appeared to debunk that.
For now, Wammes and his group are speaking only generally, concluding that drawing encourages
a seamless integration of semantic, visual and motor aspects of a memory trace,
as they wrote in their paper. It will take more work to put flesh on those theoretical bones. For now, however, they only know that the technique works—providing a long-awaited software patch for the computer inside your head.
Matthew Scult is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. More about his research and writing can be found at http://www.matthewscult.com or follow him on Twitter @NeuroMatt1
My heart pounds as I sprint to the finish line. Thousands of spectators cheer as a sense of elation washes over me. I savor the feeling. But then, the image slowly fades away and my true surroundings come into focus. I am lying in a dark room with my head held firmly in place, inside an MRI scanner. While this might typically be unpleasant, I am a willing research study participant and am eagerly anticipating what comes next. I hold my breath as I stare at the bar on the computer screen representing my brain activity. Then the bar jumps. My fantasy of winning a race had caused the “motivation center” of my brain to surge with activity.
I am participating in a study about neurofeedback, a diverse and fascinating area of research that combines neuroscience and technology to monitor and modulate brain activity in real time. My colleagues, Katie Dickerson and Jeff MacInnes, in the Adcock Lab at Duke University, are studying whether people can train themselves to increase brain activity in a tiny region of the brain called the VTA. Notably, the VTA is thought to be involved in motivation—the desire to get something that you want. For example, if I told you that by buying a lottery ticket you would be guaranteed to win $1,000,000, you would probably be very motivated to buy the ticket and would have a spike in brain activity in this region of your brain. But while studies have shown that motivation for external rewards (like money) activate the VTA, until now, we didn’t know whether people could internally generate a motivational state that would activate this brain region.
(But we definitely will not hurt ourselves trying. I, for instance, always practice 5-10 min of watching (do not read as it is my main activity during a day and it is useful to switch for something else) visual stimuli related to my dream achievements every 2-4 hours while work. It always gives me energy to carry on. Always! It just works. End of story! That’s why I can easily work 12-15 hours a day being inspired and motivated – (OMP editor’s comment)
To see if people can self-activate the VTA, my colleagues are using neurofeedback, which falls under the broader umbrella of biofeedback. Biofeedback uses technology to give people information about the functioning of their bodies so that they can try to change their physiology. Studies on using the technique to control heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature have been around since the 1960s, and these types of biofeedback are often used to help people reduce anxiety, chronic pain, or psychological disorders, with varying degrees of efficacy.
The latest iteration of biofeedback is neurofeedback, which provides a person with information on their brain activity milliseconds to seconds after it happens. Neurofeedback can use either an EEG machine, which records the electrical activity of the brain and is very fast, but not very specific, or it can use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which records changes in blood flow in the brain and can better target specific brain regions, but is slower. The fMRI version of the technology has been around since as early as 1995 and its potential is slowly being realized. Studies on rtfMRI (the rt stands for “real-time”), have found that giving people feedback on their brain activity might be able to help them to control that activity. These studies both help us to better understand the functioning of the brain and can be used for clinical purposes. Perhaps the most common use to date has been for chronic pain, where people learn to decrease activation in regions of the brain that process pain perception. [For more information about neurofeedback see “How Real-Time Brain Scanning Could Alleviate Pain,” by Heather Chapin and Sean Mackey; Scientific American Mind, March 1, 2013.]
The study I’m participating in is about using the technology to better understand the functioning of the VTA and its relationship with internally generated motivation, with potential for clinical applications down the road. In animal models, artificially affecting functioning of the VTA can affect how much an animal eats or drinks, and can even affect its emotional responses. If people could learn to activate their VTAs deliberately, it could have important applications to anything from helping someone stick to a diet to helping with psychological disorders.
Back in the fMRI, I lie on the uncomfortable scanner bed, looking up at the giant machine that reminds me of something I might encounter on a spaceship. Katie Dickerson’s voice comes over the intercom and gives me suggestions of ways to try and activate my VTA. She says I could try to think of phrases, like “you can do it!” or “increase that signal!” and says that it might help to think of the task as a fun game. So I think “I can do this!” but to my dismay the bar remains pretty flat. I think about winning $1,000,000, but don’t get much of a jump for that either. Then I picture myself running with a cheering crowd and music playing, and the bar goes through the roof.
For the study, participants were placed in one of four groups. All four groups started out by getting in the scanner and trying to activate their brains using motivation strategies, but first without receiving any feedback. After doing this for several minutes, people in the first group (like me) would try again, but this time would see a thermometer on the computer screen in front of them. When activity in the VTA went up, the bar on the thermometer would rise. When activity in the VTA went down, the thermometer would drop. The other groups either got feedback from a different brain region, got fake feedback, or were shown a visual distraction. These groups were used as comparisons to ensure that it really was the signal from the VTA that was being registered in the neurofeedback group. Afterward, all four groups tried one more time without the feedback (real or fake). At the end of the study, all participants were debriefed about their group assignment and the purpose of the study.
The results were published recently in the journal Neuron. It turns out that the strategies people tried initially did not activate their VTAs very much—the same experience I had. In other words, what people thought of as motivating did not match up with activity in what we consider to be the “motivation center” of the brain. How could that be? One possible explanation is that it can be difficult to get a sense of just how motivated we are to do something. Consider times when you might have thought you were highly motivated (“I know I am going to stick to my diet/exercise regimen this year”), and didn’t follow through. Another interpretation is that while we might have some sense of how motivated we are in a given moment, our subjective perceptions might not translate to VTA activation. There might not even be a clear feeling associated with the activation at all, explains MacInnes. That’s where the feedback came in.
The study found that, like me, people were better able to activate their VTAs, on average, once they got neurofeedback compared to people who got false feedback or no feedback. And the learning stuck—once people knew the strategies that worked for them, they were effective even once the feedback was taken away. Overall, different strategies worked for different people and some people in the control groups were still able to activate their VTAs even without the neurofeedback. The take-home message is that there is still a lot to learn.
Perhaps the biggest unanswered question is what could result from an ability to better activate one’s VTA. One possibility is that internally generated VTA activation could allow people to have the extra oomph to better meet their goals. So maybe when I need to do errands, but am really not in the mood, I can think about winning a race and it will give me the drive to go to the grocery store. For others, enhanced VTA activation might be able to help with studying. After all, studies have found VTA activation associated with better memory performance. And given other studies showing VTA signaling being related to eating and mood, it’s possible that it could help people with eating disorders or depression. Time will tell whether this method will be useful clinically, but for now I can say for certain that it can be a lot of fun getting to know your brain—and for me at least, it seems that having fun is one of the keys to activating my VTA.
Music is a powerful tool for the brain. Classical music has been studied for many years for its influence in the brain. Scientists have come to a conclusion that music is a valuable therapy for many diseases.
Norman Doidge has talked about Mozart music therapy in his book. He says it is a very useful therapy for Autism. Other studies have proven that music therapy is helpful in stress reduction and improvement of literacy skills in children.
Music has a harmony and frequency. These two attributes are important for the brain. The brain likes to hear certain frequencies at certain moments. When we are happy we can hear loud music and enjoy it. When we are angry we only accept to hear certain frequencies. Experiments show that in angry moments we like to hear classical music as it calms the brain down. It is very interesting to see the brain scans before and after listening to music, and the way they change. In a brain scan the red areas are the ones with a higher blood circulation, that show more stress. When a person listens to music these areas are reduced.
In his book Norman Doidge says that Mozart music can improve the symptoms of Autistic children. He mentions a physician who uses Mozart music as a therapy for healing Autistic children. He changes the frequency of the music a bit to make it more approachable to his goal. The therapy lasts and in certain days children listen to a certain frequency.
The frequency that the brain likes to hear the most is 90Hz to 110Hz. Norman Doidge thinks this therapy can be used for many brain illnesses as anxiety or depression.
The music therapy helps to make the myelin cover in n axon thicker, which helps to improve the firing of neurons faster, and releasing all toxins. After the therapy the scans of the brain showed that there was small amount of stress and anxiety and the person’s brain was healthier.
In conclusion music is a therapy for the brain. It helps the brain be more efficient. It helps the literacy and auditory skills in children if they are exposed to music in early years of their life.
I recently attended an all day event at the USC Campus, specifically at the USC Davis School of Gerontology to learn about the latest science on healthy aging from several of the world’s top aging experts. I feel inspired to share with you all what I learned. Many of you may have come across the information that I am about to share, but in case you have not, it’s never too late to learn something new!
1) One of the “hottest” question presented was “Does caloric restriction extend lifespan?” Answer: only sometimes. But if you compare a low fat diet versus a Mediterranean diet (which includes nuts and olive oil), the Mediterranean diet wins! It was shown to prevent cognitive decline and heart problems.
2) Sitting is the new smoking! Incredible to believe but the more hours you spend sitting on a daily basis decreases your health span. It is important to use your break time to get away from your workspace. And if you don’t get any breaks? Get up and take a walk to the bathroom every hour or two. Sitting can cause a multitude of heart problems, whereas smoking can cause lung problems/lung cancer. I guess you pick and choose your poison, or avoid them altogether.
3) Ovaries removed after normal menopause lessens a woman’s risk for dementia. Ovaries removed before normal menopause increases a woman’s risk for dementia.
4) A low protein, high carbohydrate diet is recommended for everyone below 65 years of age. Once you reach 65 and older, moderate (not low!) protein intake is recommended.
5) If you want to live longer and spend your later years without getting a disease or being disabled in any way, adhering to a plant based diet that includes high levels of legumes, vegetables and healthy fats (olive oil, other monounsaturated fats, nuts) is recommended. Waist goals for men to have should be less than 40 inches, and less than 35 inches for women.
6) Take care of your teeth! Get regular dental checkups! Edentulousness (having no teeth) is directly related to nutritional issues and health problems.
7) Watch the BBC video: The Men Who Made Us Fat.
8) Recommended weight loss programs are: weight watchers and TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).
9) Create your own individualized diet/meal plan that takes into consideration your age, gender, weight, and activity levels.
Half of your brain may be staying awake to keep watch when you sleep in someone else’s bed…
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or having a sleepover, you never sleep quite as well on a bed that’s not your own.
That’s an observable fact. When scientists have people sleep in a lab for an experiment, they often toss out the first night of data because people sleep so poorly. But before now, they haven’t known why.
In a small new study published in Current Biology, researchers from Brown University found out what goes on in the brain when a person sleeps in an unfamiliar place. They measured brain activity during the deep sleep of 35 young, healthy people.
The researchers found evidence that something unique indeed goes on in the brain during the first night: one hemisphere of the brain, the left, shows wakefulness while the other shows sleep.
This alertness during sleep in half of the brain has been observed in other animals—including whales, dolphins and birds—and is thought to act as a kind of night watch.
“The environment is so new to us, we might need a surveillance system so we can monitor the surroundings and we can detect anything unusual,”
says Masako Tamaki, one of the authors of the study and research associate at the Laboratory for Cognitive and Perceptual Learning at Brown University.
We’re most vulnerable when we’re asleep, in other words, and by staying partially awake, our brains might be trying to protect us.
Our brain remain active when we sleep. researchers also found that when they outfitted the people in the study with earphones, the left side showed a larger brain response to high-pitched sounds than the right—suggesting more vigilance in that hemisphere.
The study raises a lot of unanswered questions; researchers don’t yet know why they saw this effect in the left hemisphere and not the right. But interestingly, both of these asymmetries only occurred on the first night—something to keep in mind the next time you can’t fall asleep in a strange place.
After we reach 30 we generally get more clarity about ourselves, other people and the world around us. We start leading a fuller life, and have deeper, more stable and enduring feelings… For many people, life assumes a different hue, and experiences are more colourful, and in a sense, more vivid – even more ‘real’. This concentration of the sense of being alive can be equated with a deliciously thick hot-chocolate or, if you prefer, sipping a wine of the finest vintage. Everything enters a new, more advanced stage. Everything, that is, aside from our physical selves.
It has been proven that thirty is the age at which all bodily processes begin to change. Before that time we can easily gain muscle, and be extremely lean without too much effort. After thirty, we gradually become aware of having to buy larger clothes sizes, and our first wrinkles and grey hairs begin to appear. Unfortunately our beach holidays can also become far less fun as a result. As we approach middle age we increasingly become what we ‘eat, do, and read’.
Sarcopenia (skeletal muscle degradation with age) is an inevitable process. Our body become limited in its protein synthesis and utilization abilities as soon as we cross the thirty-year threshold. According to Runners World research, once people reach thirty they lose, on average, about 15% of muscle mass every 10 years. Our metabolism naturally slows as well. Another important point is that the human body never really loses anything without some sort of compensation. Lost muscle tissue is replaced by fat. It is exactly for this reason that we become chubbier with age.
Fat gain and metabolic slowdown are the natural consequences of age, which brings us to a point where we have to run ‘twice as fast as we can’. Don’t panic though. Awareness is the first step toward success. “A healthy and active 60 year old can have the muscle mass of a 30-year old, while a sedentary middle-aged person who eats a primarily processed food diet and struggles with insulin resistance or diabetes may have the muscle quality of a 70-year old”, sais Dr. Mercola, a physician and blog contributor to Fitness Peak.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid age-related muscle degradation, and keep yourself energised, fit and healthy after the age of thirty, and for the rest of your natural life.
Hormones determine harmony
“Other factors, such as age-related changes in circulating levels of muscle anabolic hormones and growth factors, must also be considered as contributing mechanisms underlying the sarcopenic phenotype” – Alex Hatchinson, nutritionist and physician, and contributor to Runners World.
We primarily age as a result of hormonal and biochemical changes. Some endocrinologists believe that production of the human growth hormone (the hormone responsible for cell formation, regeneration, and general recovery) already starts to decline after the age of 25. Muscle loss and excessive fat formation could be the first symptoms of GH (somatotropin) deficiency. Somatotropin is a prescribed drug and available in any pharmacy. However, its use as a supplement requires extensive research, and should only be taken under medical guidance and supervision. But there is some good news. When taken together, widely available amino acids such as l-Arginine, l-Lysine, and l-Ornithine, act as GH’s precursors and theoretically increase natural somatotropin production. The right supplements in the correct dosages, taken with other requisite healthy nutrients, vitamins and minerals, could postpone aging and have a tremendously positive effect.
Estrogen and testosterone are two other important youth hormones. As long as the body can produce them in adequate quantities to support the reproductive process, youth and beauty will be maintained. When estrogen and testosterone production is suppressed by certain factors such as incorrect contraceptive methods, stress, overload, lack of sleep or irregular sex, malnutrition, and so on, the body’s aging processes accelerates. I am not going to cover this highly complex topic within this particular article as it worth looking at separately, and in more depth, another time. Perhaps only one tip can be given: be attentive to your wellbeing and private life. Sufficient rest, inner peace, regular physical activities, sex, and balanced nutrition are the key factors to maintain hormonal health and youth. Consult your physician and nutritionist if you have any pressing questions on the subject.
Build the body in advance of ageing
Anabolism (muscular development and maintenance) gets more complicated after thirty, reinforcing aging and resulting in metabolic slowdown and fat gain. However, a recent study by the National Center of Biotechnology Information showed that “(even) mobility-limited subjects between 70 and 85 managed to add an average of 1.3% to their lean mass after six months of high-intensity resistance training and protein supplementation”.
So, don’t miss the opportunity to start building your muscles as early as possible while your hormones are working at their peak and supporting high anabolic muscle response. Remember, the earlier you start the longer you last. Include 3-4 sessions of resistance training such as weights lifting, Pilates, TRX, pole dance, or body pump classes into your fitness routine. Don’t forget about taking supporting supplements to quicken your recovery, and to help create precious muscle tissue to overcompensate for inevitable aging muscle loss.
Magic youth bullets
First and foremost, I would like to say couple of words about whey protein (WP). I’m asked every day by my clients and friends if it is worth taking whey supplements. The answer is an unequivocal YES. I add 1 scoop of high-quality, vanilla-flavoured, whey protein into my morning oats and take two more after my evening workout, mixed with simple carbs such as fruit or maltodextrin and BCAA into my traditional post-workout shake. According to research conducted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, “whey protein supplementation may augment resistance levels and boost exercise-induced increases in muscle strength and mass”. So don’t miss your shake. It will help you to recover more quickly and to retain your muscle mass.
Now, let me shed some light on whey manufacturing processes, as this question is very sensitive to a majority of health-conscious people. According to research conducted by the Imperial College MBA Group Consulting project for GST Nutrition, certified whey protein available on the US and the UK markets is made of the same best and cleanest MPC-80 (milk protein concentrate) and MPI-80 (milk protein isolate) as various high quality baby formulas (I personally took part in this research at the end of my MBA program). Also, the majority of premium WP’s are suitable for people with lactose intolerance and vegetarians.
Another beneficial substance massively helping to postpone aging muscle degradation is BCAA complex. Branch Chain Amino Acids is a combination of three naturally occurring essential amino acids Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine, that make up over 35% of overall amino acids concentration in muscle tissues. Research shown that under conditions of stress, injuries, intense exercise and after the age of thirty, the human body requires up to a four times higher consumption of BCAA to maintain positive nitrogen balance. For more detail, read: How much protein should be eaten.
The International Sport and Science Association recommends an intake of BCAA of up to 6 grams a day depending on a range of factors including the physical condition, age, body weight and composition, and gender, of the subject. The type and level of their physical activity is also important, as are their general lifestyle choices. It is also recommended that BCAA is taken 30 minutes before and directly after meals, and throughout the day together with meals, to maximize its value for the body.
One more important group of substances helping to postpone aging muscle sarcopenia and related derogative processes, are antioxidants. Vitamin E, Omega3, Selenium and Choline are just at the top of a long ‘must take’ list of antioxidants. Read about antioxidants in another upcoming article How to keep your fleeting youth (magic pills and herbal rhapsody) and consult your nutritionist to calculate best dosages for your needs.
Glucosamine Chondroitine is one more necessary ingredient in the process. Read How to keep the fleeting youth (magic pills and herbal rhapsody) for more details.
Another suggestion in this topic of discussion is, surprisingly, don’t run! Stop crushing your joints and back bone, and torturing your veins. Moreover, long steady state cardio sessions exacerbate muscle degradation turning your body’s green light to sarcopenia even more. Everyday Health noted that “aside from the toll it (running) can take on your knees and joints, recent reports of things such as “runner’s face” and ‘dead butt syndrome’ could send some running devotees sprinting in the other direction”. Great alternatives to running could be light jogging, hiking, spinning, horse riding, skiing, water skiing or sprints (my personal second-favourite year-round activity, after the delights of seasonal skiing). If you are a gym lover, the rowing machine, curve, climbing ladder or lively aerobics/dance/body combat classes are all super solutions.
Do not forget to hydrate the body taking at least a glass of water 30 minutes before, during and after a session. Keep it sweaty, and have as much fun as you can.
The statement “You are what you eat” is even more valid after you hit thirty. If before that your body was able to metabolize almost all the rubbish you consumed, after your thirtieth birthday the picture really changes. Now five minutes of food indulgence can stay permanently lodged in your tummy or thighs. So take care of your body, and do yourself a favour by hiring a competent nutrition advisor.
Flexibility is another area to focus on. Allocate 10-15 minutes for stretching after any fitness activity. It will increase the blood flow to your muscles and will help to reduce joint and ligament load.
Stress, overload and constant tissues hypoxia (lack of fresh air) are few other important factors that quicken the aging process. A good eight hours of sleep, regular holidays, meditation, 15 –minutes of active rest every 2-3 hours during the day, and decent fresh air exposure (at least 1 hour daily) will help tremendously in the tough fight to retain your youth. Read Dream and Walk the youth back.
Exploring the myth of the Scientific vs. Artistic Mind
It’s a stereotype, but many of us have made the assumption that scientists are a bit rigid and less artistic than others. Artists, on the other hand, are often seen as being less rational than the rest of us. Sometimes described as the left side of the brain versus the right side–or simply logical thinking versus artistic creativity–the two are often seen as polar opposites.
Neuroscience has already shown that everyone uses both sides of the brain when performing any task. And while certain patterns of brain activity have sometimes been linked to artistic or logical thinking, it doesn’t really explain who is good at what–and why. That’s because the exact interplay of nature and nurture is notoriously difficult to tease out. But if we put the brain aside for a while and just focus on documented ability, is there any evidence to support the logic versus art stereotype?
Psychological research has approached this question by distinguishing between two styles of thinking: convergent and divergent. The emphasis in convergent thinking is on analytical and deductive reasoning, such as that measured in IQ tests. Divergent thinking, however, is more spontaneous and free-flowing. It focuses on novelty and is measured by tasks requiring us to generate multiple solutions for a problem. An example may be thinking of new, innovative uses for familiar objects.
Studies conducted during the 1960s suggested that convergent thinkers were more likely to be good at science subjects at school. Divergent thinking was shown to be more common in the arts and humanities.
However, we are increasingly learning that convergent and divergent thinking styles need not be mutually exclusive. In 2011, researchers assessed 116 final-year UK arts and science undergraduates on measures of convergent and divergent thinking and creative problem solving. The study found no difference in ability between the arts and science groups on any of these measures. Another study reported no significant difference in measures of divergent thinking between arts, natural science and social science undergraduates. Both arts and natural sciences students, however, rated themselves as being more creative than social sciences students did.
Going With the Flow
Studies have actually revealed considerable overlap in the cognitive processes supporting both scientific and artistic creativity. The psychological concept of “flow”, pioneered by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in the 1990s, describes a state of consciousness where one is completely absorbed and energized while performing an activity. Flow experience has been strongly linked to peak performance in many artistic and creative domains.
There is also substantial overlap in the use of visualization and mental imagery during scientific and artistic thinking. Great scientists such as Albert Einstein, Michael Faraday and Nikola Tesla all reported that they used mental imagery when describing their thought processes. Studies have also found that mental imagery plays a central role during the construction and evaluation of many scientific “thought experiments”, in which a scientist mentally assesses the implications of a particular hypothesis.
Perhaps more obviously, such mental imagery also features strongly in musical composition, painting and architectural design. The Power of Stereotyping
Convergent and divergent thinking abilities aren’t necessarily innate. A recent study on creative stereotypes asked individuals to complete a divergent thinking task while adopting the perspective of either an “eccentric poet” or a “rigid librarian”.
Those who imagined being an “eccentric poet” performed significantly better on the creative task than those who imagined being a “rigid librarian”, suggesting that the activation of stereotypical views on creative thinking can enhance or inhibit individuals’ performance.
Despite such preconceptions of the ways in which logical and unstructured thinking styles are related to creativity, it is not difficult to find examples of individuals who do not fit the stereotype. Albert Einstein was a keen musician who enjoyed playing the piano and violin while Nobel Prize-winner Richard Feynman worked as an artist using the pseudonym “Ofey”. Musicians Brian May, Brian Cox and Greg Graffin all completed science PhDs.
Case studies of scientists engaging in art and vice versa are often presented as being unusual. However, psychologists recently conducted a comprehensive review of the extent to which Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, members of the Royal Society and US National Academy of Sciences, and members of the US public reported engaging in arts and crafts-based pursuits. They found that members of the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences were almost twice as likely to report engaging in arts and crafts pursuits as the general public. Eminent Nobel laureate scientists were almost three times more likely to report such activities.
These findings clearly show that the stereotypical view that scientists and other logical thinkers are less likely to be artistic or creative fall wide of the mark. As Einstein himself noted: “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”