Final Brain in the News of 2018

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Photo from the December issue of Brain in the News. Image: Shutterstock

If you’re a subscribed reader of Brain in the News, you should have the final issue of the year in your mailbox by now (if you’re a loyal reader from outside of North America, please allow a couple extra days for delivery).

This year Brain in the News underwent a few changes, while maintaining the foundation of the publication as a trustworthy collection of news articles about the brain. We hope you enjoy the new layout as much as we do. It features a new “Bits and Pieces” section made up of facts and figures about the brain, neuroscience throughout history, top-rated brainy books, and our “honorable mentions” of internet news stories, “Brain on the Web.” The paper also includes a new “Stay Healthy” section, which highlights different wellness tips each issue and offers guidance on small things we can all do to protect our brains.

Another feature we are especially excited about is a new neuroethics column, written by former deputy editorial page editor of The New York Times Phil Boffey. Boffey, who also served as editor of Science Times, will continue delivering his monthly columns on different topics that analyze ethical dilemmas around brain-related news. You can read his latest column on the opioids crisis on the Dana website.

To highlight a story featured in our December issue, the subject seems appropriate as many of us go into the new year with revitalized goals and resolutions.

The US Dept. of Health and Human Services issued updated recommendations of the federal government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to help people ages three and up improve their health. The article we featured by National Public Radio (NPR) sums up the new guidelines and its importance:

While it’s true that sitting for prolonged periods is bad for your health, the good news is that we can offset the damage by adding more physical activity into our days … With a few exceptions, the advice in the new guidelines is not so different from what we were told in the 2008 guidelines. But here’s the trouble: Only about 20 percent of Americans meet them.

This alarming lack of physical activity is not only detrimental to our health, it is linked to $117 billion in annual healthcare costs, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The NPR story continues with key takeaways from the new guidelines:

The new guidelines marshal a growing body of evidence that documents immediate benefits of exercise such as reduced anxiety, improved sleep and improved blood sugar control, and long-term benefits (of regular physical activity), including cognitive benefits, and significantly lower risks of heart disease and certain cancers.

So, how much physical activity do we need? On this point, the new guidelines haven’t changed: Adults need a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity.

One way to think about this: Aim for at least 22 minutes of movement a day. You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym or take up jogging. Pick any activity that gets your heart rate up, including walking. In addition, the guidelines call for adults to do muscle-strengthening activity on two or more days a week.

The full story can be found on their website.

Brain in the News is the only Dana Foundation publication that cannot be found online. We try our best to serve as many members of the public as we can, including those who may not have access to computers or the internet, or those of you who just like a good page to turn. It is free, and subscribing is easy.

If you’re already a subscribed member, don’t forget to fill out our Reader Survey to help determine the future of this publication.

Thanks to all our readers for your enthusiasm about our publication and the brain!

– Seimi Rurup

New High School Neuroscience Curriculum

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Image: Shutterstock

A neuroscience curriculum for high school students has found a home on The Franklin Institute’s new website dedicated to the brain. Educators looking to generate excitement about brain science with an eye towards the field’s societal implications can now access the expertly reviewed—and free—resource.

The curriculum, developed jointly by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience & Society and The Franklin Institute, is a cohesive blueprint of instructional material designed around teenagers’ everyday decisions as they enter adulthood. The website describes the units as roughly two-week-long sections that can be offered as a semester-long course or as stand-alone components that can be incorporated into existing courses. Continue reading

Brain Awareness Week 2019 is Coming

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) 2019 (March 11-17) is only three months away, so it’s time to start planning your BAW activities and taking advantage of the resources we offer on the BAW website! Every March, BAW, the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, unites the efforts of partner organizations worldwide in a week-long celebration of the brain.

During BAW, partners organize fun and fascinating activities in their communities to educate and excite people of all ages about the brain and the promise of brain research. From brain fairs to symposiums to classroom visits and film screenings, the variety of events is almost endless.

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Brainy the Robot has been making the rounds during events organized by the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania since 2010.

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New Report Finds Current Strategies Insufficient for Preventing the Most Preventable Cause of Mental Illness

Guest blog by Brenda Patoine

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Image: Shutterstock

Childhood maltreatment is recognized as the No. 1 preventable cause of mental illness – and some experts argue, of all stress-related diseases – yet science still has no clear answers for how to best prevent the spiral of neglect and abuse that threatens millions of infants and children in the U.S. alone.

In a report published this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF), a U.S. Public Health Service committee charged with recommending action to thwart preventable health conditions, conceded that there was “insufficient data” to recommend any particular strategy that has been tested as a means of preventing childhood maltreatment, which encompasses neglect as well as physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. Preventive interventions initiated in primary care focus on preventing maltreatment before it occurs, as opposed to identifying children who are victims of abuse or neglect. Continue reading

BrainWorks: Exploring the Brain-Computer Interface

At the end of the day, computers and brains share at least one trait. On a very basic level, both use electrical currents to send messages and commands to accomplish certain tasks. Understanding exactly how that process works within our brain and how it relates to computers may be key for researchers and doctors when it comes to helping various types of patients.

Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D., is back with another BrainWorks video to help educate children on how our brains and computers can talk to each other and why this is an important area of research. Chudler, the executive director for the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington, won a Northwest Emmy Award last year for his BrainWorks video “Exercise and the Brain,” and this new video in the series, “Brain-Computer Interface,” is just as informative and entertaining.

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