Adjusting Sleep Schedules for School

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I dread the first day of school. It isn’t that summer vacation is ending, or that my kids are growing up too fast—I dread waking them up and getting them out the door, especially that first morning. Then I read about California’s amendment SB 328, also known as the “Start the School Day Later” bill), that “would require the school day for middle schools and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 am,” and thought a later start time may be the answer! No more yelling, begging, or pleading with my kids to start getting back on a schedule in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Instead, we’ll listen to the scientific evidence about how a later start time may improve students’ academic performance and mental health. Easier said than done.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens need about nine to ten hours of sleep each night. But the changes that occur in adolescence can make it difficult for them to fall asleep, meaning they tend to not be in bed before 11 pm. Adolescents are more alert in the evening, “likely because melatonin, which causes sleepiness, is secreted later,” usually around 9 pm. As a result, those levels are still high in the morning, which may explain why 60 percent of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 15 percent even said they fell asleep at school during the year. Continue reading

Dissecting Why We Laugh

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Laughter is one of the many reflexes that humans—and some other species—have, much like sneezing, shivering, or yawning. However, unlike most reflexes, laughing seems to serve no biological purpose, making it a mystery to psychologists and neurologists alike. Lawrence Ian Reed, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor at New York University, set out to answer why we laugh at “What’s So Funny? The Science of Humor and Laughter,” a program hosted by Think & Drink Different NYC.

Reed, who studies facial expression, emotion, and cooperation, explained that laughter is literally an inability to breathe normally, but the physical reaction feels good even though the person laughing is gasping for air. Since something pleasurable is in and of itself not necessarily a function, psychologists use reverse engineering to try and figure it out, which basically means taking humor and laughter apart and looking at its components and features to determine how and why it works. Continue reading

International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting in Chicago, Oct. 17-18

Guest blog by Elaine Snell, Chief Operating Officer of INS

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Mapping Neuroethics: An Expanded Vision is the theme for this year’s Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) in Chicago, October 17-18. What do we mean by “expanded vision?” The term implies bringing in people from different cultures who have either not been part of the neuroethics discussion so far, or have not been heard.

There’s the promise of what neuroscience can deliver not only to help people with neurological and psychiatric disorders, but also to better understand the( healthy brain. With this new knowledge comes big questions on how best to capture the benefits while minimizing the risk of misuse or inappropriate use. Those questions and solutions will vary from continent to continent.

The scientific program of the Annual Meeting is bold, with greater emphasis than ever before on inclusivity, diversity, and culture. There will be a series of panel discussions on the following topics, where opinions and expertise will be shared between the speakers and audience:

Ethics and the Imprisoned Brain

Techniques for altering inmates’ brains are being developed to rid prisons of what Anthony Burgess called ‘the ultra-violence’, creating an urgency for the criminal justice system to deal with the ethics of biological approaches and other neuro-interventions for incarcerated persons. Continue reading

New Grants to Increase Public Interest in Brain Science

IBRO_Dana_BAW_2020The International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and the Dana Foundation are excited to announce the launch of their partnership on new annual grants to increase opportunities for outreach and awareness campaigns in regions challenged by a lack of resources, support, and/or public understanding about the brain. Up to $1,250 (USD) will be awarded to each selected project organized for Brain Awareness Week in countries outside of Europe and North America.

Aiming to effect change at the grassroots level, we hope that the chosen projects will generate interest within local communities through engaging activities and topics relevant to their particular concerns and contexts. While it is not a requirement that the proposed projects take place during next year’s Brain Awareness Week (March 16-22, 2020), they must run under the title of the global campaign.

Applications are now open for Brain Awareness Week projects taking place in 2020, so don’t miss this opportunity to join us and inspire the world about the brain! The deadline for both grants is August 9, 2019 (11:59 pm CET). For full details on how to apply, visit the IBRO website.

Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. Every March, partners host imaginative activities that share the wonders of the brain and the impact brain science has on our everyday lives.

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