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

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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Senior Dana Alliance Couple Demystifies Dyslexia

It was not long ago that dyslexia was believed to be a sign of laziness, unintelligence, or even bad vision. However, thanks to breakthroughs in research by couple Sally Shaywitz, M.D., and Bennett Shaywitz, M.D., stereotypes around the learning disorder have begun to fade.

Affecting approximately one in five people, dyslexia is characterized by a difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words, which is called decoding. Also known as a reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language. Dyslexia is not considered a disease, and its causes are neurobiological and genetic. Those affected by it can fall anywhere on a wide spectrum, and treatment involves adjusting teaching methods to meet the person’s needs.

While it has been studied before, the Shaywitzes are often credited with many of the breakthroughs regarding the disorder. Sally, 76, and Bennett, 79, are both Dana Alliance for Brain Initiative members who have been married for 55 years. Having met in 1963 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the couple now run the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and have recently updated a study they began in 1983, according to their recent profile in The New York Times.

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Explore “The Senses” Now at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian

A new art exhibit in New York City is taking an innovative approach to how our brains receive and experience sights, sounds, textures, scents, and even taste. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in the city’s Upper East Side is open to the public now through October 28 and is definitely worth a visit, no matter your age or background in science.

At “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision,” visitors are encouraged to take an active role in the various installations that test—and play with—the human body’s five classical senses. From a faux fur-covered wall that responds to touch with orchestral sounds, to wooden chairs that use patterns of vibrations to evoke oddly specific sensations (such as “getting zipped up” or “the needle on a sewing machine”), the multi-sensory experiences achieved by artists reminds guests of the brain’s powerful ability to process information.

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Running your hand along the synthetic fur—or rolling along the wall with your whole body—creates melodies by stringed instruments. The Tactile Orchestra, created by Studio Roos Meerman and KunstLAB Arnhem. Photo: Scott Rudd

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Sleep Video Wins Top Honors in 2018 Brain Awareness Contest

It’s commonly known that sleep is important for people to function, but want to dig a little deeper and learn about how it may affect the inner workings of our brains? Cue the Society for Neuroscience’s winner for the 2018 Brain Awareness Video Contest! In Bradley Allf’s video, “I Think, Therefore I Sleep,” he talks about how sleep is believed to affect our memory, function, and health, using craftsy animations and simple explanations.

SfN holds this educational and entertaining video contest every year, asking contestants from around the world to submit a short video “exploring the wonders of the brain and nervous system.”

The top three winners and one honorable mention were announced this week. Joining Allf, a lab technician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are Catherine Bird with “Runners’ High,” Guillaume Riesen with “The Funny Bone: Butt Dialing Your Brain By,” and Anna Maralit with ”Dopey Dopamine.”

Watch these four videos now and take a moment to vote for the People’s Choice winner! You have until the end of the month to cast your vote.

If you’re interested in entering next year’s contest, you can read the guidelines on this page (just scroll down).

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!

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