National Book Lovers Day

CerebrumPool

Enjoy your copy of Cerebrum poolside. Available for purchase on Amazon.

Maybe it’s from years of school-encouraged summer reading lists, but this season always ignites a desire in me to read more books and to ask friends for recommendations. And it just so happens that August celebrates National Book Lovers Day–today! For fellow book lovers, and particularly those who want to learn more about the brain, I can point to some Dana Foundation resources that offer suggestions.

Cerebrum, our monthly online journal of timely ideas in neuroscience, has an accompanying podcast and a yearly printed anthology, but did you know it also publishes quarterly book reviews? Recently reviewed books include Howard I. Kushner’s On the Other Hand: Left Hand, Right Brain, Mental Disorder, and History, Matthieu Ricard and‎ Wolf Singer’s Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neuroscience, and Alan Alda’s If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating. All reviews are written by neuroscientists with an understanding of the chosen topic.

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Try Some Brainy Pages for National Coloring Book Day

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Image: Shutterstock

Coloring and coloring books have been a popular activity among children for many years and has even re-emerged as a trend for adults. Not only is it fun, coloring can be relaxing and a great way to reduce stress, among other benefits. Today is National Coloring Book Day, and what better way to celebrate than by spending time with your friends, children, grandchildren, or by yourself to sit back and color?

 

Among its many free downloadable materials for kids and adults, the Brain Awareness Week section of our site features a new series of coloring sheets based on the five classic senses: sight, taste, sound, smell, and touch. While these pages are geared for young children, everyone is welcome to fill them with color and learn a thing or two about how the human body receives sensory information.

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Coloring and drawing also have their cognitive benefits: Reward pathways in the brain become active during art-making activities. A team of researchers at Drexel University published a study last summer that found making art resulted in stress reduction and increased positive emotions. The team used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) imaging to measure blood flow in the brain while participants took part in various art-making activities.

“The prefrontal cortex is related to regulating our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is also related to emotional and motivational systems and part of the writing for our brain’s reward circuit. So seeing increased bloodflow in these areas likely means a person is experiencing feels related to being rewarded,” the study’s authors report.

If you’ve already printed our coloring sheets on the senses and want more, you can download today’s National Coloring Book Day pages for free here. There are also coloring book parties happening at public libraries, museums, and wellness centers all over the US! To share your completed work on social media with fellow colorists, use #NationalColoringBookDay.

– Seimi Rurup

Is Chocolate Good for the Brain?

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It’s World Chocolate Day, and what better way to justify indulging in the sweet treat than by reading about its potential health benefits.

A number of studies have pointed to the possible health benefits of flavanols, naturally occurring compounds found in dark chocolate and cocoa that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In 2017, Frontiers in Nutrition published a review of the ways they may benefit human brain function, which is also summarized by Harvard Health Publishing in one of their blogs:

  • Short-term consumption may be helpful. For example, a 2011 study of young adults found that two hours after consuming dark chocolate (with high flavanol content), memory and reaction time were better than among those consuming white chocolate (with low flavanol content). However, other similar studies showed no benefit.

  • Long-term consumption may be helpful. One 2014 study found that among adults ages 50 to 69, those taking a cocoa supplement with high flavanol content for three months had better performance on tests of memory than those assigned to take a low-flavanol cocoa supplement.

  • Several studies demonstrated evidence of improved brain blood flow, oxygen levels, or nerve function as measured by imaging tests or tests of electrical activity in the brain after the consumption of cocoa drinks. But because these changes were not routinely associated with improved performance on cognitive tasks, it’s hard to connect the results directly to better brain function.

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Public Event: Managing Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Neurodegenerative Disease

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Neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, aggression and psychosis are frequently found in patients with neurodegenerative disorders. These symptoms increase the already significant burden of neurodegenerative diseases and complicate diagnosis and disease management, yet effective diagnostics and treatments are lacking.

Towards the goal of reducing this burden, this symposium will review state-of-the-art methods in the diagnosis and behavioral and pharmaceutical management of neuropsychiatric symptoms across a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases. Speakers will address the challenges of defining neuropsychiatric symptoms in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, present findings regarding emerging diagnostic biomarkers and novel therapies, and discuss current estimates of associated societal and economic costs. A closing panel discussion will identify strategies to reduce these costs for patients, caregivers, and society.

Call for Abstracts

Abstract submissions are invited for a poster session. For complete submission instructions, please visit this online portal. The deadline for abstract submission is Friday, April 27, 2018.

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Missouri Student Takes Top Prize at USA Brain Bee

The winners of the USA National Brain Bee Championship were announced after taking place in Baltimore, Maryland, during last week’s Brain Awareness Week. Akhil Kondepudi from St. Louis, Missouri, took home the first-place prize at the annual, three-day competition, held this year from March 16 to 18. Competition was fierce as the 54 participants each placed first in their respective regional Brain Bee competitions, held across the country. (We covered the New York City Regional Brain Bee back in February.)

NBB 2018 Photo of Founder Myslinski with Champion
Akhil Kondepudi with International Brain Bee Founder Norbert Myslinski

The national competition tests high school students on a range of topics covering all aspects of neuroscience, including intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, neurodegenerative diseases, schizophrenia, addictions, and the senses. The competition involved a neuroanatomy laboratory practical exam with real human brains, patient diagnosis with patient actors, neurohistology, brain MRI imaging identification, and Q&A.

In addition to a monetary prize, Kondepudi was awarded an eight-week internship in a neuroscience lab and will represent the US at the World Brain Bee Championship this July in Berlin. A donation was also given to the Disabled American Veterans organization. Second-place went to Hemanth Asirvatham of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and third-place was awarded to Sehej Bindra of Piscataway, New Jersey. This is the 11th consecutive year for the National Brain Bee Championship. Congratulations to all participants!

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