How Our Brains Respond to Gratitude

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means that along with spending time with our families and overeating turkey and side dishes, many of us will think at least a little bit about what we are thankful for in our lives. Whether that be our aforementioned families, our careers, our educations, or something more tangible such as the discounted items we can buy on Black Friday, the holiday unofficially requires us to gives thanks for something before we dive into the mashed potatoes. Is there, however, something more to giving thanks than simply assuaging grandma at the dinner table?

As it turns out, there is. Studying the effects of gratitude on the brain is nothing new–studies on the topic seem to have begun in the early 2000s–and the results appear to remain consistent regardless of the methodology used. In short, having gratitude has positive effects on us psychologically and neurologically, so we should probably try to be more thankful throughout the year instead of waiting for November. Continue reading

Nerd Nite Returns to NYC

caveat logo.JPGThe good folks over at Caveat, New York City’s lounge for “intelligent nightlife,” have once again managed to provide knowledge-seekers an evening of fun and discovery through stimulating presentations, this time under the Nerd Nite banner, hosted by Matt Wasowski.

As the organization’s curator and self-proclaimed “Big Boss” Wasowski was quick to describe Nerd Nite as “the Discovery Channel with beer”—an accurate analogy for their cross-discipline presentations that take place in bars in over 100 cities around the world. The performance at Caveat included three presentations for the evening.

Each speaker brought with them a different topic and different flow to the evening, some more humorous and some more solemn. Brice Particelli, Ph.D., and Chris Cummins both provided amusing, food-for-thought talks on stage, discussing how creationists successfully use genre to promote “alternative” facts and trying to untangle exactly how the cultural marvel of “The Fonz” came to pass.

In a presentation with more gravitas, guest speaker Jay Stahl-Herz, M.D., a forensic pathologist and medical examiner, offered the audience a sobering look at the opioid epidemic currently ravaging America, using an informative and (at times) devastating presentation to elaborate on the drug overdose crisis. Continue reading

Scouts Healthy Brain Initiative: Order Your Patches!

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Girl Scout Troop #72, Nashville, Tennessee, 2018

Are you involved with the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts of America? If so, the order form for the Scouts Healthy Brain Initiative Fun Patch is now available! Scout leaders within the United States and Canada can now order up to 50 patches for their troops.

The Scouts Healthy Brain Initiative aims to bring the topics of neuroscience and brain health into Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop meetings. Planning a fun-filled educational activity can be as easy as using some of our downloadable materials from the Dana Foundation site, including puzzles, games, fact sheets, and lesson plans. Inviting a neuroscientist or other brain health professional to speak to troops is another great way to participate in this initiative. Troop leaders can also teach their scouts how to be become an advocate for brain health and neuroscience research. To earn their patches, the only requirement is that Scouts learn about the brain! Continue reading

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!

Testing Teenagers and Examining Stress

Headshot-BlakemoreExams can be nerve-wracking to even the most prepared. In England, a roller coaster of emotions has been on display as the nation’s series of grueling public exams, the General Certificate for Secondary Education (GCSE), were proctored earlier this summer. The highly anticipated test grades were finally made public last week, and while the unveiling of the results may have brought about much-needed relief for some, the pressure and preparation needed to do well for others branded the two-year journey with a relentless villain—stress.

The anxiety-inducing exam was the focus of a thought-provoking article in The Guardian that featured Dana Alliance member Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University College London and author of Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain. The self-described champion of teenagers touches on the rash timing and the dread of the exams endured by the 15- and 16-year-olds during a period that she says is critical in a developing brain. From the interview:

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