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What is MSG: Everything you need to know about this flavor enhancer

What is MSG and what is it used for? What is the relationship between MSG and the fifth flavor or umami? Should we avoid this flavor enhancer? In this article we explain everything about monosodium glutamate: With what other names this food additive is known, what foods contain it, its relationship with obesity, the Chinese restaurant syndrome, and we give you some advice.

What is MSG

You may have heard the word glutamate somewhere, but do not know very well what it is, or what it means. Sometimes we even get information of how bad it is but have no idea why. For example, we hear about the effects of foods with glutamate in our body. In this article, we will develop what you need to know about this amino acid.

What is MSG or monosodium glutamate? This substance, also known as MSG or sodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (one of the most abundant essential amino acids in nature). MSG is a food additive, which provides the same “umami” flavor that we can find naturally in some foods. Chemically, they are the same. The food industry uses and commercializes monosodium glutamate as a food additive or “seasoning” to enhance the flavor of some foods.

MSG, by itself, does not have a pleasant taste. It is necessary to complement this substance with other foods so that it can enhance, harmonize, and balance the flavor of certain dishes, making them more appetizing.

What is MSG in foods? Monosodium glutamate combines very well with different foods: Meats, fish, vegetables, soups, sauces and contributes for these to have a more pleasant taste.

This additive has been considered non-toxic and safe if consumed in normal quantities. However, there seems to be a group of people who manifest symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea or diarrhea, when they consume foods prepared with MSG.

What is MSG and its relationship with “umami” or fifth flavor?

We all know the basic flavors of taste (sweet, bitter, salty and acidic). Well, in addition to these, we have to include the umami, the taste of monosodium glutamate. For many it may sound like something new or strange, however, it was identified as a flavor by Kikunae Ikeda in 1908.

This scientist investigated algae rich in umami and managed to isolate one of the components of these algae, MSG or Monosodium Glutamate.

“Umami” in Japanese, means “delicious” or “deep flavor” because, after eating it, the flavor remains in your mouth. In fact, it has such a pleasant taste that it encourages to continue eating more of that product.

  • We can learn to identify MSG taste by concentrating on the center of our tongue. The biologist Charles Zuker, determined in 2001 that the largest number of taste receptors specific for this taste are there, in the center of the tongue.

Surely, you have eaten foods that had this characteristic flavor, but since we do not have this word in our vocabulary, we simply describe it with either a “mmmm” or  “wow this is so tasty!” You may even have tried some pre-cooked food or bag snacks and commented, “I don’t know why but I can not stop eating it!”.

Even if you stop to think about it, there are various commercials, which indirectly allude to the properties of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). They bet that “you won’t resist just eating one” or they warn you, suggestively, that “once you pop open the bag, you won’t be able to stop”.

What is MSG and what other names does it have?

Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor enhancer that appears on food labels in different ways. This amino acid receives different names, such as:

  • E-621
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Self-leavening yeast
  • Hydrolyzed casein
  • Hydrolyzed corn
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
  • Proteins
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Citric acid
  • Partially hydrolyzed whey
  • Hydrolyzed milk protein

What is MSG and what food contains it?

There are many other foods that contain monosodium glutamate added to generate this flavor and increase its consumption. We could consider it a sort of “trick” of the food industry to raise its income, increasing the demand for these “succulent snacks”:

  • Appetizers, fried foods, snacks
  • Cold meats and sausages
  • Pâtes
  • Olives, pickles, pickles …
  • Pre-cooked food
  • Instant soup
  • Frozen food
  • Prepared sauces and soy sauce
  • Junk Food (frozen pizzas, kebabs, hamburgers …)

What is MSG ?- MSG effects?  Relationship between MSG and obesity

Should you avoid MSG? After reading this article, the next time you go to the supermarket you will start reading the labels and you will find that MSG is everywhere in its E621 form.

Glutamate can affect us negatively when we exceed a certain intake. However, this is like with everything. If you exceed in eating fruit it can be negative for your health as well. Nothing is good in excess, therefore it is advisable to limit consumption.

Try not to get too caught up on this. It’s true that there is a relationship between MSG and overweight, but it doesn’t mean that monosodium glutamate is directly fattening. MSG’s relationship with obesity is as follows:

Consume high processed foods like snacks, junk food, pre-cooked food, etc:

  • One of the main characteristics of this type of food is that it is loaded with sugars and trans fats, which in turn make us feel not satisfied nor full. Apart from these additions, we might guess that MSG is also added to the mix, to make it more flavorful and increase our intake of the product. Thus, Monosodium Glutamate contributes indirectly to weight gain, but it isn’t alone. What really fattens us is the consumption of hypercaloric foods, especially if it is part of our regular diet.
  • Lack of self-control: There are people who are more controlled at mealtimes than others. As much as a food carries MSG and your brain asks you for more, we are owners of our actions. Therefore, it is up to us, and only us, to decide to eat only a portion or less. This is highly related to impulsive behaviors and the immediate gratification of a desire or need.

What is MSG and its relationship with Chinese food?- Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

What is MSG- Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

You may have heard about how Chinese food or products used can be detrimental to your health. Some things you have heard will be rumors or speculations. However, there is something that is real.

These restaurants have become common to produce certain symptoms that have been labeled part of the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”.

Something I want to clarify before is that these symptoms are a consequence of free-form amino acids.

  • Origin: It was first described by Dr. Kwok
  • Beginning: Appearance around 15-20 minutes of starting a meal prepared with MSG.
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Symptoms:
    • Cervical hardening with pain radiating to both arms and back.
    • General weakness
    • Palpitations
    • Headache
    • Sickness

Dr. Taliaferro undertook an analysis of the situation in the Journal of Environmental Health, stating: “All competent international agencies agree that the normal and controlled use of Monosodium Glutamate does not pose a health hazard”.

The Committee of Experts on Food Additives of the World Health Organization,  Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Community, and the American Medical Association have expressed this on different occasions. Even the demanding US FDA has classified Glutamate as generally recognized as safe or GRAS substance in the same group as salt, pepper or sugar.

“There is no scientific evidence establishing that glutamate causes, in particular, severe adverse reactions or that  reactions from low concentrations pose a threat “- US FDA

What does this all say? There are people who are more vulnerable or sensitive to MSG. The best thing is to do is to control consumption and not eat large quantities of food containing this product.

What is MSG-Recommendations

Health seems to be the key to the survival human beings. We aim for stability, good habits, superb cognitive skills, physical and brain training routines and a balanced diet. With MSG it’s the same, to be healthy just try to consume it with moderation and always within a balanced diet.
On the other hand, knowledge is power and, with food, it is very important to know what you are eating. We have already seen what other names MSG has on labels, therefore, it is your decision if you want to ingest it or not.

Anyway, these are our conclusions. You can contribute more information if you like. What do you think? Have you suffered any of the Chinese restaurant syndrome symptoms? Have you ever heard of Monosodium Glutamate? Do you know any myths or truths about this amino acid? Just remember are what we eat.

As always, I invite you to comment below!

This article is originally in Spanish written by Patricia Sanchez Seisdedos, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Self-control: Learn what it is and how to handle it to succeed

Do you feel that your lack of self-control prevents you from achieving your goals? Do you feel that you can’t handle your anxiety or anger? Do you have problems controlling your emotions, thoughts, or impulses? Would you like to improve your self-control or that of someone you love? If your answer is yes, this article on what is self-control, techniques to improve self-control might interest you.

Self-control

What is self-control?

Self-control is the ability that allows us to control our emotions, our impulsive behavior, and impulses,  allowing us to reach our goals and objectives. Self-control is necessary to successfully perform most of the facets of our life, such as studying, working, educating, maintaining our relationships.

We could say that self-control is like a thermostat whose function is to maintain our balance and stability, both internally and externally. When it works properly, it helps us control the impulses and desires that keep us from our goals. For example, if you want to pass an exam, you need to stay at home studying. For this, you must control the impulse to go out and see your friends. Another example would be to tell your boss everything he does wrong and how he causes you job stress but in order to keep your job, you need self-control.

The importance of self-control

It has been proven that people with high self-control are often the most successful people in life. Researchers found that people with greater self-control may have brains that function more efficiently. This suggested that those with self-control may have extra willpower because it takes them less effort to exert it.This is due to the influence emotions have on the decision-making process and how they also guide our behaviors, impulses and our lives.

The problem is that when we want something, we need to get it right away. When we don’t get it, we stress and experience negative emotions, making it difficult for us to handle our emotions or control our anger.

Self-control, therefore, is a complex cognitive process that requires the presence of other previous skills in order to develop. More specifically, before we can develop our self-control, we need to: Learn to identify our emotions, to understand them, and then to be able to control and regulate them, and with that, regulate our behavior. This gives you control to own your decisions, behaviors, and impulses, by this you will be able to decide how, where and when to channel them. In addition, we must learn to cope with other interfering aspects such as stress created by negative emotions and thoughts, which makes it much more complicated.

Difference between repression and self-control

It is important to keep in mind that self-control and repression are not the same, and are commonly confused. Self-control requires awareness of the emotions, understanding them and acting accordingly to manage and control them. On the other hand, when we talk about repression, we are referring to hiding the emotions, to eliminating them, not paying attention to them, and waiting for them to disappear as if by magic, which won’t happen.

Here is an example for you to better understand what we mean: “You are feeling angry and you think that you would hit anything that was within your reach, but you can’t do it at that moment and you must control yourself”. For this, you can follow two paths:

  • Self-control strategy: To become aware of what you are feeling, accept it, and try to create an opposite emotion through strategies such as the evocation of quiet memories, or distracting yourself with anything that reduces the intensity of the emotion. This helps reduce your impulses and increase your self-control.
  • Repression strategy: Tighten your fists, without being aware of what is happening to you, and think constantly about hitting something until it would be destroyed.

The difference between the two terms is evident, just as the effects each generate. For this reason, in this article, we not only want to teach you not to let yourself be driven by your impulses but also to manage them properly.
If an emotion, such as anger, becomes trapped inside us, without being able to understand and regulate it, that anger and fury will take over our thoughts and behaviors. It will make us irritable making it very difficult to reach our goals. Instead, if we can control the anger we feel at a given moment, our mood will change, making it easier for us to achieve our goals.
Here are the key steps that will help you improve your self-control. This is not a simple task, which is learned in a day but requires patience, effort, dedication and time to develop.

Self Control: Identifying your emotions

As we have been saying throughout the article, the key to handling our impulses lies in the control, understanding, and management of our emotions and thoughts.

The problem is that on many occasions we are not aware of the repercussions that this can have when managing or controlling our impulses. We run the risk that our emotions and thoughts take control of our behavior, moving us further away from our goals. Let’s not forget that our emotions are also related to the quality of the decisions we make each day.

For this reason, it is important that we learn to identify our emotions and become aware of them. If we succeed, we will have taken the first great step towards our self-control. We can say that there are two types of emotions: Primary emotions and secondary emotions.

  • The primary emotions are universal (joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise), and most people are able to identify them without much trouble. We know their physical manifestations perfectly and what they mean when we feel them. For example, when we are happy our body seeks positive experiences, and when we are sad, our body disconnects.
  • Secondary emotions are more difficult to identify, as they are a result of several primary emotions, and their manifestations are not as obvious and clear.For this reason, it is necessary that you identify all your emotions and know what effect they have on our thoughts, behaviors and physical manifestations.

For this reason, it is necessary that you identify all your emotions and know what effect they have on our thoughts, behaviors and physical manifestations.

Once you have learned this, you will be able to understand what happens to you every moment and act accordingly. You will be able to have self-control, reduce intense emotions and handle and regulate the “negative physical waste” that certain emotions leave behind, such as anxiety. For example, anxiety arises from the combination of fear and guilt or shame. If we experience anxiety, we will be able to identify those thoughts that cause fear, guilt or shame, and we can work to change them. Thus, instead of not being able to control it, abandoning the first attempt and doing something that we don’t want, we can reduce the emotion, and successfully overcome the situation.

Self-control

Self Control: Learn to control your emotions

As we have been saying throughout the article, emotions play a strong role in self-control. If we can manage them, we will be able to control them, and therefore, we will be able to increase our self-control. Here are some tips to improve your self-control:

Identify and define the emotions you are feeling.

To do this, you can use a technique that I call “personal emotion book“. When you are in a situation that makes you feel an emotion that you find difficult to control, fill out the following questions in a small notepad:

  • What is the name of the emotion that I just felt?
  • What is the name of the emotion that I just felt?
  • What physical manifestations does it produce?
  • What thoughts did I have?
  • How have I dealt with the situation?

Writing this down will help you internalize it. In addition, you will have the possibility to consult it when you consider necessary.
On the other hand, it can also help you document all the different emotions that you experienced and how they manifest. Therefore, later you can compare with other emotions that are harder to identify.

Comprehend the emotions that you are feeling

To do this, you can use a technique that I call “Unravel the Enigma“. This should always be done when the “Personal Emotion Book” technique has been done previously.

In your notebook you will:

  • Make a list that includes the different circumstances that might have caused an emotion, and try to identify the one that triggered the emotional reaction.
  • Try to think what purpose did the emotion have and why did it appear.
    Think thoroughly about the whole experience and try to comprehend and accept it.

Regulate your emotions

This is the last step to achieving self-control. The task is to find other activities or ways to reduce emotional states and symptoms. It is about finding what you do well to regulate your emotions and your behaviors. Some tricks to regulate intense emotional states are

  1. If you find it difficult to create thoughts and emotions that compensate for the pain caused by an impulse that can’t be satisfied, one of the main tricks is to distance yourself from the situation. Try to distract yourself from it and it will be easier for you to reduce the stress it generates. For example, you can go out for a walk, or leave the place for a few minutes, until you feel ready to face it.
  2. Test yourself. Each experience is a good opportunity to learn to improve your self-control. Try to be aware of what happens inside you and around you in the different situations of your life. Pay attention to the different results you get by acting differently in several situations. You can similar chart to the one below and fill it for each situation.Make small records that reflect the situation that caused the emotion, what you thought and how you acted. This will help you identify those dysfunctional responses, and create new alternatives.
  3. Finally, it is very important to be patient, and that you understand that this is not an easy task, so you should not be frustrated while trying.
Self-control chart

If you follow these steps you will become closer to achieving self-control. This will help you develop a more balanced and happy life because remember that your happiness depends on the way you interpret and face reality, and that is something that is only in your hands.

Finally, I leave you with a video about self-control and long-term and short-term goals that could be very useful.

I hope you find this article useful. Feel free to leave a comment below!

What Is Brain Freeze: Why we get it and ways to avoid it

Summer is finally here. It’s time for ice-cream! YAYYYY!!!! Woops I got carried away and ate mine too quickly. Now I have a brain freeze! Hold on, why is my brain suddenly in pain if there are no pain receptors in the brain itself? Keep reading to find out what is brain freeze, why does it happen and how can we avoid it?

Brain Freeze

What is Brain Freeze?

Brain freeze, also commonly known as ice cream headache, is commonly experienced during the summer. However, it doesn’t have to be. A brain freeze, in simple terms, is a sudden onset of an extremely intense headache that also ends very quickly. Brain freezes are often associated with the consumption of cold foods and drinks, such as ice cream, iced coffee, and so much more. There are plenty of reasons why people get brain freeze, but there are also plenty of ways to stop it once it’s happening as well as strategies to avoid it for the future!

What Causes Brain Freeze?

Ice-cream headaches are caused by cold material moving across the warm upper palate (roof of the mouth) and the back of your throat, such as when you eat a popsicle quickly or gulp your milkshake. It normally happens when the weather is very hot, and the individual consumers something too fast.

Scientists are still unsure about the exact mechanism that causes this pain. Research conducted by Dr. Jorge Serrador, at Harvard Medical School, explained that until now, scientists have not been able to fully understand what causes brain freeze.

“The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. It’s fairly sensitive to temperature, so [expanding arteries] might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm” -Jorge Serrador

The team of researchers recruited 13 healthy adult volunteers. They were asked to sip ice-cold water through a straw so that the liquid would hit their upper palate. Blood flow in their brain was monitored using a Transcranial Doppler test. They found that that the pain associated with ice-cream headaches were brought on by a rapid increase in blood flow through a major blood vessel into the brain – the anterior cerebral artery. As soon as the artery constricted, the brain-freeze pain sensation wore off.

The brain itself does not feel pain because there are no pain receptors located in the brain tissue itself. This is why neurosurgeons can operate on brain tissue without causing a patient discomfort, and, in some cases can even perform surgery while the patient is awake. The pain associated with brain freeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two arteries meet.

Brain freeze can affect anyone. But previous studies revealed that you may be more susceptible to ice-cream headaches or have more-severe ice-cream headaches if you’re prone to migraines. Because of this, neuroscientists think the migraines and ice-cream headaches might share some kind of common mechanism or cause, so they decided to use brain freeze to study migraines.

Headaches like migraines are difficult to study because they are unpredictable. Researchers are not able to monitor a whole one from start to finish in the lab. They can give drugs to induce migraines, but those can also have side effects that interfere with the results. Brain freeze can quickly and easily be used to start a headache in the lab, and it also ends
quickly, which makes monitoring the entire event easy.

Analyzing brain freeze may seem like silly science to some, but it’s actually very helpful in understanding other types of headaches. Here is a video summary on what causes brain freeze.

How do we get brain freeze?

1.Consuming something cold in a warm climate.

Our bodies go through homeostasis, the mechanism to return a body back to its comfortable condition, often. Brain freeze is another form of homeostasis. Our bodies don’t like an extreme change in temperature, ever. In addition to being in a warm environment, our bodies internal homeostatic temperature rests around 98.6. Meaning, you can experience brain freeze in both warm and cool climates. So, when we eat something very cold, our brains and our bodies go into a form of shock, and brain freeze is the immediate response that happens as a means to tell you to stop eating whatever you’re eating.

2.Having something cold touch the top of your palate.

As explained before, our brains can’t actually feel pain. What can feel pain, however, are our cranial nerves or nerves in general. It is believed that there are nerves connected to the roofs of our mouths that when cold touches them, the natural nerve response is the swelling and shrinking of blood vessels. As you could imagine, when something swells and shrinks this can cause a form of pain that mimics the pain that people feel when they have a throbbing headache.

3.Genetics

You may be reading this article and thinking, “I’ve never experienced brain freeze even though I’ve done these things”. As it turns out, that is actually normal! There seems to be a huge genetic predisposition for people to get brain freezes if they are predisposed to getting migraines as well. If you get brain freezes and ask your parents if they do as well, it is very likely that both of your parents will tell you that they experience brain freezes as well. Unfortunately, there is no way to help with this factor, but there are ways to stop your brain freezes when they do occur!

How do you to stop a brain freeze once it has commenced?

1.Raise your tongue to the top of your mouth.

Unsurprisingly, since a brain freeze often occurs because your palate is too cold, pressing your tongue to the top of your mouth will heat it up, alleviating brain freeze faster than if you did nothing.

2.Put your thumb on the top of your mouth.

Shocking! This is the exact same reason that one would suggest for you to put your tongue on the top of your mouth. However, sometimes you’re when eating something cold your tongue can also get cold, thus making it harder to warm the top of your mouth. Your finger is most likely warmer than the inside of your mouth and will help instantaneously!

3.Tilt your head back for at least 10 seconds.

This trick does not consistently work for everyone, but for some people, it’s a great strategy! A change in your blood flow around your brain area can often help with the fast alleviation of discomfort. This strategy is less embarrassing to do in public so you may want to see if this is a good strategy for you!

4.Cover your mouth and nose with your hands and breathe quickly.

This will create a somewhat instantaneous warm environment for you to breathe into and it will warm the top of your mouth extremely fast. Sort of like when you’re in snow and your natural reaction is to cover your mouth with your hands. This trick will work for a brain freeze as well!

5.Spit out whatever you’re eating or drinking.

This one definitely doesn’t need an explanation, but getting rid of the problem will, obviously, get rid of the problem!

6.Take a short walk.

If you take a short walk (or a long walk, if you’re in for it!) you will catalyze blood flow all around your body. This will additionally send some added blood flow to your brain, which will alleviate the discomfort that you are feeling as a result of brain freeze. Don’t stay seated, perhaps do some jumping jacks! Any form of movement will actually help and speed up the recovery time.

7.Drink a drink that’s warmer than your cold food or drink.

Just like your brain didn’t appreciate you quickly changing your temperature by eating or drinking an extremely cold food or drink, it won’t love it if you drink a piping hot drink either. So, drink a room temperature drink to will help warm up the top of your palate but not make your body go into shock.

8.Give yourself a massage in the area that hurts.

Not everyone experiences brain freeze in the exact same areas. So, depending on where you’re feeling pain, if you rub or put pressure on that area, it will actually release some of the tension in that area. It’s sort of like when you rub a sore muscle. This in fact also works for headaches!

9.Waiting.

Okay, this may not be the most helpful tip. However, just as a brain freeze is a sudden onset of the discomfort you experience, it also goes away relatively quickly. So, if you just suck it up for a little bit, it will go away before you know it. Maybe distract yourself in the meantime so you’re not completely focusing on it. Other than that, do the other suggestions mentioned above!

Brain Freeze

How to prevent a brain freeze in the future?

1.Eat/drink slower!

It is often the speed in which you are drinking or eating that causes your brain freeze, not only the temperature of what you’re drinking. The slower you drink, the less shock you’re giving to your palate and the more likely that you can just experience the typical experience of consuming something cold.

2.Don’t drink cold drinks through a straw.

Straws make people drink must faster than if they’re drinking from a cup. So, for the same reason that you’re supposed to drink slower, try to not use a straw to help yourself slow down in the consumption of your drink.

3.But if you are going to drink through a straw, aim the straw to the side of your mouth.

This is another strategy for you to miss your palate when you’re eating. Anything that you can do to consume something without touching your palate is going to make it that much more likely that you won’t experience brain freeze.

4.Eat cold items without touching the food to your palate.

This is extremely logical as the cause of brain freeze is from the cold touching your palate. So, if you can figure out a strategy to eat or drink and miss your palate, you’re going to be good to go! Enjoy your meal without worrying about the uncomfortable effects of brain freeze.

5.Take smaller sips or bites.

If you haven’t realized by now, the common theme here is eating or drinking your cold item less quickly. So, by taking smaller sips or bites, you will make it more likely that you won’t eat or drink as quickly as you would’ve otherwise.

6.Stand by a refrigerator or something else that’s cold before eating or drinking.

As it was mentioned earlier, people are more likely to experience a brain freeze when they are in a warm climate. So, if your body is as cold as the drink you’re drinking, you’re a little less likely to get the brain freeze that you would on a beach. Although this is not always the most practical solution, it is another one!

7.Keep your drink in the front of your mouth for a while before you swallow.

As weird as this sounds, this will actually warm up your drink and not hit your palate when it’s at its coldest temperature. If you really want to enjoy the flavor of your cold drink but can’t endure the pain you get from brain freeze, this is a perfect preventative measure for you!

All in all, the biggest takeaway is that brain freeze is an extremely unpleasant and painful sensation for those of us who experience it. Luckily, even without these strategies, brain freeze doesn’t often last more than a minute. But, using a different plan of action to avoid brain freeze will help extremely. Especially since those of us that experience brain freeze, myself included, also experience migraines. Although migraines are much worse and there’s medication to help with that issue, there is no reason for anyone to experience brain freeze! Our bodies are extremely smart and evolutionarily adaptive for having brain freeze, but every logical person knows they shouldn’t be drinking something that is really cold too fast. Check out more things that can be migraine triggers.

So, just think about the pain you will inevitably experience when drinking a cold drink and use these tactics to make your life less difficult! Now that you’ve got the best tips, you’re ready for the summer. Enjoy! Feel free to leave a comment below.

References

Blatt MM, Falvo M, Jasien J, et al. Cerebral vascular blood flow changes duringbrain freeze‘ FASEB Journal. 2012;26:685.4

How We Listen: Is It Just The Ears That Play A Role?

We listen with our hands, not only our ears. Some researchers even suspect we may listen with our hands and other body parts too.

We listen

Ever been in a car and a good song pops on the radio and before you know it your fingers are tapping to the rhythm of the music without you even noticing? Ever felt compelled to clap at a certain part of a song because it follows the beat?  We could say that we listen with our hands. Listening happens thanks to our auditory perception that allows for sounds to be processed by our ears.

Julian Treasure made a short Ted talk explaining how we listen and what can we do to listen better.

However, it is possible that we listen with other body parts.

We listen with our hands

Cognitive research and scientists managed to get solid evidence that the sensorimotor systems are involved in language processing. This suggests that comprehending verbal descriptions of actions rely on an internal simulation of the described action.

Several scientists decided to see if this was true. They got a group of people, ages ranging from 18-34-year-olds, to participate in a study. The scientists prepared thirty-five action words into affirmative and negative context sentences.

The participants listened to the spoken sentences, each in the third person and present tense, such as “John walks to work.” to measure their motor grip as they listened and pinched a grip-force sensor.

The researchers found that subjects increased their grip when listening to action words that involved hands or arms. Some of the verbs hand or arm related were: scratch, grate, throw, etc. But this response depended on context, meaning the grip force was unchanged when the action was negative, as in “Laura did not lift her luggage.”

This suggests that when the person hears the sentences of hand verbs happening at the exact moment the brain sends impulses to the motor neurons and the grip becomes tighter. If the action is not happening the grip does not tighten therefore it understands that it’s not happening. We could say that we listen with our hands because it’s our hands that respond to the words being spoken.

We listen with our hands

We listen with oher parts of the body, too

We listen not only with our hands but we can listen with our whole body. The human brain has the capacity to amaze us each time with what it can accomplish and with all the body parts involved for cognitive abilities to develop.

Susanne Poulette came up with a concept called whole body listening. It consists of breaking the abstract concept of listening by explaining how each body part other than the ears is involved. She explains that the parts involved go as follows; the brain thinking about what is being said; the eyes looking at or toward the speaker; the mouth closed and quiet; the body facing toward the speaker; and the hands and feet quiet and kept to oneself.

Truesdale, later stressed that the most critical part of whole body listening takes place in the brain but we couldn’t forget about the heart which is a way of caring and feeling empathy with those we listen to.

“When we are asking someone to think about what we are saying, we are, in essence, asking for the listener’s brain to be connected and tuned-in.”

Truesdale establishes that whole body listening is a tool, meaning that adults need to think flexibly about how best to use it and there is no one way to teach it.  Gradually, other professionals have come to terms that we listen with our whole body and this helps listening become a less abstract concept and more a concrete concept, easier to understand, teach and practice.

Teaching children

We listen with our whole body, however, teaching children to understand this concept might be abstract. Many parents, teachers, and other professionals have used tips from these professionals to break down the abstract concept of listening into more manageable, concrete actions.

Parents and teachers tend to claim that children have a hard time listening to instructions, stories, etc. When explained into more depth how we listen with our body and what is expected of each body part. Many children claimed that they found listening much easier. Step by step brain training and body training to listen intently and retain the information.

Parts of the body we listen with:

  •        eyes to look at the person talking
  •        ears to hear what is being said
  •        mouth by remaining quiet
  •        hands by keeping them by their side or in lap
  •        feet by placing them on the floor and keeping them still
  •        body by facing the speaker or sitting in chair
  •        brain to think about what the speaker is saying
  •        heart to care about what the speaker talks about

To listen we need to…

Ears: Limit auditory distractions.

Eyes: Look toward the speaker, maybe not directly but checking in for facial expressions to “read” emotions and others’ intentions. Limit distractions and visual clutter. People can hear what is being said even if they are not looking directly at the speaker. Therefore, try to modulate direct eye-contact.

Mouth: Try not to interrupt. Chewing gum can help regulate impulse control.

Hands:  Use a fidget or doodle. Squeeze hands together. Sit on hands or put them in pockets. This helps to concentrate on what the other person is saying.

Feet: Cross or sit on feet to help keep them still. Some people need to move their body to stay regulated, enhance attention, and feel comfortable.

Heart: It’s important to understand why we listen to others. We listen to create rapport, share and experience, and always consider the other person’s feelings.

Brain: We should know how the brain works and how our cognitive abilities and cognitive skills help us to listen with our whole body. Mindfulness can a good asset in being aware of the present moment. This can help to know when to pause and reflect before acting, and knowing how and when to listen with our whole body.

 

How distracting are visual tasks?

How distracting are visual tasks?

The Today Show recently wrote an article about some downsides of being constantly connected to your phone. While in recent years cell phones have become more and more used for daily life, people either don’t want to question, or don’t think about the negative affects that prolonged cell phone use may have. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that people who are engaged in visual activities (such as cell phone use or reading), are less likely to hear what’s going on around them. This may cause them to miss important instructions, not realize the music is on, or not fully hear when someone is talking to them. This is because visual activities and listening activities use the same part of the brain. If one is fully occupied, the other has a hard time getting through. This idea is related to multi-tasking and divided attention

The article says, “the more taxing the visual task, the less likely the person is going to hear what you’re saying”. The brain has to choose between various stimuli, and it will often times attend to the more complex task, which in this case leads someone to not hear when they are being spoken to, or miss their stop on the metro. 

Nilli Lavie, professor of psychology and brain science at University College London says that this is also the reason why surgeons have someone to watch the monitoring equipment in the operating room. As the surgeon is focused on their task, they may not be able to hear if the beeping of an alarm or dropping heart rate.

Whether it be in the operating room, at work, or at home we should be conscious of the fact that dedicating our visual skills to one activity may make us less likely to hear other noises around us. If we miss something on TV or the radio, our lives are not affected very much. However, if we are so concentrated on our iPad that we don’t hear our child crying or husband leaving for work, there is more potential for a conflict. It is inevitable to occupy our time with visual activities, but we should work to be conscious of our surroundings.

ManDee Nogle does an amazing work with her patients at The Brain Fitness

 

ManDee Nogle of The Brain Fitness and Training Center LLC has been using brain training at her practice for years. By using a brain training application along with traditional therapy methods, the Center is able to achieve better results with its brain training patients. They train 41 different cognitive skill sets and six areas of cognition.

Attention, memory, thinking, sensory integration, auditory processing.

Brain training can be used for children and adults of all ages in order to improve stress management, sleep problems, speech difficulties, as well as other neural disorders.

A lost native language may have a lasting effect on the brain

A lost native language may have a lasting effect on the brain

If someone asked you to think back to your earliest memory, you might remember something from when you were three or four. However, a study published in the journal Nature Communications shows that our brains remember so much more than we thinkTech Times talks about the lasting effects that a language can have on our brain.

Scientists at McGill University in Canada have shown that monolingual and bilingual children use different parts of their brain. This has been studied and proven through different methods for a while. Being raised in an environment with more than one language causes you to have a bilingual brain, which develops language processes differently from other children who only speak one language.

However, this study went beyond bilingual and monolingual children, and looked at adopted Chinese children who, since their first year of life, have not spoken or been around the Chinese language. Using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), researchers were able to see that when these children spoke, the didn’t process language as a monolingual as might have been expected, but instead as a bilingual.

What does this mean? Children or babies that were exposed to more than one language in the first few years of life will later process language as a bilingual person. This information is important to know, not just because it’s interesting, but also because it means we can look at brain plasticity to make better teaching plans for learners of one, two, or multiple languages, even if they don’t know it.

Neurologist undergoes brain surgery for research

Neurologist undergoes brain surgery for research

Neurologist takes self-experimentation to the extreme by installing implants in his own brain for data collection – MIT Technology Review

Phil Kennedy, a neurologist dedicated to finding a “speech decoder”, electrodes placed on the brain that connect to a computer making it possible for paralyzed patients to communicate without talking, took a step that few people would take. When he lost funding from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue his research, he had to look to alternative solutions in order to continue studying what he believed could give a “voice” back to those who are unable to talk.

Without funding from the FDA, Kennedy had few options left. He was making progress, but was not able to provide the proper safety data which left him without funding or credit. However, Kennedy refused to give up. After contemplating the risks and spending years mulling over the decision, he decided to “walk the walk”. Kennedy, the now 67 year-old neurologist decided to go to Belize, Central America to undergo the treatment himself.

After suffering mild complications, the surgery went well. Kennedy was able to take data and continue his research for almost one month, until he was forced to have the electrodes taken out. Having used a different electrode than he had used in the past (in order to make the procedure more simple), the brain was not able to heal fully.

In the MIT Technology Review article, Kennedy says “I had a few bumps and bruises after the surgery, but I did get four weeks of good data. I will be working on these data for a long time”.

New Experimental Brain Cancer Treatment

New Experimental Brain Cancer Treatment

A new, experimental brain cancer treatment is being tested at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The often terminal cancer affected one couple in particular, 37 year-old Chris Amundsen and his new wife, Laura. This couple refused to be brought down by the diagnosis, and instead searched for alternative treatments. That is exactly what they found. This experimental treatment works by injecting the medicine directly into the tumor, medicine that is traditionally taken orally. “A catheter is placed in the patient’s groin and threaded to the brain”, which means that less of the healthy body receives the medication.

The second phase of the trial will take place soon, and Amundsen will find out how this innovative method affected his brain cancer.

In the meantime, the couple is optimistic and planning for a future. See the full article here

Where is happiness located in the brain?

Where is happiness located in the brain?

Everyone strives for happiness in their life, but where is it actually located? I don’t mean where you have to move to in order to find it, or what you have to do to get it, but rather where happiness is located in the brain. An article from CTV News explains more in depth.

This idea is fascinating, as people experience happiness (or unhappiness) in different ways and is largely left to interpretation of the individual. A team of Japanese scientists have conducted a study in order to find out where exactly happiness “lives” in the brain. Waturu Sato of Kyoto University in Japan used an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to answer this question. “The discovered that the combination of positive emotions and satisfaction derived from life events had an impact of the precuneus, which is part of the parietal lobe.

Dr. Sato’s team analyzed the brains of 51 participants “to measure their subjective happiness as well as the emotions they felt.” The team gave each participant a questionnaire in order to determine their happiness, intensity of emotions, and how happy they are with their lives.

The study showed that the participants who were happier had more grey matter in the precuneus than those who were less happy. Waturu stated” Several studies have shown that meditation increases grey matter mass in the precuneus”.

This is good news for those of us who feel like we could be happier in our lives. Practicing some type of meditation is shown to actually make you happier. So, what’s stopping you?

Hallucinations are caused by a fold in the brain

Hallucinations are caused by a fold in the brain

According to a study done at the University of Cambridge, hallucinations are likely to be caused by a fold in a part of the brain called the paracingulate suclus, a fold in the prefrontal cortex. This paracingulate suclus varies in size from person to person, but during the study a mix of schizophrenic and healthy patients were observed to identify a specific alteration that explains hallucinations. It was found that the shorter the paracingualte suclus (the fold), the more likely one is to have hallucinations. The study says that “a reduction in suclus length by 1cm led to an increase likelihood of experiencing hallucinations of nearly 20%”. This difference in fold length means that there is less cell-carrying grey matter tissue in the area.

The precingulate suclus area is in charge of imagination and reality. If this fold does not work properly, one may experience difficulty when differentiating between reality and imagination, making one more likely to suffer from hallucinations.

What makes our brains so special?

What makes our brains so special?

The debate of how human brains are different from animal brains has been asked in the scientific community for years. While some argue that it is to do with us having more neurons and that our cerebral cortex is much larger than other animals’.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Biomedical Science in Rio de Janeiro found a way to test these theories. By disolving brains “into a homogenous mixture, or ‘brain soup’”, she was able to count its neurons. Using this method, she found out that the number of neurons in humans is relative to our size, and would not lead to us being more intelligent than other species.

Humans do share quite a bit with our animal relatives, so why are we so different? Read this article to find out.

3 Main Parts of the 3 Pound Human Brain

3 Main Parts of the 3 Pound Human Brain

3 Main Parts of the 3 Pound Human Brain

The brain is a powerful and vital organ that is essential to
being alive. With that said, it would not hurt to have knowledge of the main
parts of the brain and their functions. Basically, the brain has 3 parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brain
stem. Each of these parts provides different functions for the brain, and we
cannot survive without them.

1. Cerebrum: also called cortex is by far the largest
portion of the brain, and weighs about two pounds. For the record, the entire
brain weighs three pounds. The cerebrum is home to billions and billions of
neurons. These neurons control virtually everything we do. It controls our
movements, thoughts and even our senses. Since the cerebrum has so many functions,
if it’s damaged, there are many different consequences.

The cerebrum consists of four different lobes that control
all of our movements. The four lobes include: the frontal lobe, parietal lobe,
temporal lobe and the occipital lobe. The frontal lobe controls our emotions,
judging and planning skills. The parietal lobe controls our senses such as
taste, temperature and pain. The temporal lobe controls our auditory processes
and hearing. The occipital lobe controls our vision.

Lastly, the cerebrum consists of two layers: the cerebral
cortex, which controls our coordination and personality, and the white matter
of the brain, which allows the brain to communicate.

2. Cerebellum: from Latin “little brain”, the cerebellum is
a two-hemisphere structure located just below the rear part of the cerebrum,
right behind the brain stem. Representing about 11 percent of the brain’s
weight, it is a deeply folded and highly organized structure containing more
neurons than all of the rest of the brain put together. The surface area of the
entire cerebellum is about the same as that of one of the cerebral hemispheres.

The cerebellum is the second largest part of the brain, and
it plays a significant role for our motor
skills. It is located at the base of the brain, and damage to it can
lead to decline in your motor skills. Besides motor control, the cerebellum has
other different functions. One function that it has is to maintain our balance
and posture. Another major function of the cerebellum is that it helps control
the timing and force of various muscles. Motor learning is another function of
the cerebellum, and it has the biggest impact on skills that require trial and
error. Even though it is mostly associated with motor control, the cerebellum
has some control of our cognitive functions, such as language.

3. Brain Stem: The brainstem is the smallest part of the
brain, sits beneath your cerebrum in front of your cerebellum, and it connects
the cerebrum to the spinal cord. Parts of the brainstem include: the midbrain,
medulla oblongata and the pons.

The brain stem is the oldest and deepest area of the brain.
It is often referred to as the reptilian brain because it resembles the entire
brain of a reptile.

Even though the brainstem is small, it controls many
important functions in our bodies. Some functions of the brainstem include:
breathing, arousal, awareness, blood pressure, heart rate and digestion. It
also controls our sleep patterns, body temperature, heart rhythms and even our
hunger and thirst. In addition, it regulates the central nervous system.
Lastly, the brainstem is where information is sent between the cerebrum and
cerebellum.

Learn more about Brain Parts and What They Do.

Birth Control Pill May Shrink your Brain

Birth Control Pill May Shrink your Brain

Birth Control Pill May Shrink your Brain

The oral contraceptive pill, commonly referred to as
“the pill,” has some troubling possible side effects, including mood
swings, weight gain and nausea. A new study adds another potential concern to
the list: the pill may shrink your brain.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles published
their findings in the journal Human
Brain Mapping
, on April 2nd, 2015. The study shows that the pill
may be linked to thinning a woman’s brain structure, specifically the lateral
orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex.

For the study, Nicole Petersen, study author from the
department of psychiatry and bio behavioral sciences at UCLA and her colleagues
recruited 90 women, with 44 women on combined birth control and 46 women who
did not use any type of hormonal birth control.

When comparing participants’ brain scans, the team of neuroscientists
found that two key brain regions, the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the
posterior cigulate cortex, were thinner in women who were on the pill compared
with women in the other group. The lateral orbitofrontal cortex plays an
important role in emotion regulation and responding to rewards, while the
posterior cigulate cortex is involved with inward-directed thought, and shows
increased activity when we recall personal memories and plan for the future. Changes
in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex could be responsible for the increased
anxiety and depressive symptoms that some women experience when they start
taking the Pill.

“Some women experience negative emotional side effects
from taking oral contraceptive pills, although the scientific findings
investigating that have been mixed,” Dr. Petersen said. “So it’s
possible that this change in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex may be related to
the emotional changes that some women experience when using birth control
pills.”

However, this does not suggest changes in cortex thickness
are reflected in any actual changes in the behavior of women who take the pill.
Moreover, the study does not prove taking birth control causes the thinning of
the cortex.

The researchers affirm it is unknown whether the cortex
would become thicker again if the women on birth control stopped taking the
pill or whether it would remain the same. “Maybe you go off the pill and
it persists for a week, and, by week two it is back to normal.”

The team does stress the role of estrogen in the brain.
“There is a ton of evidence showing that estrogen is a really important
molecule for brain growth,” Dr. Petersen said. The researchers hope to
conduct a clinical trial to see if there is a casual relationship between the
pill and brain structure, and whether any behavior changes related to the two
cortex regions can be seen.

Furthermore, all risks associated with the pill increase if
a woman smokes, has thrombosis, is overweight, diabetic, has high blood
pressure, or high cholesterol levels.

The CogniFit for Schools platform is now available in Brazil

 

The CogniFit for Schools platform is now available in Brazil
after much success in North America and Western Europe.

CogniFit provides teachers with a simple platform to assess,
train and monitor their students’ cognitive skills such as concentration,
memory and attention. Students enjoy fun and engaging video games while they
train their cognitive skills using scientifically validated tasks.