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Science News. Cook, Miroslav Savic, Etienne Sibille. Molecular Neuropsychiatry , ; 1 DOI: ScienceDaily, 14 February Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. New molecules reverse memory loss linked to depression, aging. Retrieved October 7, from www. Researchers at the University of Bristol They found that reduced levels of a protein called Rheb The study shows that the abnormal expression of a particular receptor -- adenosine A2A, a Below are relevant articles that may interest you.
ScienceDaily shares links with scholarly publications in the TrendMD network and earns revenue from third-party advertisers, where indicated. Try a Tattoo or Twenty, Says Researcher. On the Keto Diet? Ditch the Cheat Day Boy or Girl?
Living Well. View all the latest top news in the environmental sciences, or browse the topics below:. Freelance writer and meditation teacher Michael Taft has experienced his own version of cerebral congestion.
In , while finalizing plans to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco, he decided to take an especially long recess from work and the usual frenzy of life. After selling his home and packing all his belongings in storage, he traveled to the small rural community of Barre, Mass. Taft had been on similar retreats before, but never one this long.
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He spent most of his time meditating, practicing yoga and walking through fields and along trails in surrounding farmland and woods, where he encountered rafters of turkeys leaping from branches, and once spotted an otter gamboling in a swamp. Gradually, his mind seemed to sort through a backlog of unprocessed data and to empty itself of accumulated concerns. A LexisNexis survey of 1, white collar workers in the U.
In contrast to the European Union, which mandates 20 days of paid vacation, the U. In the Netherlands 26 days of vacation in a given year is typical. Yet a survey by Harris Interactive found that, at the end of , Americans had an average of nine unused vacation days. And in several surveys Americans have admited that they obsessively check and respond to e-mails from their colleagues or feel obliged to get some work done in between kayaking around the coast of Kauai and learning to pronounce humuhumunukunukuapua'a.
To summarize, Americans and their brains are preoccupied with work much of the time. Throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy. What if the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas?
Why giving our brains a break now and then is so important has become increasingly clear in a diverse collection of new studies investigating: the habits of office workers and the daily routines of extraordinary musicians and athletes; the benefits of vacation, meditation and time spent in parks, gardens and other peaceful outdoor spaces; and how napping, unwinding while awake and perhaps the mere act of blinking can sharpen the mind.
What research to date also clarifies, however, is that even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working.
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Rather—just as a dazzling array of molecular, genetic and physiological processes occur primarily or even exclusively when we sleep at night—many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future.
The rest is history For much of the 20th century many scientists regarded the idea that the brain might be productive during downtime as ludicrous. German neurologist Hans Berger disagreed. Although his peers acknowledged that some parts of the the brain and spinal cord must work nonstop to regulate the lungs and heart, they assumed that when someone was not focusing on a specific mental task, the brain was largely offline; any activity picked up by an electroencephalogram or other device during rest was mostly random noise.
At first, the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI in the early s only strengthened this view of the brain as an exquisitely frugal organ switching on and off its many parts as needed. By tracing blood flow through the brain, fMRI clearly showed that different neural circuits became especially active during different mental tasks, summoning extra blood full of oxygen and glucose to use as energy. By the mid s, however, Marcus Raichle of Washington University in Saint Louis and his colleagues had demonstrated that the human brain is in fact a glutton , constantly demanding 20 percent of all the energy the body produces and requiring only 5 to 10 percent more energy than usual when someone solves calculus problems or reads a book.
New molecules reverse memory loss linked to depression, aging -- ScienceDaily
Raichle also noticed that a particular set of scattered brain regions consistently became less active when someone concentrated on a mental challenge, but began to fire in synchrony when someone was simply lying supine in an fMRI scanner, letting their thoughts wander. Likewise, Bharat Biswal , now at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, documented the same kind of coordinated communication between disparate brain regions in people who were resting. Many researchers were dubious, but further studies by other scientists confirmed that the findings were not a fluke. Eventually this mysterious and complex circuit that stirred to life when people were daydreaming became known as the default mode network DMN.
In the last five years researchers discovered that the DMN is but one of at least five different resting-state networks —circuits for vision, hearing, movement, attention and memory. But the DMN remains the best studied and perhaps the most important among them. In a recent thought-provoking review of research on the default mode network, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California and her co-authors argue that when we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics—processes that depend on the DMN.
Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself. While mind-wandering we replay conversations we had earlier that day, rewriting our verbal blunders as a way of learning to avoid them in the future.
We craft fictional dialogue to practice standing up to someone who intimidates us or to reap the satisfaction of an imaginary harangue against someone who wronged us. We shuffle through all those neglected mental post-it notes listing half-finished projects and we mull over the aspects of our lives with which we are most dissatisfied, searching for solutions. We sink into scenes from childhood and catapult ourselves into different hypothetical futures.
And we subject ourselves to a kind of moral performance review, questioning how we have treated others lately. These moments of introspection are also one way we form a sense of self, which is essentially a story we continually tell ourselves. When it has a moment to itself, the mind dips its quill into our memories, sensory experiences, disappointments and desires so that it may continue writing this ongoing first-person narrative of life. Related research suggests that the default mode network is more active than is typical in especially creative people , and some studies have demonstrated that the mind obliquely solves tough problems while daydreaming—an experience many people have had while taking a shower.
Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime. In a study , Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues asked 80 University of Amsterdam students to pick the best car from a set of four that—unbeknownst to the students—the researchers had previously ranked based on size, mileage, maneuverability and other features. Half the participants got four minutes to deliberate after reviewing the specs; the researchers prevented the other 40 from pondering their choices by distracting them with anagrams.
Yet the latter group made far better decisions. Solutions emerge from the subconscious in this way only when the distracting task is relatively simple, such as solving an anagram or engaging in a routine activity that does not necessitate much deliberate concentration, like brushing one's teeth or washing dishes.
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With the right kind of distraction the default mode network may be able to integrate more information from a wide range of brain regions in more complex ways than when the brain is consciously working through a problem. During downtime, the brain also concerns itself with more mundane but equally important duties. For decades scientists have suspected that when an animal or person is not actively learning something new, the brain consolidates recently accumulated data, memorizing the most salient information, and essentially rehearses recently learned skills, etching them into its tissue.
Dozens of studies have confirmed that memory depends on sleep. More recently, scientists have documented what may well be physical evidence of such memory consolidation in animals that are awake but resting. A little while later, when that rat is sitting around, its brain sometimes re-creates a nearly identical pattern of electrical impulses zipping between the same set of neurons. The more those neurons communicate with one another, the stronger their connections become; meanwhile neglected and irrelevant neural pathways wither. Many studies indicate that in such moments—known as sharp-wave ripples—the rat is forming a memory.
In a study Gabrielle Girardeau , now at New York University, and her colleagues trained rats to find Cocoa Krispies consistently placed in the same branches of an eight-armed octo-maze.
Following training sessions, while the rats were either sleeping or awake and resting, the researchers mildly zapped the brains of one group of rodents in a way that disrupted any sharp-wave ripples. Another group of rats received small electric shocks that did not interfere with ripples. The former group had a much harder time remembering where to find the food. Several studies suggest that something similar happens in the human brain. In order to control their seizures, people with epilepsy sometimes undergo surgery that involves drilling through the skull and implanting electrodes in the brain.
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In such cases, some patients agree to let scientists record electrical activity picked up by those electrodes—a unique situation that avoids endangering people solely for the sake of neuroscience.