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Immune cells destroy healthy brain connections, diminish cognitive function in obese mice: Obesity may drive microglia into a synapse-eating frenzy that leads to cognitive impairment -- ScienceDaily

Nearly two billion adults worldwide are overweight, more than 600 million of whom are obese. In addition to increasing risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, obesity is also a known risk factor for cognitive disorders including Alzheimer's disease. The cellular mechanisms that contribute to cognitive decline in obesity, however, are not well understood. Elise Cope and colleagues replicated previous research by demonstrating diet-induced obesity in mice impairs performance on cognitive tasks dependent on the hippocampus and results in loss of dendritic spines -- the neuronal protrusions that receive signals from other cells -- and activates microglia. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches to block microglial activity, the researchers established microglia are causally linked to obesity-induced dendritic spine loss and cognitive decline. The results suggest obesity may drive microglia into a synapse-eating frenzy that contributes to the cognitive deficits observed in this condition.

Even Quick Meditation Aids Cognitive Skills - Neuroscience News

College students who listen to a 10-minute meditation tape complete simple cognitive tasks more quickly and accurately than peers who listen to a “control” recording on a generic subject, researchers at Yale University and Swarthmore College report. The study, published Aug. 6 in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience, shows even people who have never meditated before can benefit from even a short meditation practice. “We have known for awhile that people who practice meditation for a few weeks or months tend to perform better on cognitive tests, but now we know you don’t have to spend weeks practicing to see improvement,” said Yale’s Hedy Kober, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and senior author of the study.

Executive-related oculomotor control is improved following a 10-min single-bout of aerobic exercise: Evidence from the antisaccade task - ScienceDirect

hus, a 10-min bout of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise benefits executive-related oculomotor control, and is a finding we attribute to an exercise-based increase in attention/arousal and/or improved task-specific activity within the frontoparietal networks supporting antisaccades.

New tools create new worlds

Of all the tools we’ve created to augment our intelligence, writing may be the most important. But when he “de-augmented” the pencil, by tying a brick to it, it became much, much harder to even write a single word. And when you make it hard to do the low-level parts of writing, it becomes near impossible to do the higher-level parts of writing: organizing your thoughts, exploring new ideas and expressions, cutting it all down to what’s essential. That was Doug’s message: a tool doesn’t “just” make something easier — it allows for new, previously-impossible ways of thinking, of living, of being.

How To Become A Centaur

But won’t AI eventually get better at the dimensions of intelligence we excel at? Maybe. However, consider the “No Free Lunch” theorem, which comes from the field of machine learning itself.4 The theorem states that no problem-solving algorithm (or “intelligence”) can out-do random chance on all possible problems: instead, an intelligence has to specialize. A squirrel intelligence specializes in being a squirrel. A human intelligence specializes in being a human. And if you’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to figure out how to keep squirrels out of your bird feeders, you know that even squirrels can outsmart humans on some dimensions of intelligence. This may be a hopeful sign: even humans will continue to outsmart computers on some dimensions.

Short-term exercise equals big-time brain boost: Even a one-time, brief burst of exercise can improve focus, problem-solving -- ScienceDaily

During the study, research participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle. Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants' reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task. The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition. "Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14-per-cent gain in cognitive performance in some instances," said Heath, who is also an associate member of Western's Brain and Mind institute. He is conducting a study now to determine how long the benefits may last following exercise.

The Effects of Physical Exercise and Cognitive Training on Memory and Neurotrophic Factors | Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience | MIT Press Journals

This study examined the combined effect of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors in healthy, young adults. Ninety-five participants completed 6 weeks of exercise training, combined exercise and cognitive training, or no training (control). Both the exercise and combined training groups improved performance on a high-interference memory task, whereas the control group did not. In contrast, neither training group improved on general recognition performance, suggesting that exercise training selectively increases high-interference memory that may be linked to hippocampal function. Individuals who experienced greater fitness improvements from the exercise training (i.e., high responders to exercise) also had greater increases in the serum neurotrophic factors brain-derived neurotrophic factor and insulin-like growth factor-1. These high responders to exercise also had better high-interference memory performance as a result of the combined exercise and cognitive training compared with exercise alone, suggesting that potential synergistic effects might depend on the availability of neurotrophic factors.

Smart people have better connected brains: In intelligent persons, some brain regions interact more closely, while others de-couple themselves -- ScienceDaily

The study shows that in more intelligent persons certain brain regions are clearly more strongly involved in the exchange of information between different sub-networks of the brain in order for important information to be communicated quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, the research team also identified brain regions that are more strongly 'de-coupled' from the rest of the network in more intelligent people. This may result in better protection against distracting and irrelevant inputs. "We assume that network properties we have found in more intelligent persons help us to focus mentally and to ignore or suppress irrelevant, potentially distracting inputs," says Basten. The causes of these associations remain an open question at present. "It is possible that due to their biological predispositions, some individuals develop brain networks that favor intelligent behaviors or more challenging cognitive tasks. However, it is equally as likely that the frequent use of the brain for cognitively challenging tasks may positively influence the development of brain networks. Given what we currently know about intelligence, an interplay of both processes seems most likely."

Smarter in the sun?

Besides suppressing melatonin and warding off any residual sleepiness, recent studies suggest that bright light acts as a stimulant to the brain. Gilles Vandewalle and colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium asked volunteers to perform various tasks in a brain scanner while exposing them to pulses of bright white light or no light. After exposure to white light, the brain was in a more active state in those areas that were involved in the task. Although they didn’t measure the volunteers’ test performances directly, if you are able to recruit a greater brain response, then your performance is likely to be better: you will be faster or more accurate, Vandewalle says.

Persistence and communication skill drive hits

That is to say: keeping productivity equal, the scientists were as likely to score a hit at age 50 as at age 25. The distribution was random; choosing the right project to pursue at the right time was a matter of luck. Yet turning that fortuitous choice into an influential, widely recognized contribution depended on another element, one the researchers called Q. Q could be translated loosely as “skill,” and most likely includes a broad variety of factors, such as I.Q., drive, motivation, openness to new ideas and an ability to work well with others. Or, simply, an ability to make the most of the work at hand: to find some relevance in a humdrum experiment, and to make an elegant idea glow.

Do you pretend to enjoy Pinter? Shakespeare? Stoppard? You’re not alone | Lauren Mooney | Opinion | The Guardian

In one of the most wily marketing tactics I’ve ever seen, Stoppard has talked about his audiences growing stupider until he’s convinced people that anyone who doesn’t like him doesn’t Get It. So now people are reduced to trying to like him louder than each other, to prove to Tom Stoppard that they’re clever. Even though I once watched him fail to use an automatic door. I quite like Tom Stoppard plays, but I do think it’s worth remembering that, much like the girl I was at school with who had a bruised chin for six weeks because a boy she fancied told her to twist it round and round in her hand (true), not everyone who wants you to prove yourself to them deserves it.

The Law School with the Most Influence Will Surprise You

For the Ravel Influence Score, we developed a measure that looks at both quantity and quality of work. Using data from Ravel’s platform we weighed the number of rulings a judge wrote and the number of times those decisions were cited in other opinions. In short, this is an approach that judges judges by way of other judges.

Running boosts neurogenesis (in rats)

Those rats that had jogged on wheels showed robust levels of neurogenesis. Their hippocampal tissue teemed with new neurons, far more than in the brains of the sedentary animals. The greater the distance that a runner had covered during the experiment, the more new cells its brain now contained. There were far fewer new neurons in the brains of the animals that had completed high-intensity interval training. They showed somewhat higher amounts than in the sedentary animals but far less than in the distance runners. And the weight-training rats, although they were much stronger at the end of the experiment than they had been at the start, showed no discernible augmentation of neurogenesis. Their hippocampal tissue looked just like that of the animals that had not exercised at all.

New research shows infections can make your IQ score drop by 10 points

“Our research shows a correlation between hospitalisation due to infection and impaired cognition corresponding to an IQ score of 1.76 lower than the average. People with five or more hospital contacts with infections had an IQ score of 9.44 lower than the average. The study thus shows a clear dose-response relationship between the number of infections, and the effect on cognitive ability increased with the temporal proximity of the last infection and with the severity of the infection. Infections in the brain affected the cognitive ability the most, but many other types of infections severe enough to require hospitalisation can also impair a patient’s cognitive ability. Moreover, it seems that the immune system itself can affect the brain to such an extent that the person’s cognitive ability measured by an IQ test will also be impaired many years after the infection has been cured,” explains MD and PhD Michael Eriksen Benrós, who is affiliated with the National Centre for Register-Based Research at Aarhus BSS and the Mental Health Centre Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen.

Random to dos weigh us down

Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points. And although people ascribe many benefits to marijuana, including enhanced creativity and reduced pain and stress, it is well documented that its chief ingredient, cannabinol, activates dedicated cannabinol receptors in the brain and interferes profoundly with memory and with our ability to concentrate on several things at once. Wilson showed that the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot‑smoking

IQ =/ wisdom

When rational thinking is correlated with intelligence, the correlation is usually quite modest.

Timothy Shriver: how many dimensions to intelligence?

I mean, the idea of intellectual disability comes from the construct that intellect is one-dimensional. We already know that there are multiple intelligences, we just haven't discovered that many of them. Maybe we know about eight or 10 or 12, but my guess is there are a thousand so I love the idea of thinking of a world of different abilities - I use the word diffabilities, some folks don't like it, but I think it invites us to rethink.

Molecular Psychiatry - Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings

It would be reasonable to assume that as we go through life, experiences—Shakespeare’s ‘whips and scorns of time’—have a cumulative effect on intelligence, perhaps overwhelming early genetic predispositions. However, for intelligence, heritability increases linearly, from (approximately) 20% in infancy to 40% in adolescence, and to 60% in adulthood. Some evidence suggests that heritability might increase to as much as 80% in later adulthood47 but then decline to about 60% after age 80.48