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Pain can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: New brain imaging research shows that when we expect something to hurt it does, even if the stimulus isn't so painful -- ScienceDaily

Unbeknownst to the subjects, heat intensity was not actually related to the preceding cue. The study found that when subjects expected more heat, brain regions involved in threat and fear were more activated as they waited. Regions involved in the generation of pain were more active when they received the stimulus. Participants reported more pain with high-pain cues, regardless of how much heat they actually got. "This suggests that expectations had a rather deep effect, influencing how the brain processes pain," said Jepma. Surprisingly, their expectations also highly influenced their ability to learn from experience. Many subjects demonstrated high "confirmation bias" -- the tendency to learn from things that reinforce our beliefs and discount those that don't. For instance, if they expected high pain and got it, they might expect even more pain the next time. But if they expected high pain and didn't get it, nothing changed.

Mind’s quality control center found in long-ignored brain area: Cerebellum checks and corrects thoughts, movement -- ScienceDaily

"The biggest surprise to me was the discovery that 80 percent of the cerebellum is devoted to the smart stuff," said senior author Nico Dosenbach, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology, of occupational therapy and of pediatrics. "Everyone thought the cerebellum was about movement. If your cerebellum is damaged, you can't move smoothly -- your hand jerks around when you try to reach for something. Our research strongly suggests that just as the cerebellum serves as a quality check on movement, it also checks your thoughts as well -- smoothing them out, correcting them, perfecting things." Dosenbach is a founding member of the Midnight Scan Club, a group of Washington University neuroscientists who have taken turns in an MRI scanner late at night, scanning their own brains for hours to generate a massive amount of high-quality data for their research. A previous analysis of Midnight Scan Club data showed that a kind of brain scan called functional connectivity MRI can reliably detect fundamental differences in how individual brains are wired. Postdoctoral researcher and first author Scott Marek, PhD, decided to apply a similar analysis to the cerebellum. In the better-known cerebral cortex -- the crumpled outer layer of the brain -- wiring maps have been drawn that connect distant areas into networks that govern vision, attention, language and movement. But nobody knew how the cerebellum is organized in individuals, partly because a quirk of MRI technology means that data obtained from the underside of the brain tend to be low quality. In the Midnight Scan Club dataset, however, Marek had access to more than 10 hours of scans on each of 10 people, enough to take a serious look at the cerebellum. Using the cortex's networks as a template, Marek could identify the networks in the cerebellum. Notably, the sensory networks are missing -- vision, hearing and touch -- and only 20 percent of the cerebellum is devoted to movement, roughly the same amount as in the cerebral cortex. The remaining 80 percent is occupied by networks involved in higher-order cognition: the attention network; the default network, which has to do with daydreaming, recalling memories and just idly thinking; and two networks that oversee executive functions such as decision-making and planning.

I see therefore I think

For example, in the seven or so seconds, on average, that it took students in the study to solve a logical reasoning problem, researchers recorded at least 23 eye movements. Among other clues, ocular activity indicated which data students absorbed, or disregarded, to arrive at their conclusions. The study builds on previous findings by Bunge and fellow researchers that track cognitive changes in students during mentally challenging learning tasks. For example, a 2012 study found that a three-month LSAT course strengthened the circuitry in the brain's frontoparietal network and boosted the reasoning skills of two dozen young adults, compared to pre-law students who did not complete the course.

Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms: Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials | Depressive Disorders | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network

Resistance exercise training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of RET, or significant improvements in strength. Better-quality randomized clinical trials blinding both allocation and assessment and comparing RET with other empirically supported treatments for depressive symptoms are needed.

When the brain's wiring breaks: Key molecular details of a common type of brain injury and a possible new treatment strategy -- ScienceDaily

"Neurologists know this," said Taylor, a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center. "It's why they promote physical therapy and retraining for people who suffer head injury. During this extended period of excitability, PT and retraining can help guide injured neurons along beneficial pathways."

Prevailing theories of consciousness are challenged by novel cross-modal associations acquired between subliminal stimuli. - PubMed - NCBI

The results demonstrate the acquisition of novel cross-modal associations between stimuli which are not consciously perceived and thus challenge the global access hypothesis and those theories embracing it.

Feet feats and fleet minds: lessons from Alex Hutchinson’s new book Endure

Alex Hutchinson’s excellent new book Endure poses an age-old question. What matters more for athletic achievement — mind or body? It takes a dozen fascinating chapters to get fully there, but Hutchinson’s ultimate answer is simple: yes.

The happiness project | Science

In 2010, cancer biologist Lei Cao—inspired by a family member who had died of cancer—wondered whether she could combat it by looking beyond drugs or genes. Her team at OSU created a 1-square-meter enclosure filled with so many mazes, running wheels, and bright red, blue, and orange igloos that her daughter dubbed it “Disneyland for Mice.” <img class="fragment-image" src="https://d2ufo47lrtsv5s.cloudfront.net/content/sci/359/6376/624/F3.medium.gif"/> A fish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor gets to choose between an empty tank and one filled with marbles. PHOTO: AUSTIN THOMASON/MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY When injected with cancer cells, animals housed there developed tumors 80% smaller than those in control mice, or no tumors at all. Cao even discovered a possible mechanism: A stimulating environment seemed to activate the brain's hypothalamus, which regulates hormones that affect everything from mood to cancer proliferation. “We showed that there's a hard science behind enrichment,” she says. “You can't just treat the body—you have to treat the mind.”

Virtual reality reduces phantom pain in paraplegics -- ScienceDaily

"We tapped the back of the subject near the shoulders and the subject experienced the illusion that the tapping originated from the paralyzed legs," explains Polona Pozeg, co-author of the study and now neuroscientist at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). "This is because the subject also received visual stimuli of dummy legs being tapped, viewed through the virtual reality headset, so the subject saw them immersively as his or her own legs."

Morphological computation

Morphological computation is a concept inspired by observations of nature. It theorizes that the physical bodies of biological systems (animals, plants, cellular structure, etc.) play a crucial role in intelligent behavior. “In nature, computation does not just happen in the brain, but is partly outsourced to all over the body,” says Hauser. A human example of this is the way in which the muscles and tendons in our legs react to uneven ground when running, and can adapt without communicating with the brain. Nature provides more dramatic examples in the form of a trout with a body so well-designed that it can swim in flowing water even when it’s dead. Without brain activity, the body still interacts with its environment.

Why athletes will treat the brain like a muscle

As athletes, we’re at the point of marginal returns from physiological sports enhancement,” says Brad Stulberg, journalist, columnist and co-author of the upcoming book “Peak Performance.” “So the next legal [non-doping] frontier is the mind.”

Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning. - PubMed - NCBI

↓ Full text Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning. Draganich C, et al. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014. Show full citation Abstract The placebo effect is any outcome that is not attributed to a specific treatment but rather to an individual's mindset (Benson & Friedman, 1996). This phenomenon can extend beyond its typical use in pharmaceutical drugs to involve aspects of everyday life, such as the effect of sleep on cognitive functioning. In 2 studies examining whether perceived sleep quality affects cognitive functioning, 164 participants reported their previous night's sleep quality. They were then randomly assigned to 1 of 2 sleep quality conditions or 2 control conditions. Those in the "above average" sleep quality condition were informed that they had spent 28.7% of their total sleep time in REM, whereas those in the "below average" sleep quality condition were informed that they had only spent 16.2% of their time in REM sleep. Assigned sleep quality but not self-reported sleep quality significantly predicted participants' scores on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test and Controlled Oral Word Association Task. Assigned sleep quality did not predict participants' scores on the Digit Span task, as expected, nor did it predict scores on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, which was unexpected. The control conditions showed that the findings were not due to demand characteristics from the experimental protocol. These findings supported the hypothesis that mindset can influence cognitive states in both positive and negative directions, suggesting a means of controlling one's health and cognition.

The Scientific Basis of How Yoga Works -- Science of Us

If you’re doing the same poses over and over again, day after day, year after year, you’re going to get pretty intimate with how your body expresses itself in those forms, and along the way cultivate what researchers call proprioception, or the awareness of where your body is in space, and interoception, or the sensations not just of the air on your skin, but your bones, tendons, and body tissues as you mindfully contort your body, as well as your emotional state. As your yoga teachers have exhorted you to do, you’re gaining a finer-grained sense of where your skeleton is within your body, and how all the flesh layers on top of that. As Harvard Medical School assistant professor Sat Bir Singh Khalsa told me, these increases in internal awareness can change entire lifestyles. “Somebody’s who’s practiced yoga for eight weeks and then smokes a cigarette, will say, ‘My god, I never noticed how bad these things were, I can’t stand this, this feels awful,’” he says. With training, the body’s sensations become more perceptible to you, so you feel the toxicity of things at a higher intensity. For this reason, he says, yoga can be super powerful in controlling lifestyle diseases. “People change their diets, change their behaviors to ones that make them feel better, because now, for the first time in their lives, they’re actually feeling more.”