Bend it like Beckham: The Neuroscience Way

Life is a continuum of learning motor skills to achieve goals.  At a young age, children learn how sit up, walk, jump, and then cut with scissors.  Later, they may learn how to play soccer or piano, but they will probably not be as proficient as professional athletes and musicians unless they dedicate their lives to perfecting that skill.  So, how does practice make us more perfect?  Here are suggested guidelines for efficient motor skill learning that neuroscience studies have proposed.Continue reading

The Brain: A Social Construction Site

Have you ever wondered how the social experiences you had early in life affected the way your brain developed?  How was your cerebral architecture influenced by the games of ‘peek-a-boo’ your parents played with you as a toddler or the exciting games of hide-and-seek you played with the neighborhood kids?  How would we be different if we were deprived of these experiences due to parental neglect or social isolation?  Is it possible that early life experiences shaped the way we perceive the world in adulthood, as well as determined our capacity to learn and remember?  And if so, what are the physical substrates for these processes?Continue reading

A Close Look into the Alzheimer’s Brain

Your brain is able to store massive amounts of memories throughout your lifetime.  There are cases, however, in which this ability progressively degrades and eventually disappears, giving way to problems with thinking, reasoning, and remembering.  When these symptoms occurs faster than normal aging, it is termed dementia.  Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of brain function loss, and its neuropathology are summarized here.Continue reading

My, oh myelin!

How many neural processes are going on within your body as you read this sentence?  The answer to this question is hard to fathom, I know, but give it a shot.   Try to imagine all the physiological events that are being controlled by your nervous system at this very moment.  Our nervous systems control a dizzying array of sensory, motor, and cognitive processes simultaneously, without us granting them “permission” to do so.  In fact, most of our neural functions require no mental energy on our part whatsoever!  For this reason, it is extremely easy to take these basic processes for granted.  However, if we were to witness the suffering of an individual with multiple sclerosis, we might begin to appreciate these things a little more.Continue reading

The Reward Pathway Reinforces Behavior

If you think about it, most of our daily lives revolve around food: when our next meal will be, what it will be, and how yummy it will be!  Evolutionarily, these have been essential thoughts for our survival, so that when we find food, we are compelled to eat as much as we can.  Not only does this ensure that we get all our necessary nutrients, but it also keeps competitors from stealing our meals.Continue reading

Do You Crave Sweets?

My answer is YES, all the time, no exceptions!  Do you remember when Miranda from “Sex and the City” was so addicted to chocolate cake that even after she threw it away, she pulled a piece of cake out of the trashcan and ate it?  No doubt we have all had a moment when we knew we should stop but it was impossible to resist even when we are not hungry!  So, why do we indulge in sweets?  Is it because of our emotions, or is it due to chemicals in our brains?Continue reading