Tag Archives: brain

Protein discovery promises to improve mapping of brain tumors

One of the problems with removing brain tumors is ensuring no cancerous tissue remains so they do not regrow. Now, a new study promises to reduce this problem – scientists have discovered a way to highlight a protein on brain scans so the edges of a tumor can be seen more clearly.
mri scanner
Researchers have found a promising way to show the edges of brain tumors in MRI scans more clearly.

The study, which offers scientists the most complete picture of brain tumors yet, is the work of a team from the University of Oxford in the UK, and was presented on Monday at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference 2015, in Liverpool, UK.

The edges of a tumor contain the most invasive cancercells. For surgery or radiation therapy to succeed, doctors need good maps that show not only where the tumor sits in the brain, but also where its edges are – a clear delineation between cancerous and healthy tissue.

This is important not only in order to remove all the cancerous tissue, but also because the most invasive cells are at the edge of a tumor, as one of the researchers, Cancer Research UK scientist Nicola Sibson, a professor in the Institute for Radiation Oncology at Oxford, explains:

“If we can’t map the edge of the tumor, surgery and radiotherapy often fail to remove aggressive tumor cells – and the brain tumor can grow back.

Currently, on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, you can see where the brain tumor is, but its edges are blurred. This is because the MRI spots leaky blood vessels inside the tumor. But on the edges of the tumor, the blood vessels are intact, so they do not show as clearly on the scans.

Highlights edges of both primary and secondary brain tumors

Now, for the first time, Prof. Sibson and her team have discovered a useful protein inside the blood vessels at the invasive edge of brain tumors.

In tests on rats, they showed it is possible to use the protein to define the edges of both primary and secondary tumors on MRI scans.

The protein – called VCAM-1 – is released as part of an inflammatory response caused by the brain tumor. The researchers developed a special dye that recognizes and sticks to the protein. The dye highlights the protein – and thus the edges of the tumor – on MRI scans.

An added advantage, note the researchers, is that the protein is on the inside of the vessels, so the dye can access it from the bloodstream.

Prof. Sibson concludes:

“This research shows that we can improve imaging of brain tumors, which could help both surgeons and radiotherapists with more effective treatment.”

Every year, around 256,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer in the brain or another part of the central nervous system. In the UK, where the study was conducted, this figure is around 9,700, or 27 people a day.

“Brain cancers continue to have very poor survival rates,” says Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, which co-funded the study with the Medical Research Council. Kumar adds:

“The holy grail would be to be able to completely remove brain tumors with the help of this new imaging technique – reducing recurrence of the disease and saving more lives.”

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Banned drug reduces brain communication – Brain connectivity drops in rats dosed with ‘bath salts’

bath salts

WASHINGTON — In the late 2000s, a new class of street drugs emerged that were quickly nicknamed “bath salts.” Their name reflected the fact that they looked like small salt-like crystals. Because they were not initially regulated, many teens and others saw them as a “legal” way to get high. That changed in 2011, when U.S. government ruled them illegal. Still, many people continue to use them. A new study now shows why that’s bad. These drugs reduce the ability of different brain regions to communicate, at least in rats.

The finding may explain the paranoia, delirium and aggression that some users of bath-salt drugs experience.

The brain relies on a flow of communications between its different parts. That’s how it processes information. In tests on rats given one type of bath salts, communication levels fell among the 86 brain regions studied.

“The higher the dose, the less connectivity you get in the brain,” concludes neuroscientist Marcelo Febo. “It causes a pretty global reduction.” Febo presented his team’s findings here, on November 15, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Bath salts work by boosting levels of dopamine (DOPE-uh-meen). It is a messenger molecule related to feelings of reward and pleasure. The drugs also raise levels of norepinephrine (NOR-ep-ih-NEFF-rin) and serotonin (SAYR-uh-TOW-nin). These two brain chemicals are also messengers. They play roles in attentiveness and mood.

Low doses of bath salts can make users feel euphoric and alert. However, things can change just hours after taking one variant, called MDPV (short for 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone). Some users experience a powerful crash. The effects can be unpredictable and dangerous. Users may grow delirious, suicidal or violent.

Febo and his team wanted to investigate the lingering effects of bath salts on the entire brain. The researchers gave doses of either MDPV or salt water to 46 laboratory rats. The experts then waited an hour before scanning the rats’ brains with functional MRI. This special machine uses strong magnetic fields to study brain activity. Among the brain regions in rats given MDPV, levels of synchronized activity dropped broadly.

That change may explain the erratic behavior seen in some people who take bath salts, said Febo, of the University of Florida in Gainesville. The same effect also can occur in people who chronically abuse cocaine and other drugs, he added.

Febo’s team must still compare the effects of MDPV to those of other chemically related stimulants. These include amphetamine (am-FET-uh-meen) and cocaine. So far, attempts to scan the brains of rats dosed with cocaine made the animals too unstable to obtain results.

Without a comparison, the data lack context, said Michael Baumann. He is a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, Md. “They’re really big findings,” he said. “But the question is, ‘Do other stimulants do this?’ Or is it unique to bath salts?”

Bath salts have nothing to do with bathing. The nickname for this family of drugs comes from their resemblance to the Epsom salt crystals sprinkled in bathwater.

Power Words

amphetamines     Potent drugs that stimulate the brain. They can be used as a medicine to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other types of disease. However, these can be habit forming (somewhat addictive) and in high doses can provide euphoria, delirium and other symptoms similar to cocaine.

bath salts      The common name, or street name, given to a class or illegal drugs. They get their name from their resemblance to the Epsom salt crystals that some people sprinkle in bathwater to soothe sore muscles.

context     The setting or circumstances that help explain an event, some statement or some conclusion.

delirium      A symptom of mental upset where people become seriously confused or out of touch with what’s happening in their environment. They may no longer realize where they are, how they got there or what’s happening to them. Fevers, some drugs and some sorts of mental illness can all trigger temporary periods of delirium.

dopamine   A neurotransmitter, this chemical helps transmit signals in the brain.

erratic     An adjective that describes omething that happens at unpredictable intervals or a behavior that is unpredictable.

euphoria    A sense of great joy, excitement, self-confidence and/or intense well-being.

fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging)  A special type of machine used to study brain activity. It uses a strong magnetic field to monitor blood flow in the brain. Tracking the movement of blood can tell researchers which brain regions are active. (See also, MRI or magnetic resonance imaging)

neuroscience   Science that deals with the structure or function of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Researchers in this field are known as neuroscientists.

norepinephrine       A type of stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It constricts blood vessels. It also increases the force and rate at which the heart contracts.

paranoia     The feeling of persecution — that people are out to “get” you — or that other people cannot be trusted. It can cause the affected person to feel intense anger, hatred or a sense of betrayal.

serotonin   A chemical present in blood that constricts blood vessels and communicates signals in the brain and nervous system.

stimulant   Something that triggers an action. (in medicine) Drugs (including caffeine) that can stimulate the brain, triggering a feeling of more energy and alertness. Some dangerous illegal drugs can do this too, such as cocaine.

unique      Something that is unlike anything else; the only one of its kind.

variant    A version of something that may come in different forms. (in biology) Members of a species that possess some feature (size, coloration or lifespan, for example) that make them distinct. (in genetics) A gene having a slight mutation that may have left its host species somewhat better adapted for its environment.

Sleeping Brains Understand Words

Have you ever heard someone describe a task as being so easy that they ‘could do it in their sleep’? A fascinating new study from a team of French neuroscientists shows that this statement may be literally true, far more often than you’d think: Inducing Task-Relevant Responses to Speech in the Sleeping Brain


Sid Kouider and colleagues’ elegant experiment went as follows. Volunteers were asked to perform a word categorization task: spoken words were played to them and they had to press a button with their left hand (say) if the word was a kind of animal, or press a button with their right hand if it was an object.

So far, so simple – but the kicker was that participants were allowed to fall asleep during the task. The experiment took place in a quiet, dark room to help them nod off. Once a volunteer was soundly asleep, the task continued – more animal and object words were played to them while they slept.

The key question was: did the volunteers’ brains continue to perform the task while they were asleep? This might seem like a hard hypothesis to test – how can a brain ‘perform’ a button pressing task, without pressing any buttons, and how would we know even if it? Well, the participants were wired up to an EEG system to record brain electrical activity, before the experiment began. Based on the EEG data from the awake phase of the experiment, Kouider et al were able to record the different neural activations that accompanied pressing a button with either the left or the right hand. (These activations happen on opposite sides of the brain, fittingly.)

button_press_kouider

The authors then examined whether these same ‘button pressing’ patterns occurred in response to the stimuli presented during sleep – and amazingly, they did, in most cases. The truly remarkable result was that the sleeping brains ‘produced’ the correct responses to the stimuli. If an animal word was played, the brain’s activity was usually consistent with it making a (say) left hand button press.

So this is pretty amazing and suggests that the brain can perform a high-level language task, involving understanding the meaning of words, while asleep. There are some questions, of course. As Kouider et al say:

First, one might question whether participants in our study were truly asleep… in order to be fully confident that the trials that we included in our analysis genuinely reflect a state of sleep, microarousals and arousals (associated with button presses or not) were detected and trials in the direct vicinity of these events were discarded.

Finally, this paper made me think of the Chinese Room – a philosophical thought-experiment in which a man with an elaborate instruction book is able to respond, in Chinese, to questions posed in Chinese, even though he doesn’t know the language and has no (conscious) understanding of what he’s saying. Is a sleeping brain rather like that man? A sleeping brain has no conscious experience of the outside world, so far as we know. Yet somehow it knows how to respond to words…!

Cerebellum’s growth spurt turned monkeys into humans

When we search for the seat of humanity, are we looking at the wrong part ofthe brain? Most neuroscientists assume that the neocortex, the brain’s distinctive folded outer layer, is the thing that makes us uniquely human. But a new study suggests that another part of the brain, the cerebellum, grew much faster in our ape ancestors.

All the bits work together, with the cerebellum helping to orchestrate it all <i>(Image: Roger Harris/Science Photo Library)</i>

“Contrary to traditional wisdom, in the human lineage the cerebellum was the part of the brain that accelerated its expansion most rapidly, rather than the neocortex,” says Rob Barton of Durham University in the UK.

With Chris Venditti of the University of Reading in the UK, Barton examined how the relative sizes of different parts of the brain changed as primates evolved.

During the evolution of monkeys, the neocortex and cerebellum grew in tandem, a change in one being swiftly followed by a change in the other. But starting with the first apes around 25 million years ago through to chimpanzees and humans, the cerebellum grew much faster.

Learning to swing

As a result, the cerebellums of apes and humans contain far more neurons than the cerebellum of a monkey, even if that monkey were scaled up to the size of an ape. “The difference in ape cerebellar volume, relative to a scaled monkey brain, is equal to 16 billion extra neurons,” says Barton. “That’s the number of neurons in the entire human neocortex.”

“That’s not to say the neocortex is boring,” says Barton. But such rapid growth in the cerebellum must have happened for a reason. Since the cerebellum is heavily involved in the control of muscles, particularly in coordination, he suggests the trigger may have been the first apes learning to swing from branch to branch, as modern gibbons do.

The extra coordination skills could then have unleashed other “technical” skills like making tools and fine finger movements. Some researchers, like Richard Byrne of the University of St Andrews in the UK, think that such technical intelligence is a defining feature of apes.

Barton’s data is solid, but he overstates the importance of the cerebellum, saysSusanne Shultz of the University of Manchester, UK. “The cerebellum is important in coordination and synthesis,” she says. “But I don’t think it takes away from the fundamental importance of the neocortex.”

Person skills

Shultz points out that over a century of neuroscience has demonstrated the importance of the neocortex for distinctively human traits like social skills and the ability to plan many years ahead. The famous case of Phineas Gage, a 19th-century railway worker who had a rod driven through the front of his brain in an accident, illustrates this. Before his injury he was clean-living and meticulous, but afterwards he became unable to control his impulses. “All you have to do is knock out the prefrontal area and you start to see all these problems in ‘human’ areas,” says Shultz.

Since the cerebellum pulls together disparate sources of information from all over the brain and uses it to control motor functions such as hand gestures and walking, it may simply have had to grow once the rest of the ape brain ballooned. “As your brain gets increasingly large, it becomes increasingly important to synthesise and coordinate all the information you’re holding,” says Schultz.

Where Shultz and Barton agree is that the neocortex and cerebellum are densely interlinked, so we might mislead ourselves by focusing on one to the exclusion of the other. “We should think about integration in the brain as a whole,” says Shultz.

“The broader part of the story is the way the cortex and cerebellum work together,” says Barton. “It’s hard to damage one without affecting the other.”

So although the rise of the neocortex is probably still the source of our mental prowess, it may be that it would never have worked without the cerebellum outpacing it.

Study shows ‘mind-to-mind’ communication in humans

 In a study that for the first time establishes the feasibility of direct brain-to-brain communication, an international group of researchers has successfully shown it is possible to non-invasively transmit a thought from one person to another 5,000 miles away, without either of them having to speak or write.

Indeed, in a paper on the work published in PLOS ONE, the authors argue that what the study shows should probably be termed “mind-to-mind” transmission as opposed to “brain-to-brain,” because “both the origin and the destination of the communication involved the conscious activity of the subjects.”

In the brain-to-brain equivalent of “instant messaging,” the study shows how the international team of neuroscientists and robotics engineers used various “neurotechnologies” to send messages via the Internet between the intact scalps of two human subjects over 5,000 miles apart – one in India and the other in France.

The team included members from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School (HMC) in Boston, MA, Starlab Barcelona in Spain, and Axilum Robotics in Strasbourg, France.

Brain-to-brain over the Internet without talking or typing

Co-author Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at BIDMC and HMC Professor of Neurology, explains how they wanted to discover if it was possible to send messages between two people by reading out the brain activity from one into the other, and to do it across a great distance, using existing communication pathways:

“One such pathway is, of course, the Internet, so our question became – could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of Internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?”

And they proved that the answer to their question was “Yes.”

The team chose to transmit thoughts from India to France using two brain technologies linked by a computer brain interface via the Internet: electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted and image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

illustration of people with connected brains
The team believes the findings are an important step toward exploring whether it is possible to communicate from mind to mind without the use of language or gestures.

Previous studies have already shown that a person can have a conscious thought about moving an arm or a leg, and that thought can be conveyed via EEG-based brain-computer interaction to a computer that passes it to a robot that moves a limb or controls a wheelchair.

But this new study takes that a stage further by adding a second human brain to the other end of the communication system.

The researchers recruited four healthy volunteers – aged between 28 and 50 – to take part in a number of experiments. One was the sender – based in India, and the other three were receivers of the messages and had to understand them – they were based in France.

The EEG picked up the “thoughts” in the sender – the greeting “hola” (which means “hello” in Catalan or Spanish) or “ciao” (“hello” or “goodbye” in Italian) – which were then assigned to the brain-computer interface to send as a binary code by email from India to France. In France, a computer-brain interface translated the thoughts into signals that passed through the scalps of the receivers as non-invasive brain stimulations with the help of robotized TMS.

The receivers experienced the brain stimulations as “phosphenes” – flashes of light on the periphery of their vision. The flashes appeared in numerical sequences that the receivers could then decode into the messages.

Toward mind-to-mind communication without using language or gestures?

The team carried out similar experiments between Spain and France. The final results showed an error rate of only 15%, with 5% error rate on the sending side and 11% error rate on the receiving side.

Prof. Pascual-Leone says thanks to the advanced precision neuro-technologies, namely the wireless EEG at the sending end and the robotized TMS at the receiving end, they directly and non-invasively transmitted thoughts from one person to another, without them having to speak or write, and adds:

“This in itself is a remarkable step in human communication, but being able to do so across a distance of thousands of miles is a critically important proof-of-principle for the development of brain-to-brain communications.”

The team believes the findings are an important step toward exploring whether it is possible to communicate from mind to mind without the use of language or gestures.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a relatively new method of pain-free stimulation of brain cells. In 2011, researchers described in two studies how they discovered the activity of distinct brain cell types changed with different TMS patterns.

10 Super Healthy Brain Foods

10 Healthy Brain Foods

The brain is made up of a variety of molecular structures. In addition to all the different types of neurons we have an entire support network: glial cells (they eliminate waste; recycle product; transport product; connect neurons with blood supply; recreate myelination/insulation for the neurons; regulate various chemicals; etc); neural growth hormone & other hormones; peptides; enzymes; etc.

Brain Aging:

When there is too much toxicity, which causes inflammation, in the brain or in the liver (which is the major support system to the brain) we suffer all kinds of apparent and not so apparent symptoms, disorders and diseases. Often physicians will claim that these symptoms, disorders and diseases are simply a result of “Aging”. When in fact, they are a result of the toxicity and inflammation that cause the aging process.

There are many foods that help eliminate various types of toxicities: from the chloride and fluoride in water; to the herbicides, pesticides, colorants, stabilizers, coagulators, etc in your foods; to the huge number of toxic chemicals found in skin care and cleaning products used regularly in the home. Our systems do not have the mechanisms to deal with the huge number of toxicities it is currently bombarded with and consequently we suffer from: Cancers, Cardio issues (eg. angina, congestive heart failure, etc.) Inflammatory disorders (i.e. osteo & rheumatoid arthritis, asthmas; autoimmune diseases); Hormone disruptions (i.e. hypothyroid, diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, etc); CNS disorders (i.e., schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, Alzheimer’s, etc.).

In fact, it is now recognized that most disorders, diseases and dysfunctions in the body are a result of toxicity and inflammation. Something that alternative medicine has said forever.

10 Super Healthy Foods for Optimal Brain Function:

So let’s look at some of the foods that help eliminate these issues in the brain:

1)       Apples: Contains a flavinoid called quercetin which is a powerful anti-oxidant. This anti-oxidant is well known for protecting the brain against neurogenerative diseases like Parkinsons or Alzeheimer’s. Phenolics, also found in apples – also protect nerve cells from damage. In addition, apples aid the bowel movement and thus reduce colon cancers; but also aid in preventing prostate and lung cancers.

2)      Avocados: 14 minerals including copper and iron – both of which aid in regenerating the blood – increasing oxygen content in the blood. Your entire support system of glial cells in the brain runs on oxygen – hugely important for optimal neural functioning. In addition, avocados have good fats that transport vitamins and minerals through the body AND break down minerals and vitamins so that the body can utilize them. Finally, avocados have high levels of anti-oxidants that prevent oxidative stress or inflammation from free radicals.

3)      Berries – virtually any kind of berry is high in Vitamin C. But some berries provide specific molecules that are important to the brain.

  1. Black Currants, also contain MAO ( the natural source of anti-depressant that physicians prescribe for depression!!) The difference is that in it’s natural form – not isolated nor synthetic – it has a much better effect and is non-toxic to the body.
  2. Blueberries & cranberries are loaded with anti-oxidants – that eliminate various kinds of free radicals. Excess free radicals (from toxicity) cause inflammation. Berries provide the anti-oxidants that eliminate the free radicals. Blueberry molecules (anthyocyanins) also increases brain cells in the hippocampus – the primary organ in the brain that gets information from short term memory to long term memory. Thus not only affecting memory but learning and thinking capacities as well.
  3. Boysenberries – also contain polyphenols – which protect against oxidative stress in the brain.
  4. Strawberries not only contain the anthyocyanins but also contain quercetin, another important molecule as it controls inflammation in the brain.

4)      Curry or Tumeric: Curcumin- an important molecule in Tumeric which is anti-tumor; anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory – not bad for one molecule. Is known for its ability to help patients with traumatic brain injuries and in particular it help counteract the cognitive impairment.

5)      XOCAI Chocolate: Anti-oxidants- YES chocolate is good for you. But not the sugar filled milk chocolate. These are full of high fructose corn syrup and are deadly. Even “dark” or “bitter” chocolate is not what it is cracked up to be.  Bitter chocolate has been “Dutch pressed” which loses all the wonderful fatty acids the brain needs, never mind all the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids the rest of the body needs.  In addition, they lose up to 80% of that anti-oxidants that are so powerful.

However, XOCAI chocolate protects the flavonoid called procynanidin – another type of anti-oxidant that counteracts the damage caused by toxicity & free radicals causing inflammation and oxidative stress. And in addition, XOCAI chocolate protects the polyphenol: epicatechin – together these two molecules increase blood circulation in the brain which increases oxygen and all the nutrients the brain needs. In addition, increased blood circulation helps to take away all the toxicities.

6)      Fatty Fish: Omega 3’s – natural anti-inflammatories that the body needs and that we get way too little of in our current diet. There are many types of omega 3s, but the kind that fatty fish provide are the DHAs. These play an important role in brain function and prevent problems with dementias, including Alzheimer’s, and strokes. These fats also provide transport systems for many vitamins and minerals AND they help to break down various vitamins and minerals so that the body can use them.

7)      Grape Juice: Anti-oxidants- that reverse the sensitivity of certain neuro receptors that aid thinking processes or cognitive functions. In addition grape juice increases the production of dopamine (an important neurotransmitter) in the brain. In addition, red grapes contain “Resveratrol” which helps to reduce the plaque in the brain – which causes Alzheimer’s.  Make sure it is not a cocktail or full of sugars.

8)      Green Tea: Anti-oxidants- again anti-oxidants help to eliminate free radicals – the ones that cause inflammation and destruction. There are many different types of free radicals and likewise there are many different types of anti-oxidants. The type of anti-oxidant that green tea is well recognized for are the: polyphenols. In particular the polyphenols that protect the brain as they reduce protein build up in the brain (this becomes plaque and causes memory loss and nerve damage). There are many different types of Chinese and Japanese green teas – one of the better ones is Bancha tea.

9)      Leafy Greens: Iron deficiency is now recognized in memory difficulties. Predominantly because your red blood cells need iron. Without iron they can’t take on oxygen – all your glial cells in the brain run on oxygen. Your brain cannot function without sufficient oxygen. Leafy greens like spinach, collards, bokchoy, kale, & dandelion etc are the best.

10)  Olive Oil (& many other oils): Omega 3s – the right kind of fats – that are anti-inflammatories. Thus reducing inflammation in the brain (and in other parts of the body).  It is important to know what types of oil: high in omega 3s; not GMO; cold pressed.  Walnut oil, almond oil, grapefruit seed oil and coconut oil are good oils. Corn oil, Sunflower oil Safflower oils are mostly GMO and not good for you.

Munching Peanuts can Boost Your Fertility & Brain Power. 20 Other Health Facts.

Munching Peanuts can Boost Your Fertility & Brain Power. 20 Other Health Facts.

The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), is a species in the legume or “bean” family (Fabaceae). The peanut is native to South America, Mexico and Central America. Peanuts are also referred to as earthnuts, ground nuts, goober peas, monkey nuts, pygmy nuts and pig nuts. Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.), which grow on trees but grow underground and are part of the plant family, legumes. Other examples of legumes include beans, peas, lentils and soybeans. Originating in Peru about 7,600 years, the plant was later spread worldwide by European traders. Although the peanut was mainly a garden crop and cattle feed for much of the colonial period of North America, it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that agricultural production and human consumption of peanuts really took off.

TOP 20 HEALTH BENEFITS OF PEANUTS:

  1. Promote Fertility: Intake of folic acid, before and during early pregnancy, reduces serious neural tube defects in the fetus by up to 70%.
  2. Blood Sugar Regulation: Manganese, abundant in peanuts, plays a vital role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation.
  3. Cholesterol Control: The mono-unsaturated fatty acids, especially Oleic acid, present in peanuts, help lower bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol in the body. Copper also assists in the body’s defense against coronary diseases.
  4. Prevent Gallstones: Just eating an ounce of peanuts, or 2 tbps of peanut butter each week, can reduce your risk of gall stones formation or gallbladder diseases, by almost 25%.
  5. Fights Depression: Peanuts are good sources of tryptophan, an essential amino acid critical for the production of serotonin, which is one of the key brain chemicals involved in mood regulation.
  6. Boosts Memory Power: High levels of Vitamin B3 or Niacin content aid brain function and boosts memory power. Fatty acids provide excellent nutrition for nerve cells in the brain. Additionally, a flavonoid called Resveratrol helps improve blood flow to the brain significantly.
  7. Prevents Heart Disease: Peanuts are rich in heart-friendly monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and antioxidants such as Oleic acid. Along with Resveratrol, they prevent heart diseases, cancers, nervous diseases and viral or fungal infections efficiently.
  8. Prevents Cognitive Decline: A diet of Niacin-rich peanuts brings down the risks of neurodegenerative induced diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, by almost 70%.
  9. Cancer Protection: Beta-sitoserol (SIT), a form of phytosterol, protects against cancer by inhibiting tumor growth. P-Coumaric acid has the ability to reduce the risk of stomach cancer by reducing the productions of carcinogenic nitrous-amines.
  10. Weight Management: Peanuts are rich in fiber which means that eating peanuts before your meal can leave you feeling fuller and make you eat lesser. They also are good sources of energy and helpful in increasing your metabolic rate.
  11. For Pregnant Women: Eating peanuts during pregnancy can decrease the risk of allergic diseases like asthma in newborns.
  12. For Growing Children: Peanuts are a good source of protein and amino acids, providing rich energy needed by active growing children for overall body development.
  13. Eliminates Toxins: Peanuts are loaded with fiber which helps in flushing out the excess toxins from your body. Toxins are responsible for breakouts, excess oil on our skin.
  14. Hair Care: Vitamin C aids production of collagen that keeps tissues in our hair together. L-arginine, is used in male pattern baldness treatment along with omega 3 fatty acids which strengthen hair follicles and promote hair growth.
  15. Reduces Stroke Risk: The poly-phenolic anti-oxidant, Resveratrol, in peanuts prevents heart strokes by increasing the production of nitric oxide.
  16. Anti-Oxidant: Peanuts contain anti-oxidants in high concentrations like Biochanin-A and Genistein, which fight against damage from free radicals produced in the body.
  17. Anti-inflammatory:  Omega 3 fatty reduce inflammation in the body to prevent skin eruptions, lowering the risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer. It also moisturizes and hydrates the skin from within to treat skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema.
  18. Skin care: Vitamin E in peanuts defends against cell damage through oxidative stress, provides UV protection. Vitamin C, which helps production of collagen, is required to sustain tendons, skin and cartilage. Beta carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the body which helps in the growth and repair of body tissues. Peanuts are very effective for treating skin problems like pustules, skin rashes and rosacea.
  19. Vitamin Store: Peanuts contain B complex vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, and Pantothenic acid.
  20. Mineral Store: Potassium, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc are some of the minerals present in peanuts.

 

Side Effects and Precautions:

  • Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. Peanuts can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
  • Excessive peanuts intake may lead to gas, heartburn, and a suddenly developed food allergy to peanuts.
  • Peanuts are susceptible to contamination of aflatoxin produced by a fungus, aspergillus flavus, which is very toxic and carcinogenic, especially a risk factor to liver carcinoma. If the peanuts turn greenish yellow, discard it.
  • Those who suffer from stagnancy of dampness-cold and lingering diarrhea should not eat it.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) a fatty acid found in peanuts can increase risk of prostate cancer.
  • Weight gain: In spite of their nutrients and antioxidants, peanuts are high in calories, and eating too many of them could interfere with the absorption of minerals, and if you buy salted peanuts, you’ll consume a lot of sodium.
  • Peanuts are one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops

14 Ways To Energize Your Aging Brain Cells With Cinnamon.

14 Ways To Energize Your Aging Brain Cells With Cinnamon.

Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum in the family Lauraceae. While Cinnamomum verum is sometimes considered to be “true cinnamon”, most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, which are also referred to as “cassia” to distinguish them from “true cinnamon”.

Cinnamon is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as a quill. Cinnamon is available in either its whole quill form (cinnamon sticks) or as ground powder. The name “cinnamon” comes through the Greek kinnámōmon, possibly from Phoenician: qinnāmôn. In several European languages, the word for cinnamon comes from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna, “tube”, from the way it curls up as it dries.

Cinnamon’s unique healing abilities come from three basic types of components (cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol) in the essential oils found in its bark, plus a wide range of other volatile substances.

 

Ceylon Cinnamon v/s Cassia Cinnamon:

While there are approximately one hundred varieties of for cinnamon, Cinnamonum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon known as “true cinnamon”) and Cinnamomun aromaticum (Chinese cinnamon known as “cassia”) are the leading varieties consumed. While both are relatively similar in characteristics and both feature a fragrant, sweet and warm taste, the flavor of the Ceylon variety is more refined and subtle. Cassia, the less expensive variety, is the most popular variety in the United States.

 

History of Cinnamon:

Cinnamon was more valuable than gold in ancient times. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have long revered cinnamon as a superpower herb which is reflected in its mention in one of the earliest books on Chinese botanical medicine, dated around 2,700 B.C. Cinnamon’s popularity continued throughout history especially in Medieval Europe. Due to its demand, cinnamon became one of the first commodities traded regularly between the Near East and Europe.

Top 14 Health Benefits of Magical Herb Cinnamon:

1. Regulates blood sugar: Cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating, making it ideal for diabetics and hypoglycemics alike.  It helps treat Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing the amount of insulin production in the body.
2. Reduces LDL cholesterol levels:  Numerous studies have proved the effectiveness of Cinnamon in reducing LDL (harmful) cholesterol levels helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Antimicrobial properties: Cinnamon’s essential oils helps stop the growth of bacteria like E. coli,ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria and other pathogens,  as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida.
4. Arthritis Pain Relief:  Studies have shown that the combination of Honey and Cinnamon reducescytokines linked to arthritic pain.
5. Anti Cancer: Cinnamon may reduce the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells,   holding promise for cancer prevention and sufferers of the disease.
6. Natural food preservative: When added to food, cinnamon antibacterial properties inhibit bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
7. Relief from menstrual pain and infertility:  Cinnamon contains a natural chemical called cinnamaldehyde, which increases the hormone progesterone while decreasing testosterone production in women, helping to balance hormones.
8. Neurodegenerative diseases: Cinnamon reduces chronic inflammation linked with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, and meningitis.
9. Boosts Brain Function: Chewing cinnamon flavored gum or just smelling cinnamon enhances your cognitive processing, mental alertness and memory.
10. Migraine relief: Cinnamon added to tea can help soothe the nerves and has been found to be an effective natural remedy for eliminating headaches and migraine relief.
11. Anti-clotting: Cinnamaldehyde (also called cinnamic aldehyde) prevents unwanted clumping of blood platelets by inhibiting the release of an inflammatory fatty acid called arachidonic acid from platelet membranes and reducing the formation of an inflammatory messaging molecule called thromboxane A2.
12. Anti inflammatory: Cinnamon lowers the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes that can helps lessen inflammation.
13. Rich in Fiber: Along with essential oils, cinnamon is an excellent source of fiber,manganese and calcium. Calcium and fiber can bind to bile salts and expel them from the body preventing the damage that certain bile salts can cause to colon cells leading to colon cancer.
14. Beats the Flu: A herbal tea concoction of cinnamon and ginger has been an age old remedy to beat and provide instant relief from onset of a cold or flu, due to cinnamon “warming” properties.

 

Side effects and Precautions:

~Toxicity – As with most things taking Cinnamon over extended periods of time will build a certain level oftoxicity in your body. The recommenced dosage of Cinnamon according to the US Department of health, is 6 grams daily for 6 weeks or less.
~ Premature Labor  Pregnant women should not take Cinnamon as it can induce premature labor or uterine contractions. While Cinnamon helps with stomach pains, gas of indigestion, you should NOT be consuming or smelling Cinnamon for these purposes while you are pregnant .
~ Liver Damage – Coumarin which can cause liver failure if taken daily or in high doses and was banned in Europe for a while because of its effects on the liver. Choose Ceylon Cinnamon, which only has 0.04% Coumarin as compared to about 5% in Cassia.
~ Blood Thinner – The blood thinning property of Cassia Cinnamon must not be taken with other blood thinning medication.
~ Allergies – A small minority of people may be allergic to Cinnamon and symptoms usually include a runny nose, watery eyes or soreness of the eyes, shortness of breadth (usually by smelling Cinnamon Oil), upset stomach, facial or hand swelling, anaphylactic shock (unusual heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, dizziness, sudden drop in blood pressure) and nausea.
~ Skin irritation – Touching Cinnamon oil without diluting it will irritate your skin and create a burning sensation.
~ Increased Heart Rate  High doses of Cinnamon could be dangerous for those with a heart condition as Cinnamon is known to increase your heart rate. Cinnamon oil is especially powerful and should be diluted to less than 2% before use.
~ Choking Hazard – Swallowing Cinnamon powder without water creates a serious choking hazard harming your lungs fatally.
Antibiotic Conflict – Taking Cinnamon with antibiotics is in many ways akin to taking a double dose of antibiotics.
~ Heat – Cinnamon  increases body heat so if you are going through menopause or any other ailment that aggravates due to increase in body heat, then avoid Cinnamon.
~ Drug Interactions:  If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using cinnamon supplements. They could interact with antibiotics, diabetes drugs, blood thinners, heart medicines, and others.

 

Memories of error ‘improve our learning speed’

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, think they have discovered why people learn an identical task faster on subsequent attempts. Publishing their findings in Science Express, the team says our memories of error are the key to faster learning.
illustration of brain activity
The scientific name for the small differences between our expectations of an action and the reality of that action is “prediction errors.”

The researchers note that when people perform a task – such as opening a door – their brains make comparisons of how the door moved with how they expected the door to move. This information is calculated in a way that allows the person to perform the task more efficiently next time.

The scientific name for the small differences between our expectations of an action and the reality of that action is “prediction errors.” We learn prediction errors in a largely unconscious way.

To further investigate how the brain learns prediction errors, the researchers devised an experiment involving a joystick and a pair of dots on a screen.

The participants were told to guide a blue dot toward a red dot on the screen using the joystick. However, the participants were unable to see the joystick that they were holding, and the blue dot could also be programmed by the researchers to move in an off-kilter way.

To overcome the off-kilter movement of the dot, the participants were required to compensate their joystick movements accordingly. Typically, after a few attempts, they would adjust their movements to guide the blue dot to its target.

The researchers observed that the participants responded more quickly to small errors that pushed them consistently in one direction than to larger errors that were less consistent.

David Herzfeld, a graduate student in Shadmehr’s laboratory who led the study, explains: “They learned to give the frequent errors more weight as learning cues, while discounting those that seemed like flukes.”

Reza Shadmehr, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins, compares the experiment to his proficiency as a tennis player.

“I’m much better in my second 5 minutes of playing tennis than in my first 5 minutes,” he says, “and I always assumed that was because my muscles had warmed up. But now I wonder if warming up is really a chance for our brains to re-experience error.”

‘Two processes happening simultaneously’

Further explaining the experience of learning a new motor task, Dr. Shadmehr says there appear to be two processes happening simultaneously. One of these is the learning of motor commands, and the other is critiquing the learning, “much the way a ‘coach’ behaves.”

“Learning the next similar task goes faster, because the coach knows which errors are most worthy of attention. In effect, this second process leaves a memory of the errors that were experienced during the training, so the re-experience of those errors makes the learning go faster.”

Daofen Chen, PhD, a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, who co-funded the study, says that the research is a significant step toward understanding how we learn motor skills:

“The results may improve movement rehabilitation strategies for the many who have suffered strokes and other neuromotor injuries.”

In the next component of the research, the team will examine which brain region is responsible for the “coaching” role in assigning different weights to various types of error.

Stem cells show potential for brain damage repair

A new study suggests a mechanism to get bone marrow stem cells to differentiate into brain cells. If the proposed method proves to be viable, it could lead to ways of generating new brain cell populations for repairing brain damage.

Rachel Okolicsanyi, of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues report their study in the journal Developmental Biology.

Unlike other cells of the body that can divide and replicate, once most types of brain cells die, the resulting neural damage is thought to be irreversible. Finding a way to generate new populations of brain cells would be a considerable breakthrough.

At the Genomics Research Centre of QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Ms. Okolicsanyi is investigating whether or not bone marrow stem cells have the potential to differentiate or mature into brain cells.

In the study, she and her colleagues review the current literature and focus on a particular family of cell proteins that she believes can be manipulated to ensure the bone marrow stem cells differentiate into brain cells, as opposed to various other cells they are normally fated to become, as Ms. Okolicsanyi explains:

“What we are hoping is that by manipulating this particular family of proteins we can encourage the stem cells to show a higher percentage of neural markers indicating that they could mature into neural cells rather than what they would normally do, which is form into bone, cartilage and fat.”

The family of proteins that Ms. Okolicsanyi’s research is looking at is the heparin sulfate proteoglycans, which sit on the surface of all cells.

Stem cells could reroute brain circuits, bypassing those damaged by stroke

The work of the study has helped her and her team decide what to do next. “We will manipulate these cells by modifying the surrounding environment,” she says. “For example, we will add chemicals such as complex salts and other commonly found biological chemicals to feed these cells, and this will either inhibit or encourage cellular processes.”

Stem cells
The researchers are looking into ways of coaxing bone marrow stem cells to differentiate into brain cells, potentially helpingstroke patients.

They will then observe how the stem cells react to these various chemicals and see which ones in particular increase or decrease the cells’ neural markers.

Ultimately, she hopes it will be possible to introduce stem cells into the brain and there manipulate them to repair damaged brain cells.

For example, in stroke patients who lose movement, speech or control of one side of their face – which results from damage to electrical circuits in the brain – introducing stem cells could generate new brain cells that reroute the circuits, bypassing the damaged cells.