Olympic Training for the Brain?

Do Olympic athletes have strong brains as well as strong bodies? Research has shown the benefit of exercise in improving cell health (including brain cells), boosting the brain’s natural anti-anxiety drug, and strengthening the aging brain. But we still have a lot to learn about exactly how exercise changes the brain. Recently, a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a series of experiments to try to tease apart the processes that are at work when we exercise. To do this, they essentially tricked the muscle cells of mice into thinking they were doing aerobic exercise….

Read More »


Why The Most Popular New Year’s Resolution May Be More Important than You Think

If I was a betting person I’d be willing to wager that, if you asked around at your New Year’s party last night, you found at least one person whose resolution was to hit the gym more in the coming year. And I’d bet that if you asked them why, they’d mentioned the extra pounds they’ve been putting on. I think my odds of winning would be pretty good, too. Getting more exercise is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, especially after the food-fueled holidays. But there are more benefits to exercising than just losing weight. For example,…

Read More »


An Exercise to Boost the Brain’s Natural Anti-Anxiety Drug?

Is there an exercise that can boost feel-good chemicals in your brain while reducing anxiety and improving your mood? The answer is yes – it’s yoga. Now yoga isn’t the only exercise that’s been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, but Chris Streeter, MD and her colleagues from the Boston University School of Medicine conducted a study that compared the efficacy of yoga to walking. Initially, Streeter and her team determined that yoga reduced anxiety, improved mood, and boosted the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Next, researchers randomly assigned participants to either a yoga group or…

Read More »


A Different Way to Handle Stress – Can Brain Science Help?

Stress – it’s often (if not always) a regular part of life. But everyone handles it differently, and many people are frequently on the search for ways to deal with it more effectively. Now, while stress triggers are usually different from person to person, the brain is actually hardwired to process stress in a certain way. So sometimes, this hardwiring can make stress feel more intense – and the reactivity that can come along with it often only compounds the problem. In this video clip, Rick Hanson, PhD explains why the brain is wired this way, and what needs to…

Read More »


10 Ways Dance Strengthens the Brain

The other day, we shared some brand-new studies that investigated the neural effects of dance on people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Dance has been shown to improve motor function, cognitive function, mental symptoms, and overall quality of life in people both with and without Parkinson’s disease. These results have been found in scientific studies, but also shared by a number of you in the comments that were left on the last blog. Deb, a child trauma therapist, shared how tap dance has made such a difference in the life of a traumatized young patient. And Virginia, LPCA, highlighted how dance…

Read More »


Parkinson’s Disease and Dance

Could dancing the tango improve cognitive function? According to the non-profit organization Dance for PD® (Parkinson’s disease), the answer is yes. Because Parkinson’s is a brain disorder, some people thought it might be uniquely affected by something like dance. So they approached the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, New York, about creating a program for people diagnosed with the disease. We first wrote about this program in 2011, and decided it was time to look back and see if there has been any data on its effectiveness since then. Dance for PD® has been holding classes since 2001 and…

Read More »