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…

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Do Electronic Devices Affect Sleep?

Does reading from an electronic tablet before bedtime affect sleep? We’ve known for some time that artificial lighting can alter the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythm. But now, our lives seem saturated with electronic devices that emit short-wavelength-enriched blue light as opposed to broad-spectrum white lights. And often, we’re reading from those gadgets at night just before trying to fall asleep. A recent survey of more than 1,500 adults suggested that 90% of Americans use some type of electronics at least several nights a week within an hour of bedtime. So researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston…

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Recharge Your Brain with a Good Night’s Sleep

A late night at work, too many things on the to-do list, or maybe you were awakened by a nightmare . . . . . . most of us have experienced lack of sleep at some point in our lives (and for some, it can feel more like the norm than the exception). But, missing out on sleep can lead to learning difficulties, problems with motor control, and general irritability – it just makes our brain unhappy. So what exactly is going on when we do get a good night’s sleep that helps us feel so refreshed and clear-headed? Well,…

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Changing the Brain with Meditation: What’s Sleep Got to Do With It?

When a busy day is done, and you’re finally tucked in bed and fast asleep, your brain gets a break from that seemingly endless daily barrage of stimulation. For researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that made for an ideal opportunity to take a look at brain waves in their most natural, uninfluenced state. They wanted to find out if long-term meditation could increase gamma power. Basically, gamma is a pattern of brain waves that’s usually associated with perception and consciousness – as well as some plasticity-related processes like attention, learning, and memory. Under the guidance of psychiatrist and neuroscientist…

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The Brain on Long-Term Love

What activates the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, calms parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety, and is available to anyone without a prescription? Long-term relationships. Researchers Bianca Acevedo, PhD and Arthur Aron, PhD took ten women and seven men who had been married an average of 21.4 years and did fMRIs to look at their brains. They wanted to see what was happening in their brains while participants looked at photos of their partners. For a comparison, they also saw photos of a highly familiar acquaintance, a very close, long-time friend, and a less familiar…

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Depression, Anxiety, Stress . . . Could Mindfulness Group Therapy Help?

It can be really exciting to come across research offering insight into new techniques . . . . . . particularly when the method allows us to reach more people than we usually can. A team of researchers out of the Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University, Sweden, led by Jan Sundquist, MD, PhD, wanted to compare the outcome of mindfulness-based group therapy against that of individual-based cognitive therapy (CBT). They conducted an 8-week randomized controlled trial that included 215 patients (between the ages of 20-64) who exhibited symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress. Participants were randomly assigned…

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