Well-being by walking

WHAT

Did you know that walking benefits your body and your mind?

WHY

Remember, we talked already in another article about the necessity of relaxing body and mind to feel at ease. And well, there is a magical activity which works on these two sides. And you know what? This activity, you can practice it anytime, day or night, and there is no need to buy specific equipment to do it. That’s because it is just about… walking! Let’s go and see what are the miraculous benefits of walking, on the body and mind.

HOW

There are specific routes well designed to get in touch with our predecessors ( pilgrimages, for example, are routes that numerous men walked on for centuries) or our contemporaries (meeting other walkers is frequent on many hiking paths, and the stories which you will live during your pedestrian holidays can be shared with your colleagues when you will come back to work!). Also, it is obvious that walking in nature is more pleasant than walking in town (you have a better contact with your environment, contact which can be improved by walking barefoot: to walk barefoot is an interesting experience, but which must be done in good conditions. Avoid going alone, take a pair of shoes and a medical kit with you, and, of course, go walk in a “clean” place (for example, cities are not appropriate for this exercise!). However, what’s magic, is that if you just walk in a non-specific way, for example to go home after work, you’ll already benefits all these virtues, even if it is to a lesser extent.

WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IT

From a very concrete point of view, walking in whatever environment generates unsuspected physiological profits. Actually, the WHO insists heavily on the benefactions of walking in its ” World Recommendations on the physical activity for the health” edited in 20101. Furthermore, in 2012, the WHO has listed and validated all the modern studies on the benefactions of walking2. It recommends in particular to everyone to make at least 10000 steps a day (it takes approximately 10 minutes to make 1000 steps). Here are listed some of the physical benefactions: reinforcement of muscles and fortification of bones, improvement of the vital capacities, reduction of the risks of heart attack, stimulation of the immune system, decrease of the risk of AVC, reduction of the risk of breast and colon cancer, and of the type 2 diabetes … In brief, according to the WHO, the settled way of life is the 4th world cause of “avoidable deaths”! …

But the most beautiful is that walking also has an action on the mind: it improves memory, attention, creativity, because walking improves, among others, the irrigation of the brain (and as a consequence, its functionning2).

We made the tour of the walking subject. And now on, let’s go!

Look further / Useful link(s)

NOTES

1■ http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44436/1/9789242599978_fre.pdf

2■ Ca m’intéresse, may 2017, article “Les bienfaits de la marche” (FR)

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A biological basis of culture ?


And 2 other news

 

In attempts to define what makes us uniquely human, emotions and feelings are often marginalized. These deeply ingrained, often irrational aspects of our behaviour seem destined to be the poor cousins of the rational cognitive functions that enable the formulation of mathematical theorems or operatic scores. In his bold and important book The Strange Order of Things, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio argues that in underestimating the contributions of such ‘lower-level’ brain phenomena to ‘higher-level’ cognitive functions, science might have been missing out on some important biology. Similarly, neuroscience’s emphasis on the origins of language as a shaper of culture might have eclipsed the role of feelings.

[…]

Damasio traces core components of the human “cultural mind”, such as social behaviour and cooperation, back to the non-human biology of unicellular organisms present at the inception of life. Bacteria do not sit up at night to contemplate the nature of their existence, and are unable to calculate the trajectories of distant planets. Nevertheless, they are in full command of an impressive repertoire of social behaviours. For example, when nutrients are scarce, bacteria eschew their hermit-like lives and clump together. They can also align into defensive palisades that can confer resistance to antibiotics.

Although compelling and refreshingly original, Damasio’s thesis would have benefited from a more detailed exposition of the scientific evidence supporting his assertions.

Read full article in nature.

2 other titles that grabbed our attention:

 

The love drug that could draw people away from any addiction

The “cuddle chemical” oxytocin boosts social bonds. Soon a version of it will be tested in pill form to see if it can reset the brain wiring that gets us hooked

Article from new scientist.

 

Chemical controllers: How hormones influence your body and mind

WE LIKE to think we are in charge of our own behaviour – that our thoughts are under our conscious control and that our actions are mostly reasonable. But our behaviour is also in the sway of an ancient system of mind control: hormones. These protein messengers are best known for their fundamental duty as regulators – think of insulin and blood sugar, for example – but they also bathe the brain in chemical information that tells us about the world around us and the people in it.

Can a surge in a particular hormone make us feel and act like a totally different person?

Article from new scientist.

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The children of the digital technology: a generation of “sick”?

 

Fears, addictions, confinement, insomnias, diseases: the risks connected to the digital technology are to be seriously taken. The young people are affected by new mental illnesses or described as such. The list is long and does not stop lengthening. The young people found in the digital technology a refuge in front of their ill-being, but it finally seems to aggravate their solitude.

So, in 2015, a new syndrome was born: Fobo (for Fear Of Being Offline). This one is characterized by the fear of being disconnected. Since then, the list stretches out and after the syndrome of the ghost vibrations and the “nomophobia”, which is translated by the anxiety to be separated from its mobile phone, the selfitism has just been described as a mental illness.

The next one on the list of the World Health Organization: the addiction in the video games. Then, why the WHO made such a decision? The answer is maybe near pharmaceutical companies. Indeed, qualifying the disorders of the video game as a disease involves that the people recognized as sick will get a medicinal prescription (to pay!). Yet, labs think they finalized of “the molecules specially targeted at the adolescent depressions with compulsive behavior”, which is obviously the case at the players.

The problem? According to Emilie Danchin, ” give medicine to young people who have a narcissistic fragility entail a risk of making them hooked to medicine. It is necessary to begin with questioning the practice and wondering what makes that we have a dependent personality “.

Read full article in French on “alternativesante”.

 

AI Super-readers, better than humans!

 

January the 15th of year 2018 will be remembered in the history of human beings and robots. This day, two AI outscored human beings at the Stanford Questions Answering Dataset, which is a reading test designed by Stanford researchers where you have to answer more than 100.000 questions using 500 Wikipedia articles.

One of the two concerned AI was created by Alibaba’s researchers (Alibaba is a Chinese big store) and scored 82,44 at this test. The other one was developed by Microsoft’s researchers and scored 82,65. The human contestants scored 82,304.

This result is very significant in the sense that we all already know that computers have supremacy over human kind in the areas of memory (storage) and calculation (and they also can do multiple things simultaneously). From now on, as machines not only remember or access more resources than human beings, not only they read that faster, but they also understand it better!! From now on, human beings won’t ever be competitive against machines again, in many ways.

Click the link to read the original article.

 

When people sleep more they also eat less sugar…

and 2 other news we found for you.

 

When people sleep more they also eat less sugar and carbs

Want to eat better? Sleep more. Increasing the amount of sleep a person gets has been linked to eating fewer sugary foods, and making better nutritional choices.
Wendy Hall, at King’s College London, and her team enlisted 42 volunteers to help them investigate the link between sleep and diet. Half the participants were given advice on how to get more sleep – such as avoiding caffeine before bed, establishing a relaxing routine, and trying not to go to bed too full or hungry. This advice was intended to help them boost the amount of sleep they each got by 90 minutes a night. The remaining 21 volunteers received no such advice.
The team found that, of those who were given the advice, 86 per cent spent more time in bed, and around half slept for longer than they used to. These extended sleep patterns were associated with an average reduction in the intake of free sugars of 10 grams a day. People who were getting more sleep also ate fewer carbohydrates. There were no significant changes in diet in the control group.

Read article on newscientist.

 

A reboot for chronic fatigue syndrome research

Research into this debilitating disease has a rocky past. Now scientists may finally be finding their footing.
After decades of pleading, people with the condition have finally caught the attention of mainstream science — and dozens of exploratory studies are now under way. Scientists entering the field are using the powerful tools of modern molecular biology to search for any genes, proteins, cells and possible infectious agents involved. They hope the work will yield a laboratory test to diagnose ME/CFS — which might have several different causes and manifestations — and they want to identify molecular pathways to target with drugs.
Read article on nature.

 

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing review

– timely guide Daniel H Pink’s engaging book reveals the best times of day to make optimum décisions.

In 2011, two Cornell researchers, Michael Macy and Scott Golder, began an unusual project. They gathered approximately 500m tweets that had been posted by more than 2 million users in 84 countries over the previous two years. Then they subjected these tweets to careful analysis.
The sociologists’ aim was straightforward. The pair wanted to measure how people’s feelings varied from morning until night and, by using an analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), they attempted to measure the emotional states revealed by individuals in the electronic texts they sent. The patterns that were uncovered were striking.
Macy and Golder found that with remarkable consistency – and regardless of time of year – people’s positive emotions rose in strength as the morning progressed and then fell significantly in the afternoon, before climbing back in the evening. “Whether a tweeter was North American or Asian, Muslim or atheist, black, white or brown, it didn’t matter,” Daniel Pink tells us. “Across continents and time zones was the same daily oscillation – a peak, a trough and a rebound.”

Read article on theguardian.

 

2018: From now on, I shall hold my good resolutions!


 

1 year. It is the time required by the Earth to turn around the Sun. The time for the seasons to pass, as well as the twelve Zodiac constellations. And then the Earth, with us, returns to its starting point. Almost. Because the cosmic hazards infer an approximation, the Earth, every year, does not begin its new revolution from the same starting point than the year before. Every new cycle is different from the precedent. Also, we too, every year, take a new start again. Better than the precedent if it is possible. With new good resolutions to hold, just to move forward in life.

The good resolutions are a projection of what we want to be. Therefore, they are halfway between the artless wish and the proactive initiative. And if the dream is essential to make us rise to our aspirations, the action is also necessary. Without action, we shall live the same solar cycle each and every year. But, as human nature is lazy, most of the time the wish takes it over on the action. Everyone can take good resolutions, but not everyone manages to hold those! Indeed, every year we all would like to change our lives. And every year, the long-awaited important change does not occur, for lack of organized strategy and self-discipline.

The trick I give you in order to hold your good resolutions of the year, it is to CHEAT! To cheat against your too big and thus paralyzing expectations, but without denying them and choosing only small insignificant resolutions. To cheat against your laziness which says you to wait that an event arises because you aren’t able to achieve yourself a change as big as the one that you wait for in your life, but without minimizing your expectations toward the life. The trick I give you to succeed to act rather than to wait, it is to not take good resolutions for the year to come, but to take good resolutions for the two next years!

Begin by identifying the change that you wish to see arising in your life, two years later from now on. Then work on finding an intermediate objective to carry out during the current year. Not everything in your life will change when you’ll have reach your intermediate objective, but then you will be closer to the state you try to achieve.

There are multiple psychological advantages to proceed like that. To begin with, defining an intermediate objective forces you to think about what you need to change before aiming straight forward for the change. That forces you to define a methodology to reach your final goal. And building a strategy is the beginning of the action. To think in that terms is already putting the process of fulfillment on the way: you’re no more going to be different later on, you right now begin to change. And you can’t change what you are without changing your mind. What is actually painful. Yet if you don’t make the effort to think about the work you have to undertake in order to change yourself, then you have no chance to succeed in that task. Now, to validate a good resolution over two years forces you to accept this established fact.

Then the second thing which throws you into the action is that the intermediate objective doesn’t particularly make you dream: therefore, the work to be done will be conceived as work. No more time loss building castles in the sky, no more waste of time passed to daydream in “what life will be good when I’ll have reached my goal …”. Defining an intermediate objective to reach is also a way to think in terms of “movement” rather than in terms of “state”: we are not thinking anymore like “My life is just crap right now… what a loser am I…” and “That is going to be so great when …”. We are not anymore in the magical change of state, but in the transformation of present to build future. And that’s actually exactly how things work.

Finally, besides psychological tricks, the intermediate objective also is a real help, it is like to add a step between two floors: then you can use your legs to push you upward, not only your arms to pull you. As the intermediate objective is easier to reach than the final goal, you will be less afraid to undertake the task, you will be less tempted to say “later”. And then, when it has been reached, as you already have invested time and energy to change, you will be more motivated to end the work the next year!

Having said that, I can hear some whispering at the back of the room, as somebody begins discussing with his neighbor: ” yeah, well, all this stuff is cool, but the guy isn’t really in a hurry, is he? Two years, can you imagine? While all the others hold their good resolutions in a single year? Better trying to motivate ourselves and then go, shouldn’t we? ” And his neighbor, answering: ” what the guy said is still not stupid, but why not trying to reach the intermediate goal AND the final one during the same year? ”

Well, if they had asked me their question, I shall have answered them: ” it is better to move forward two times slower than not at all by taking good resolutions to hold in one year only and not to do what is required to make it happen … And then, does two years really seem so long to you? Please, let’s be serious just one moment: over the last 20 or 30 years, how many good resolutions in the year did you really hold? So, what are you really risking taking a shot with this method, besides losing only one more year? Besides, I agree with you. Two years is long. But as a result, that also gives you responsibilities: at first in the objectives you set, and then in their realization. Imagine all the life time lost if you head for useless objectives or if you don’t finally achieve them after two years? The issue with the idea of setting the final goal the same year than the intermediate one is that this tactic cancels a part of the psychological hack. Doing so, you remain focused all the way on the final goal, instead of focusing on the intermediate objective … In the proposed method, the good resolution of the year is to begin to change. To achieve the change is the good resolution of the next year. ”

And then, if you really are in a hurry, nothing prevents you from heading for twice more achievements over the two years to come than you would have over a single year (which means defining two intermediate objectives, one for each of the good resolutions you take) … But then again, there is a psychological limitation: having reached the intermediate goal of the first resolution, you will tend to say yourself: ” that’s it, I made the job. ” And thus, to forget a little bit the other one … There is no magic: changing a lot request a lot of effort. But in the end, it is better to change a little that not at all. To help you to take action, you have full of resources on the web as anti-procrastination hacks.

Last thing I wanted to evoke with you about this trick is that we could think it is more designed to hold a certain kind of good resolutions than another. For example, it’s cool if we wish to manage to jog, by deciding the first year to walk gradually further and further, and next year to run. The method seems far more complicated to apply if we wish for example to go parachuting. In fact, there is always a way to approach the problem indirectly, in a symbolic way. We can for example begin by taking climbing lessons and going on roller coasters in amusement parks the first year, in order to become used to emptiness and fall feeling, then take address and phone number of a center that can make you go parachuting the next one.

 

 

You now have enough material to develop your strategy to face the future. The NeuroHack-Learning team wishes you an excellent year 2018. Could it let your dreams begin to come true!

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Motivation – Beyond the limits


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“Nick” (Nicholas James) Vujicic was born without arms nor legs in 1982 in Melbourne (however he has two feet, one of which with two toes). He is the director of Life Without Limbs2, a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to the people living with a handicap. He is requested in particular by the American schools to intervene in public awareness campaigns on the tyranny of the other people’s opinion and the persecution of certain children by their schoolmates1.

What’s impressive with Nick is his energy and love of life… and that’s just STUPEFYING! When we know that he almost committed suicide when he was 8 years old and that he inspires now a lot of people, that’s impelling!

Just imagine as life can be complicated when we have no limbs. Everything becomes a challenge! Nick had to learn how to brush his teeth with his feet! And also to type despite his handicap … Besides, he is an accounting and financial planning graduate. In brief, he’s a man who not only succeeded to integrate socially in spite of his enormous handicap, but moreover who contributes to improve society via the association he created!

With his association, he travels the world to give conferences, in particular at le Havre (France) in 20173 in which he talks about his life, his questionings, his doubts and his hopes, and what allowed him to move forward, not to lose heart during harsh times. Among others, he explains that his parents always taught to him to be grateful “for what life had given him”. He also explains that it is to see a newspaper article showing a man facing a severe handicap that made him perceive the others’ pain1. Finally, he tells that he realized that the others also were attentive to his efforts and that he was de facto a source of inspiration, of motivation for them1.

Nick with his wife and son

Nick also has a Facebook page, which allows him to pursue the work of his association4. He is the author of several books (see below).

The last thing we’ll say in this article is Nick’s main message: say to yourself that if HE was able to overcome his handicap so much that he transformed it into an asset to meet an exceptional fate, YOU are able to face the difficulties you encounter in your life!

Look further / Useful link(s)

Notes

1■ Wikipedia Article about Nick Vujicic

2■ Nick Vujicic’s association website

3■ Nick Vujici conference at le Havre on 07/14/2017

4■ Nick Vujicic’s facebook page

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We ARE what we EAT!


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WHAT

Nowadays, science verifies more and more this old proverb. Indeed, we begin to realize the enormous influence that our food has on our physical and mental health, on our feelings and our way of thinking.

 

WHY

Why? Because the food we gulp down has contact with our digestive system, which is a kind of … a second brain. That could sound strange, but sometimes reality does: not only our digestive system contains neurons, but it contains nothing less than 100 milliards of them1! Connected between them and also with the brain, the one which stands in the head, via the vagus nerve, of which between 80 % and 90 % of fibers are none-reciprocal, and let information pass from the stomach (in particular the small intestine, around which it is rolled up) to the brain2. So it is our digestive system which tells our brain how to behave, and not the opposite!

We thus very well understand that what we eat influences our digestive system, and thus our brain: our feelings, our reflections, etc.

Furthermore, our food also has a direct effect on our intestinal flora, these 100000 billion of small bacteria which develop in our digestive system. But this intestinal flora, which has a very important effect on our body, depends naturally on our food. And from its composition can ensue cardiovascular risks4, anxiety and dépression2, autism4, obesity4, neurological diseases (as the Parkinson’s disease5), diabetes4, cancer4, as well as disorders in our hormonal and immune systems 2.

HOW

  1. A research team led by Mark Kahn, of the university of Pennsylvania, showed that the risk of developing cavernomes (vascular malformations resulting in risks of brain haemorrhages) depended on the intestinal flora of an individual. To prove that, they identified certain bacteria of the intestinal flora of mouse freeing a toxin susceptible to cross into the body and to generate cavernomes. By preventing the fixation of this toxin in the body of mice, they managed to reduce of 90 % the development of cavernomes in the population of studied mouse, proving the direct link between intestinal flora and appearance of cavernomes.3
  2. Researchers showed the link between intestinal flora and Parkinson’s disease by transplanting the intestinal flora of sick mice in healthy mice, what made reveal the symptoms of the disease in the sane mice. On the other hand, by isolating sick mice in a sterile environment or by treating them with antibiotics (and doing so by eliminating their intestinal flora), the researchers managed to reduce the intensity of the symptoms of the disease.5
  3. A research team led by Floris Fransen identified that the intestinal flora of young individuals differed from that of the old ones. And by transferring the intestinal microbiote of old individuals in young individuals, and vice versa, they managed in a case to generate disorders to the guinea pig and to reduce them in the other one.4
  4. Professor P. Holzer, neuro-gastroenterologist from Graz’s Hospital, was able to observe during large-scale epidemiological studies led on volunteers, that food has an effect on the humor of people, as they eat healthily or not.3

WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IT

 

These discoveries are a real revolution: they actually allow to envisage in the future to handle a lot of complex diseases simply by modifying the intestinal flora of the sick person, using for example antibiotics or probiotics.

Well, as prevention is better than cure, pay attention on what you eat!

Look further / Useful link(s)

Notes

1■ Documentaire “Les super-pouvoirs de l’intestin” de Juliette Démas, diffusé sur France 5

2■ Article “Intestin grêle – le cerveau de notre cerveau

3■ Article “Quand l’intestin agit sur le cerveau”, magazine La Recherche Juillet-Août 2017

4■ Article “Un lien a été trouvé entre l’état de la flore intestinale et plusieurs maladies liées à l’âge”, Medical Xpress, 2 novembre 2017

5■ Article “La maladie de Parkinson commence bien dans les intestins”, magazine Science & Vie de février 2017

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From lullabies to military songs (Part 2)


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Hi Neurohackers! Previously we saw a cool introduction to the powers of music. Here is another one about applications of the concept!

Social applications are unlimited: we find of course the track of music in every religion, where texts must be precisely memorized, and where the rites referred to magic stuff. We know moreover from now on that this phenomenon was already present during prehistoric areas! Cro-Magnon men preferred the caves having the best acoustic properties and we found in the cave of Portel (Ariège, France), a testimony of this statement: two red points were drawn on the ceiling, and by standing between both, if we speak, the echo of the cave sends us back our voice “transformed”, “hollow”, “as if we were communicated with the spirit of the cave” according to the suggestion of Michel Dauvois.1 Thus we know that sounds and voices in particular has always been associated always to the divine world.

 

We still understand the interest of the military fanfare: it generates a protection bubble of sound, preventing the sounds of the enemy from reaching the troop, and thus let the men think that all is good so far! Furthermore, when we sing with the others, there is a form of “dissolution of the subject” into the population: everyone is an actor of his sound landscape, but he does not distinguish his voice from that of the others, if he sings in rhythm and in tune. And if it is the case, the impression of power is moreover multiplied tenfold (physical phenomenon of resonance). Thus we understand that we can generate a solid group spirit by this way.

The notion of ” sound landscape ” evoked above was created by Pierre Schaeffer (pioneer of the electronic music). It allows to bridge the gap between sound and music, by the means of ” the sound atmosphere “. If we saw that the psychology of man is modelled by the sound, we understand that his sound environment partially defines him… That is why the discipline of ” sound archaeology ” begins to be developed, trying to understand and then to reproduce the sound atmospheres of the past, and doing so trying to obtain information on the people who preceded us. But we also perceive here the ill-being of our time with all the problem of noise pollution…1

When we see the degree of importance that sound has for the man, we can finally raise the question: is sound essential to man’s development? Well, in fact, we notice that it is rather important for building himself: we saw in the first part of the article (lien html) that the sound connects the individual with the world which surrounds him, it erases the barrier which separates him from this one. Yet unsurprisingly, we know nowadays, that deafness has huge consequences on the development of psychomotor capacities of the children.2 In the same order of idea, we shall still note the use of ” the inner ear ” in the representation of the vertical posture for the individual

 

And finally, also interesting: the laboratories of Orfield, in Minneapolis, created, mainly for the NASA, a “anechoic room”. This place, said “anechoic” (without echo), absorbs 99,9 % of sounds. And we notice that to stay more than 45 minutes in such a chamber drives us crazy, because it breaks the balance between our inner physiological noises and the outer foreigner ones: the man is not made to hear only the beatings of his own heart!3 He is not alone in the universe, and maintains an intimate link with the outside world, a sound link.

And on these words ends this second part of article. But they say: all things come in threes! The next part and the end of this article is coming in the next episode.

Look further / Useful link(s)

Notes

1■ Article “Searching for lost sounds” from 01net, 02/08/2017

2■ Website of the Service de Soutien à l’Education Familiale et à la Scolarisation des Pupilles de l’Enseignement Public du Vaucluse

3■ Article on the anechoic chambers

 

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