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Our brains synchronise during a conversation

Until now, most traditional research had suggested the hypothesis that the brain "synchronises" according to what is heard, and correspondingly adjusts its rhythms to auditory stimuli. Now, experts from this Donostia-based research centre have gone a step further and simultaneously analysed the complex neuronal activity of two strangers who hold a dialogue for the first time. The team, led by Alejandro Pérez, Manuel Carreiras and Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, has confirmed by recording cerebral electrical activity that the neuronal activity of two people involved in an act of communication synchronises in order to allow for a connection between both subjects. "It involves interbrain communion that goes beyond language itself and may constitute a key factor in interpersonal relations and the understanding of language," says Jon Andoni Duñabeitia.

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A healthy lifestyle increases life expectancy by up to seven years

Maintaining a normal weight, not smoking, and drinking alcohol at moderate levels are factors that add healthy years to life..The most striking finding was the discovery of a large difference in average lifespan between the groups who were the most and the least at risk. Men who were not overweight, had never smoked, and drank moderately were found to live an average of 11 years longer than men who were overweight, had smoked, and drank excessively. For women, the gap between these two groups was found to be even greater, at 12 years.

link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170720113710.htm


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Why do dogs love us? Geneticists hunt for DNA clues

In an effort to explain how dogs evolved into the brazen, adorable mooches we know and love, scientists have identified a few genetic mutations that may be behind their friendly personalities. The new research is part of a broader push to understand dogs’ mysterious origins, and to explain just how they became our best furry friends. Somehow, dogs have evolved to like being around humans. In return for their exuberant, slobbery affection, dogs have convinced us to take care of them — driving otherwise sane adults to carry around plastic baggies filled with warm poop. The rough idea is that tens of thousands of years ago, wolves probably began trailing human hunter-gatherers to scavenge their kills. Friendlier wolves may have been fed extra scraps, or more frightening wolves might have been killed — and over time, this group of wolves eventually evolved into dogs. The genetic blueprint underlying this personality shift is still a mystery, however. So Bridgett vonHoldt, an evolutionary geneticist at Princeton University, and Monique Udell, at Oregon State University, led a team of scientists to find out what sets dogs apart from wolves. Using a combination of genetic sequencing and behavioral tests, they pinpointed a couple genetic differences that seem to track with friendliness, according to a study published today in the journal Science Advances.

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How physical exercise prevents dementia

Physical exercise seems beneficial in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in old age, numerous studies have shown. Now researchers have explored in one of the first studies worldwide how exercise affects brain metabolism..As expected, physical activity had influenced brain metabolism: it prevented an increase in choline. The concentration of this metabolite often rises as a result of the increased loss of nerve cells, which typically occurs in the case of Alzheimer's disease. Physical exercise led to stable cerebral choline concentrations in the training group, whereas choline levels increased in the control group. The participants' physical fitness also improved: they showed increased cardiac efficiency after the training period. Overall, these findings suggest that physical exercise not only improves physical fitness but also protects cells._

link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170721090107.htm
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Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition. Dr Shanon Casperson, lead author of the study from USDA-Agricultural Research Service Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, USA said: "We found that about a third of the additional calories provided by the sugar-sweetened drinks were not expended, fat metabolism was reduced, and it took less energy to metabolize the meals. This decreased metabolic efficiency may 'prime' the body to store more fat." The researchers found that the inclusion of a sugar-sweetened drink decreased fat oxidation, which kick-starts the breakdown of fat molecules, after a meal by 8%. If a sugar-sweetened drink was consumed with a 15% protein meal, fat oxidation decreased by 7.2g on average. If a sugar-sweetened drink was consumed with a 30% protein meal, fat oxidation decreased by 12.6g on average. While having a sugar-sweetened drink increased the amount of energy used to metabolise the meal, the increased expenditure did not even out the consumption of additional calories from the drink. Dr. Casperson said: "We were surprised by the impact that the sugar-sweetened drinks had on metabolism when they were paired with higher-protein meals. This combination also increased study subjects' desire to eat savory and salty foods for four hours after eating."

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In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, while the dutiful ant toils away preparing for the winter. Findings in a recent publication by UConn psychology researcher Susan Zhu and colleagues add to a growing body of evidence that, although it may seem less appealing, the ant's gratification-delaying strategy should not be viewed in a negative light. "This decision strategy can be harder or more time-consuming in the moment, but it appears to have the best outcome in the long run, even if it isn't fun," says Zhu. The ant is what the researchers would call a maximizer. A maximizer is someone who makes decisions that they expect will impact themselves and others most favorably: they seek to "maximize" the positive and make the best choices imaginable. Yet the ant may consider so many variables that the same tendency to maximize benefit may lead to difficulty in making decisions. Previous research suggested this, with maximizers being less happy overall, having higher stress levels, and possibly regretting decisions they made. Zhu suggests that maximizing has beneficial consequences. "Maximizers are forward thinking, conscientious, optimistic, and satisfied," she says. "Though a lot of work and thought go into those decisions, maximizing has beneficial outcomes."

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Adderall might improve your test scores – but so could a placebo


Each participant took a batch of cognitive tests four times. On two of these occasions they were given 10 milligrams of Adderall, while they were given a placebo the other times. With each treatment, they were once told they were getting medication, and once told they were getting a placebo. Compared with placebo, Adderall produced a slight improvement on two tests, relating to memory and attention, out of 31 tests in total. But simply believing that they were taking a medication – regardless of whether they were or not – had a stronger effect, improving performance on six tests. The students performed least well when they were told they had taken a placebo – even when they had actually taken Adderall. “Expectation seemed to have more of an effect on objective performance than the actual medication state,” says Fargason. But neither the drug nor the belief that they were taking it boosted the volunteers’ performances in more complex tests of cognitive ability. “In terms of the value for learning, it’s not clear it really would make that much of a difference,” says Fargason.

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A changing society: 100 is the new 80

When it comes to aging successfully and remaining in good health, are centenarians the perfect role models? Researchers have been studying illness trajectories in centenarians during the final years of their lives. According to their findings, people who died aged 100 or older suffered fewer diseases than those who died aged 90 to 99, or 80 to 89. When it comes to aging successfully and remaining in good health, are centenarians the perfect role models? Or is extreme age inextricably linked with increasing levels of illness? Which diseases most commonly affect people who fail to reach the 100-year mark? Researchers from Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin have been studying illness trajectories in centenarians during the final years of their lives. According to their findings, people who died aged 100 or older suffered fewer diseases than those who died aged 90 to 99, or 80 to 89.

link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170720103148.htm
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Alzheimer's drug cuts hallmark inflammation related to metabolic syndrome by 25 percent

An existing Alzheimer's medication slashes inflammation and insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome, a potential therapeutic intervention for a highly dangerous condition affecting 30 percent of adults in the United States, according to new clinical trial results by scientists at Northwell Health's Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. In a study released today in JCI Insight, Feinstein Institute researchers found that the FDA-approved Alzheimer's drug "galantamine" cut key markers of inflammation - a hallmark of metabolic syndrome - by more than 25 percent, leading to reduced insulin resistance. A cluster of four risk factors—increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels—comprise metabolic syndrome, which greatly raises risks for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

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Your Brain Doesn't Contain Memories. It Is Memories

RECALL YOUR FAVORITE memory: the big game you won; the moment you first saw your child's face; the day you realized you had fallen in love. It's not a single memory, though, is it? Reconstructing it, you remember the smells, the colors, the funny thing some other person said, and the way it all made you feel. Your brain's ability to collect, connect, and create mosaics from these milliseconds-long impressions is the basis of every memory. By extension, it is the basis of you. This isn't just metaphysical poetics. Every sensory experience triggers changes in the molecules of your neurons, reshaping the way they connect to one another. That means your brain is literally made of memories, and memories constantly remake your brain. This framework for memory dates back decades. And a sprawling new review published today in Neuron adds an even finer point: Memory exists because your brain’s molecules, cells, and synapses can tell time.
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