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Exercise activates memory neural networks in older adults: Study shows acute exercise has the ability to impact brain regions important to memory -- ScienceDaily

Dr. Smith's research team measured the brain activity (using fMRI) of healthy participants ages 55-85 who were asked to perform a memory task that involves identifying famous names and non famous ones. The action of remembering famous names activates a neural network related to semantic memory, which is known to deteriorate over time with memory loss. This test was conducted 30 minutes after a session of moderately intense exercise (70% of max effort) on an exercise bike and on a separate day after a period of rest. Participants' brain activation while correctly remembering names was significantly greater in four brain cortical regions (including the middle frontal gyrus, inferior temporal gryus, middle temporal gyrus, and fusiform gyrus) after exercise compared to after rest. The increased activation of the hippocampus was also seen on both sides of the brain. "Just like a muscle adapts to repeated use, single sessions of exercise may flex cognitive neural networks in ways that promote adaptations over time and lend to increased network integrity and function and allow more efficient access to memories," Dr. Smith explained.

It's OK to indulge once in a while, study suggests: The body adapts to occasional short-term overeating: Body focuses on removing glucose to preserve insulin sensitivity in short-term overeating bout -- ScienceDaily

Although the amount of visceral fat that surrounds internal organs increased substantially, short-term overeating did not have a significant effect on the men's weight or fat mass. In addition, fasting levels of blood sugar and C-peptide -- an amino acid the body releases in response to increased production of insulin -- did not change. This finding was surprising because fasting levels of endogenous glucose -- new glucose the body produces in addition to what it has already stored for future use -- increased during the short-term trial. Chronic overeating increased the amount of total body fat and visceral fat as well as post-meal blood sugar and C-peptide levels. However, it did not alter fasting blood sugar levels, endogenous glucose production or the rate of glucose removal from the body (glucose disposal). This may be because the nutrient profile in the long-term trial was consistent with a typical diet and dietary fat percentages did not increase. Long-term overindulgence in fatty foods, instead of more nutritionally balanced foods, may be an important factor that causes rapid changes in blood sugar control.

What people think they're doing and what they're doing are very different

They found that: Smartphone usage is repetitive and consistent for each person Future phone checking frequency can be predicted with very little data A standard survey was unable to predict these behaviours For example, the researchers found that if you check your phone 80 times today, you are likely to repeat this behaviour every day. Dr Tom Wilcockson from Lancaster University said: "Multiple checks could indicate an absent minded use of mobile phones, which is habitual and unconscious"

Start small

If the science is compelling and if an incremental approach is good enough for the top athletes in the world, then why do so many people still fall prey to a suboptimal cycle of big, in-over-your-head workouts followed by extended time off due to injury and fatigue? Dixon believes there are two primary reasons: a lack of self-confidence, and a lack of understanding the training process.

Impact of parent physical activity, sedentary behavior on their preschool children -- ScienceDaily

Young children do follow in their parents' footsteps. Literally. That's the conclusion of researchers who found that in underserved populations, parents' physical activity -- and their sedentary behavior -- directly correlates with the activity level of their preschoolers. Researchers say these findings could lead to interventions that focus more on helping parents model -- not just encourage -- an active lifestyle for their children.

Health Hacks for the Holidays

Make your exercise commitment small enough so that there is no way you can’t fit it in.

Neurons change across basil ganglia with habit formation

Interestingly, the group observed that changes in go and stop activity occurred across the entire region of the basal ganglia they were studying as opposed to specific subsets of brain cells. O'Hare said this may relate to the observation that an addiction to one thing can make a person more likely to engage in other unhealthy habits or addictions as well.

Why are habits so hard to break? Getting hooked changes the brain

Experiments by Duke neurobiology graduate student Justin O'Hare found that the stop and go pathways were both more active in the sugar-habit mice. O'Hare said he didn't expect to see the stop signal equally ramped up in the habit brains, because it has been traditionally viewed as the factor that helps prevent a behavior. The team also discovered a change in the timing of activation in the two pathways. In mice that had formed a habit, the go pathway turned on before the stop pathway. In non-habit brains, the stop signal preceded the go. These changes in the brain circuitry were so long-lasting and obvious that it was possible for the group to predict which mice had formed a habit just by looking at isolated pieces of their brains in a petri dish.

Why running can be prayer |

Like running, prayer is a discipline that takes repeated practice. I have noticed that if I don’t pray one night, it is more difficult to return the next night. I can fill those minutes with so many other activities: watching television, scrolling endlessly on my phone, worrying about the future. Jesuit Joe Simmons writes, “When I fall away from running—or for that matter, from praying—I feel out of sorts and lazy; alien to my best self.” To say that I have made writing and prayer habitual actions is not to devalue their significance. Rather, when something becomes habit, it becomes part of our skin and soul. I run to run faster; I pray to pray better.

Are habits (or nurture) actually just epigenitics

Molecular analyses of the collected tissue samples showed that the regulation and activity of clock genes was altered after one night of sleep loss. The activity of genes is regulated by a mechanism called epigenetics. This involves chemical alterations to the DNA molecule such as methyl groups -- a process called methylation -- which regulates how the genes are switched on or off. The researchers found that clock genes had increased numbers of such DNA marks after sleep loss. They also found that the expression of the genes, which is indicative of how much of the genes' product is made, was altered. "As far as we know, we are the first to directly show that epigenetic changes can occur after sleep loss in humans, but also in these important tissues," says Dr. Cedernaes. "It was interesting that the methylation of these genes could be altered so quickly, and that it could occur for these metabolically important clock genes," he continues.

Environment programs our behavior:: to change the behavior, change the environmental cues

"Once a behavior had been repeated a lot, especially if the person does it in the same setting, you can successfully change what people want to do. But if they've done it enough, their behavior doesn't follow their intentions," Neal explains. Neal says this has to do with the way that our physical environments come to shape our behavior. "People, when they perform a behavior a lot — especially in the same environment, same sort of physical setting — outsource the control of the behavior to the environment," Neal says. […] consider what happens when you perform a very basic everyday behavior like getting into a car. "Of course on one level, that seems like the simplest task possible," Neal says, "but if you break it down, there's really a myriad set of complex actions that are performed in sequence to do that." You use a certain motion to put your key in the lock, and then physically manipulate your body to get into the seat. There is another set of motions to insert the key in the ignition. "All of this is actually very complicated and someone who had never driven a car before would have no ability to do that, but it becomes second nature to us," Neal points out. "[It's] so automatic that we can do it while we are conducting complex other tasks, like having conversations." Throughout the process, you haven't thought for a second about what you are doing, you are just responding to the different parts of the car in the sequence you've learned. "And very much of our day goes off in this way," Wood says. "About 45 percent of what people do every day is in the same environment and is repeated." […] In this way, Neal says, our environments come to unconsciously direct our behavior. Even behaviors that we don't want, like smoking. "For a smoker, the view of the entrance to their office building — which is a place that they go to smoke all the time — becomes a powerful mental cue to go and perform that behavior," Neal says.

OCD patients' brains light up to reveal how compulsive habits develop -- ScienceDaily

In a study funded by the Wellcome Trust, researchers scanned the brains of 37 patients with OCD and 33 healthy controls (who did not have the disorder) while they repetitively performed a simple pedal-pressing behavioural response to avoid a mild electric shock to the wrist. The researchers found that patients with OCD were less capable of stopping these pedal-pressing habits, and this was linked to excessive brain activity in the caudate nucleus, a region that must fire correctly in order for us to control our habits. […]That the habits the researchers trained in these patients in the laboratory also triggered the caudate to over-fire adds weight to the suggestion that compulsions in OCD may be caused by the brain's habit system[…] "It's not just OCD; there are a range of human behaviours that are now considered examples of compulsivity, including drug and alcohol abuse and binge-eating," says Dr Gillan, now at New York University. "What all these behaviours have in common is the loss of top-down control, perhaps due to miscommunication between regions that control our habit and those such as the prefrontal cortex that normally help control volitional behaviour. As compulsive behaviours become more ingrained over time, our intentions play less and less of a role in what we actually do."

The Secret to Breaking Out of Our Most Destructive Habits | Alternet

In Patrick’s case, reviewing his feelings about his childhood abuse and relating them to present feelings had actually given him a sense of entitlement: because he’d endured so much, his wife owed him special consideration. She offended his sense of entitlement merely by having her own rights and desires. This unconscious cycle was the product of habituated associations of vulnerable states with expectations of special consideration. On the rare occasions when it became a thought process (she knows what I’ve been through, yet she . . .) Patrick could easily catch himself, but on the rapid processing level of habit activation, he had no verbal understanding and little chance for consciously overriding his hostility.
The women in the single if-then plan condition and those in the control condition showed a reduction in their snacking from baseline to follow-up (2.01 to 1.47 average daily snacks, and 2.45 snacks to 1.45, respectively). By contrast, the women in the multiple if-then plan group showed no significant reduction in snacking (1.95 daily snacks at baseline vs. 1.83 at follow-up).