Archive for April, 2011

Brain flexibility can predict one’s ability to learn

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by admin

This week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) will contain a study in which researchers at UC Santa Barbara’s Brain Imaging Center recently developed a mechanism to determine how much a person is able to learn (Science Daily).

Researchers had study participants perform a motor task in which they pushed a series of buttons as quickly as possible.  While participants performed this task, researchers conducted functional MRI images of their brains.  Each fMRI image was divided into 112 regions and analyzed to discern how many different regions connected while the participants performed their motor task.  The researchers paid close attention to the interaction of multilayer networks, which show segments of different brain regions at one time, rather than individually.  Each segment is capable of containing a large amount of data, which is not yet quantifiable.  However, viewing connections between different regions simultaneously illustrated networks of communication of different brain layers, or multilayer networks.

The researchers were investigating brain flexibility, which they considered to be how various areas of the brain connect to each other in differentiated patterns.  Their findings suggest that a person’s brain flexibility can predict how well they will learn.

First author Danielle S. Bassett stated, “Parts of the brain communicate with one another very strongly, so they form a sort of module of intercommunicating regions of the brain.  In this way, brain activity can segregate into multiple functional modules.  What we wanted to measure is how fluid those modules are.”

Fluidity between each module in the brain may indicate increased flexibility of the brain.  Most significant is the fact that brain regions flexibility, and allegiances with other brain regions, can change over time.

Bassett explains, “That flexibility seems to be the factor that predicts learning.”

Brainjogging trains the brain, taking full advantage of its plasticity, or flexibility.  Plasticity is the characteristic that allows brains to change.  This is the reason for Brainjogging’s successes with students: students’ brains actually change when using Brainjogging, becoming more and more flexible and receptive learning.

Work it out: train your brain

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 by admin

Research from the Salk Institute suggests that using a muscle can cue neuromuscular synapses to form around that muscle, making that muscle more efficient.  The brain is a muscle – exercising it as one would any other muscle strengthens the brain’s ability.  All messages in the body rely on synapses, small junctions that “coordinate communication between nerves and the muscles they control” (Salk).  Synapses are not finite; individuals can cultivate development of synapses even when synapse growth seems to be independently stagnant.  Salk Institute researchers, including Kuo-Fen Lee, the senior author of the study, hoped to discern whether or not initiation of synapse development is nerve-independent.  Essentially, they hoped to understand if cues from muscles could stimulate synapse development.Researchers studied growing mouse embryos, specifically the clustering of neurotransmitter receptors, which are considered “an acceptable indicator of synapse formation” (Salk).   In 14-day old embryos, neurotransmitter receptor clusters were “not apposed by nerves,” which indicated that initiation of synapse formation was not nerve-dependent. The scientists genetically altered the embryos so that they would not grow a phrenic nerve, “which normally innervates the diaphragm muscle that is essential in controlling breathing” (Salk).  Despite the absence of a phrenic nerve, the mice had normal receptor clustering in the diaphragm muscle.  The clustering occurred around the midband of the muscle, where contractions occur in the fully-formed diaphragm muscle.  It appears that “by beginning to form synapses along the midband, the muscle attracts nerve cells to the appropriate location to form connections” (Salk).

The significance of this study cannot be overstated – individuals can use specific muscles to attract more clusters of neurotransmitter receptors and stimulate the development of synapses.  Stroke victims can regain function of their limbs by slowly exercising muscles and facilitating synapse formation; so, too, can paraplegics.  Individuals with learning disabilities can also gain more control over their body.  These individuals may not have enough synapses; by using Brainjogging, they stimulate synapse development, thereby increasing their brain’s efficiency.  Increased synapses allow communication to occur more quickly in the brain.  This increased communication leads to greater processing speed.  Individuals with learning disabilities can increase their overall ability to process information by working their brain using Brainjogging.  Brainjogging actually trains the brain to be more efficient by stimulating synapse creation.