Certain Brain Injuries Reduce PTSD

By comparing the distribution of brain injuries between the PTSD group and the non-PTSD group, the researchers found two regions where damage was rarely associated with PTSD: the amygdala, a structure important in fear and anxiety, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), an area involved in higher mental functions and planning.In another level of analysis, the researchers compared the prevalence of PTSD in subjects who had damage to either the amygdala or vmPFC, subjects who had damage to other parts of the brain and non-head-injured subjects. PTSD occurred in a similar fraction of subjects in the last two groups – 40 percent and 48 percent, respectively. In contrast, PTSD occurred in only 18 percent of subjects with damage to the vmPFC and zero (out of 50) subjects with damage to the amygdala. The occurrence of other anxiety disorders was not affected by damage to the amygdala or vmPFC.

The amygdala is largely responsible for the primal fear response.

Good Reaction Times Predicts Longevity

Thinking fast will keep you alive. Longer. I like being “quick” and I like pushing my expiration date as much as I can. Cool.

The new research builds on earlier studies showing that people with lower IQs tend to die at younger ages than those with higher IQs. Deary and Der, however, wanted to use a more fundamental measure of mental ability – which they define as efficiency in processing information. They thought IQ tests might relate to physical health because people with higher IQs typically are more likely to be in occupations with safer environments. Reaction time is moderately related to IQ, but is a simpler assessment of the brain’s information-processing ability – one that doesn’t bear so much on other, possibly confounding factors like knowledge, education, or background.

To test their theory they examined data from the MRC Unit that, back in 1988, had 412 male and 486 female 54- to 58-year-olds living in west Scotland. The participants took both an IQ test measuring their verbal and numeric cognitive abilities and a reaction-time test that measured how quickly they pressed a button after seeing a number on a screen. The researchers also recorded the participants’ gender, employment, education, and smoking status. Over the next 14 years, 185 participants died, and Deary and Der compared their test results to see if the IQ or reaction-time responses predicted their mortality. The researchers learned that those with higher IQ scores lived longer, a result consistent with other studies. The study also showed that characteristics significantly related to death included male gender and smoking. But Deary and Der also found something new – faster reaction times seemed an even better predictor of long life than IQ. (From: Eurekalert)

I’d like to see more studies that were done based on IQ to start using pure reaction time.

Neurofreak’s Lumosity Brain Training Review

I’ve been obsessed with trying to train my brain in one way or another. I’ve done neurofeedback, and tried a few different brain game products. Originally my favorite was brainbuilder, because it used reverse digit span training. I played this game obsessively. An hour or more a day at times. I got my reverse digit span up to about an average of 13 before I stopped.

A lot in my life has changed since then, but what I realized recently when discussing with a friend is that I can literally trace back an enormous amount of personal changes I made to that period of time I was doing brain training. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that it made that much of a difference, but I think it did. In fact, there’s a study that shows that merely causing people to think quickly makes them feel happier, and more self-assured.

So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that making an effort to speed up my brain would’ve made me happier and more productive. But nonetheless it has, and it’s made me want to go back to what I was doing. So when I heard of “Lumosity” on developing intelligence’s blog recently, I couldn’t help myself. I had to check this new brain training site out. They had a 14 day free trial, and I figured that’d be enough to get a grasp of just what it has to offer.
Web's Best Brain Games

Things I Like
They have a free trial.

They seem to have a good staff, they’ve provided a little research (the control group was tiny though — I’d like to see more), and they have some really basic cognitive games — which I like — the stroop test.

I like the BPI or “Brain Performance Index,” which essentially allows you to compare your score to some 50,000 other runs of the same game by other people. This probably sealed the deal on getting me to try the game out — it let’s me see how I compare to other people. I’m a guy — I’ve got to get my kicks by having a cognitive pissing contest.

The games definitely seem to do something. I feel more energetic, and my head feels swollen after a good hour run or two.

Things I’d Like To See Improved
I’d like to see more research. Maybe even research for the individual games. This may be asking a bit much though, so in the absence of that…

I’d like to be able to invite friends and compare scores. I’d like to literally be able to compete. In order for me to get addicted to a game like this I either need to be really, really, really, really convinced it’s going to enhance my life by solid research… or I just need to enjoy one-upping my buddies. The BPI gets me close to that, but not close enough.

I’d like to see a game that’s similar to the brainbuilder’s reverse VERBAL digit span. Which means, in brainbuilder I had to HEAR the digits, and then TYPE them backwards. I really don’t see an equivalent to this game on there. I think it’s important, because it requires me to use my ears. Then again, I’ve not finished all 30 sessions yet so maybe just such a game exists.

Bragging Time!
Okay, so I’ve gained about 200 of their “lumosity” points, and completed 12 sessions in the last five days. I’ve played it… a lot. Honestly, it’s mostly because I’ve been a little down lately, and wanted to see if it’d get me cranking. I’m in a pretty good mood so I think it’s working!

My scores are pretty awesome… I’ve already got 3 scores that have broke the 1,000 range (the top BPI you can get is 1,250). My best one, interestingly enough, is the stroop test! Sitting at a BPI of 1,180. I want to get at least one score maxed out within the next month. That’s my goal… and yeah, I’m going to go ahead and sign-up for their brain gym.

I’d really like to see some SOLID research on the effects of memory training or any of these other “brain games” on depression, and anxiety. I have a hunch there’d be some awesome results, but I want to see some science.

Also… Lumosity has a blog. Check them out.


Autism & Vaccinations

I figured I’d just harvest a few links and give short excerpts:

Toxic metal clue to autism
“A study of mercury levels in the baby hair of children who were later diagnosed with autism has produced startling results. The babies had far lower levels of mercury in their hair than other infants, leading to speculation that autistic children either do not absorb mercury or, more likely, cannot excrete it.”

A link between thimerosal and the brain: Can vaccines affect central nervous system function?
“In their work, the scientists found that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and the neurotransmitter dopamine both stimulated folate-dependent methylation pathways in neuronal cells. At the same time they noted that compounds like thimerosal, ethanol and metals (like lead and mercury) effectively inhibited these same biochemical pathways at concentrations that are typically found following vaccination or other sources of exposure.”

Autoimmunity in autism
“Most reports of immunological abnormalities in autistic children have been from this subgroup of affected children, and the authors cite the increasing body of evidence for abnormal immune regulation and autoimmunity in autism. The initial observation of unexpected bowel pathology in autistic children came from the same group, and centered on pathology in the colon (Lancet 1998; 351: 637-641, American Journal of Gastroenterology 2000; 95: 2285-2295). Use of immunohistochemical techniques had suggested a novel form of colitis, in which the epithelium of the colon was particularly affected (Journal of Pediatrics 2001; 138: 366-372), and, thus, possibly suggestive of autoimmunity.”

Thimerosal, found in childhood vaccines, can increase the risk of autism-like damage in mice
“A new study indicates that postnatal exposure to thimerosal, a mercury preservative commonly used in a number of childhood vaccines, can lead to the development of autism-like damage in autoimmune disease susceptible mice. This animal model, the first to show that the administration of low-dose ethylmercury can lead to behavioral and neurological changes in the developing brain, reinforces previous studies showing that a genetic predisposition affects risk in combination with certain environmental triggers.”

Thimerosal Increases Autistic-like Behavior In Mice

A reader, CHCH, asked me to dig up some research that went against the consensus that mercury being the cause of autism was a bunch of bullshit. Sounded like a cool challenge.
Here’s one study in favor of the autism and thimerosal/mercury vaccines link:

Researchers at the Mailman School, led by Dr. Mady Hornig, created an animal model to explore the relationship between thimerosal (ethylmercury) and autism, hypothesizing that the combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure to mercury in childhood vaccines may cause neurotoxicity. Cumulative mercury burden through other sources, including in utero exposures to mercury in fish or vaccines, may also lead to damage in susceptible hosts. Timing and quantity of thimerosal dosing for the mouse model were developed using the U.S. immunization schedule for children, with doses calculated for mice based on 10th percentile weight of U.S. boys at age two, four, six, and twelve months

The researchers found the subset of autoimmune disease susceptible mice with thimerosal exposure to express many important aspects of the behavioral and neuropathologic features of autism spectrum disorders, including:

  • Abnormal response to novel environments;
  • Behavioral impoverishment (limited range of behaviors and decreased exploration of environment);
  • Significant abnormalities in brain architecture, affecting areas subserving emotion and cognition;
  • Increased brain size.
    (Read more at: Eurekalert)
  • The increased brain size associated with autism being caused from thimerosal is of particular interest to me. That’s a pretty unlikely coincidence.

    Fever Reduces Symptoms in Autistic Spectrum Children

    Researchers evaluated 30 children with ASD, ages two to 18 years, during and after an episode of fever (fever was defined as 100.4 degrees F/38.0 degrees C or greater). Parents were asked to observe their child’s actions and complete a standardized behavior questionnaire at three different points: during fever; when the fever subsided and the child was asymptomatic; and when the child was fever-free for seven days. These data were compared to data collected from parents of 30 afebrile children with ASD who made up the control group. Children in the control group were matched to children in the fever group in terms of age, sex and language skills. Results revealed fewer autistic-like behaviors for children with fever compared to controls, with more than 80 percent of fever subjects showing some behavioral improvements and approximately 30 percent exhibiting dramatic improvements. [...] “Pilot research studies such as this provide clues about the underlying metabolic changes in the brain that may prove to be targets for novel autism therapies,” said Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute. “These and other similar findings are shaping the future direction of autism research.” (via.)