Archive for ‘Member Article’

June 20, 2011

Do You Sleep Better With Cooler Temperatures? Yes, Says Research.

by Dave P.

Do you find that you sleep better in the winter when you turn down the heat and pile on the blankets? It’s not just your imagination. Research concludes that you do sleep better when your brain is cool, and soon there may be a cap you can wear to cool your brain while you sleep.

According to the authors, a reduction in metabolism in the brain’s frontal cortex occurs while falling asleep and is associated with restorative sleep. However, insomnia is associated with increased metabolism in this same brain region. One way to reduce cerebral metabolic activity is to use frontal cerebral thermal transfer to cool the brain, a process known as “cerebral hypothermia.”

Participants received all-night frontal cerebral thermal transfer by wearing a soft plastic cap on their head. The cap contained tubes that were filled with circulating water. Source

With the high cost of power these days, many of us are foregoing use of the air conditioner — even when it’s uncomfortably warm. That might save us a few dollars a month, but it could be affecting the quality of our sleep.

Once these brain cooling caps are available, not only does it have the potential to reduce the metabolism in your brain, allowing you to sleep more soundly, but it could also cut down on your air conditioning bills.

June 12, 2011

Depressed People Find It Hard to Stop Reliving Bad Times

by Dave P.

We had a discussion on thought-stopping techniques last month. A new study shows that depressed people suffer from an inability to stop their maladaptive thoughts and ruminations. They’re obsessing about things that happened to them in the past rather than living in the present. Perhaps they were abused as children and can’t accept what happened to them. It’s tough to accept that your own parents weren’t able to love you. It could be an abusive relationship and maybe you were ostracized from a group you wanted to be a part of. Or it could be a perceived defect — real or imagined — that you’re unable to accept.

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2011) — We all have our ups and downs — a fight with a friend, a divorce, the loss of a parent. But most of us get over it. Only some go on to develop major depression. Now, a new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests part of the reason may be that people with depression get stuck on bad thoughts because they’re unable to turn their attention away.

Read more

You can reduce the brain clutter by practicing thought-stopping techniques and perhaps overcome depression as well.

June 12, 2011

Body Movement Can Aid in Problem-Solving

by Dave P.

When we’ve got a problem to solve, we don’t just use our brains but the rest of our bodies, too. The connection, as neurologists know, is not uni-directional. Now there’s evidence from cognitive psychology of the same fact. “Being able to use your body in problem solving alters the way you solve the problems,” says University of Wisconsin psychology professor Martha Alibali. “Body movements are one of the resources we bring to cognitive processes.”


The results: The people who were allowed to gesture usually did so—and they also commonly used perceptual-motor strategies in solving the puzzles. The people whose hands were restrained, as well as those who chose not to gesture (even when allowed), used abstract, mathematical strategies much more often.


I had a theory that moving your hands and body while speaking can send more blood to the brain and help you think more clearly. More research is needed.

June 12, 2011

Attention Deficit Disorder?

by Dave P.

I’ve scored high on every test for Attention Deficit Disorder, which explains why I don’t seem to be able to get anything done. I’m working on several projects right now but can’t seem to decide which one to focus on. I have too many interests. I study psychology, blog about politics, and have two inventions that I need to complete and get patents for. I want to learn how to write songs and improve my guitar playing. I want to create videos for public speaking. There’s my woodworking hobby and tangential areas for all my main interests. There’s programming, which is my source of revenue right now. And my office is in dire need of a good cleaning.

So rather than picking one thing in which to focus my attention, I dabble in a lot of different things and don’t really get much accomplished.

Below are some characteristics of ADD from Wikipedia.

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty maintaining focus on one task
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning
    something new or trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions.

If I were to rate my level of difficulty with those characteristics of ADD on a scale of 1-10, they would all be close to 10. I don’t score high on the hyperactivity component of ADHD, though.

Here is a brief test for ADHD:

Here’s a slightly longer test:

Someone who suffers from ADD would probably have trouble concentrating on a test longer than that. If you were able to complete a longer test, it would indicate that you didn’t suffer from ADD, so the test would be useless.

I’ve managed to deal with some of those problems without the use of drugs. Amphetamines have shown to be efficacious for the treatment of ADHD in many people. For me, the practice of mindfulness has improved my ability to concentrate when I’m trying to read or watch a movie.

I’ll be posting more about ADD and ADHD in the next few days.

May 6, 2011

Mindfulness – Right Focus

by Dave P.

by Dave Pollack

The Molly Lama

Every morning at about 9:00, I take our dog Molly out for a walk around the neighborhood. Molly is a German Shepard/Chow mix – a beautiful, feisty (at times a bit goofy looking) animal. I’ve gotten into the habit of practicing mindfulness on our walks and it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

This morning was sunny and mild – in the mid 50s, but windy. We’ve been having a windy spring here in Denver this year. Part of global climate change, I guess.

So Molly and I left the house a little after 9:00. As usual, she was anxious to explore the neighborhood. She ran down the walkway from our front porch and yanked me forward when she got to the end of her retractable leash.

“Hold on, Molly,” I told her. She looked down the street with a big smile on her face, tail wagging, as if to say, “Oh, boy! We’re going for a walk!” Dogs derive so much pleasure from the simple things in their lives. They live almost completely in the present, although I think she dreams of chasing rabbits when she sleeps.

As we started off on our walk around the neighborhood, I focused on my breath flowing in and out of my nostrils. It was windy and I observed the sensation of the cool air on my face and hands. The sun was beginning to heat the ground and occasionally a bit of warm air caressed the exposed parts of my body. So many things to be mindful of on this splendid morning in Denver.

The whistling from the steady breeze overpowered the traffic sounds from the busy street a few blocks away. Our neighborhood is a little oasis in Denver proper, with its two story houses and majestic, half-century old trees lining the streets. The sounds of traffic typically seem like an invader into our peaceful community, but on this day it was inaudible.

Molly suddenly started barking frantically as she lunged from the sidewalk into the street. I pressed my thumb down firmly on the leash brake to stop her progress, but she was already a good ten feet into the road. A German Shepard sat peacefully on the other side of the street – the object of Molly’s aggression. I backed up in a tug-of-war attempt to pull her out of the street with everything I had. At about 70 pounds of muscle, she’s a handful.

Just then I saw a van speeding down our side of the street directly towards Molly. I spun my body around, pulling on the leash. The van came within a foot of hitting Molly and continued down the street without slowing, seemingly oblivious.

“Damn it Molly!” I yelled, pulling her back to the sidewalk.

“Sorry about that,” came a voice from across the street. The owner of the well behaved German Shepard stood next to his dog, obviously concerned.

“That wasn’t your fault,” I replied, angry with myself for not being vigilant of my companion.

Molly is generally fairly well behaved, but she sometimes lets the Chow in her come out and can be a bit aggressive – never towards people, but often towards other animals. She likes to play by jumping on the other dog. That’s just her disposition. When the other dog responds in kind, the two have a good-ol’ time wrestling and play biting. Sometimes the other dog gets agitated, though, and they wind up fighting. She also goes after squirrels, rabbits, skunks (she’s gotten sprayed a few times), and I need to be mindful of her while we’re out on our walks. It’s not difficult to anticipate her moves. An attack is always preceded by an intense stare and a crouched stance, and generally, all that’s required is a firm “no” and my thumb on the leash brake to stop her from getting out of control. To do that, though, requires my mindfulness to be focused on her.

So this was a good lesson for me. While it’s important to be mindful, what’s also important is what we’re mindful of, especially when it involves the people and animals we love.

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