Rock Out: Music Betters Babies

Even before children can walk or talk, musical training benefits the minds of babies according to researchers at McMaster University.

They found that one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.

“Many past studies of musical training have focused on older children,” says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind. “Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure.”

“Babies who participated in interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music,” says Trainor. “Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones.”

Babies from the interactive classes showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress.

“There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies,” says study coordinator Andrea Unrau. “The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together.”

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the
McMaster University. For more information, click here.

Did You Know That Video Games Change Your Brain?

A team led by psychology professor Ian Spence at the University of Toronto reveals that playing an action videogame, even for a relatively short time, causes differences in brain activity and improvements in visual attention.

Twenty-five subjects — who had not previously played videogames — played a game for a total of 10 hours in one to two hour sessions. Sixteen of the subjects played a first-person shooter game and, as a control, nine subjects played a three-dimensional puzzle game.

Before and after playing the games, the subjects’ brain waves were recorded while they tried to detect a target object among other distractions over a wide visual field. Subjects who played the shooter videogame and also showed the greatest improvement on the visual attention task showed significant changes in their brain waves. The remaining subjects — including those who had played the puzzle game — did not.

“After playing the shooter game, the changes in electrical activity were consistent with brain processes that enhance visual attention and suppress distracting information,” said Sijing Wu, a PhD student in Spence’s lab in U of T’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study.

“Studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that action videogames can improve selective visual attention, such as the ability to quickly detect and identify a target in a cluttered background,” said Spence. “But nobody has previously demonstrated that there are differences in brain activity which are a direct result of playing the videogame.”

“Superior visual attention is crucial in many important everyday activities,” added Spence. “It’s necessary for things such as driving a car, monitoring changes on a computer display, or even avoiding tripping while walking through a room with children’s toys scattered on the floor.”

The research was supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in the form of Discovery Grants to Spence and co-author Claude Alain of the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre and U of T’s Psychology Department.

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the University of Toronto. For more information click here. The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

Maintain Your Brain: The Secrets to Aging Success

Aging is unavoidable, but that’s not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explaining that it is what you do in old age that matters more when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain not what you did earlier in life. “Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain,” says Lars Nyberg of Umeå University in Sweden.

Education won’t save your brain — PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don’t count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement.

Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years. “There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance,” Nyberg says. The researchers say this new take on successful aging represents an important shift in focus for the field.

“Engagement is the secret to success.

Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in aging. The research team now argues for the importance of avoiding those age-related brain changes in the first place.

Genes play some role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, are critical. Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the age of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages. “Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence for marked heterogeneity in brain aging,” the scientists write. “Critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance.

In other words, maintaining a youthful brain, rather than responding to and compensating for changes, may be the key to successful memory aging.” Source:

This information is provided with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the Cell Press.

Young Doctor Survives and Conquers Bike Accident Injuries

In October 2010, Dr. Tim Delgado, an emergency department resident of Cincinnati’s University Hospital, was to assist with a “Jane Doe cyclist in her 20’s” who had just arrived to the hospital via Air Care. Shortly after working with the patient, Dr. Delgado came to a startling realization – the patient was his wife.

Alison Delgado, a pediatric resident, suffered serious physical and neurological injuries as a result of the bicycle accident. Thanks to her helmet, her skull was intact despite numerous fractures to her neck and body.  Unfortunately, however, the impact caused a blood vessel to tear inside of her brain resulting in a subarachnoid hemorrhage and a dangerous bulge vessel wall called an aneurism. Plus, the discovery of a second aneurism on the side of her brain suggested that Alison had a genetic abnormality that increased her chances of developing brain aneurisms.

Despite several procedures to treat the aneurysm, four days after Alison’s return home from rehabilitation, it ruptured a second time.

After successful neutralization of the aneurysm, Alison refocused her attention on rehab and recovery. Memory was a difficult issue to tackle as she had trouble remembering even the name of her husband. So, her husband played games with her and showed photos of objects, friends, and family for her to find words to describe them. Reading and speech also progressed slowly with therapy. Other rehabilitation strategies included work on an elliptical, weight lifting, and balance exercises.

In February of 2011, only four months after her injury, Alison was able to present cases during her bedside rounds at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. In April, she began working part-time, and by May, was back to full-time. She is expected to finish her residency by December 2012, at which time she hopes to pursue primary care or a sports medicine fellowship.

After surviving and recovering from the near-death accident, Alison, a former winner of Cincinnati’s Flying Pig and a woman who had reached the summit of two 14,000-foot Colorado peaks, is back at achieving her athletic feats by training to run the 2012 Flying Pig. With love, determination, and persistence, Alison conquered her injuries and is living the life she had always dreamed.

To read Dr. Alison Delgado’s full story, check out these links:
http://cincinnatichildrensblog.org/so-much-more-than-26-2-miles/
http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/MC_hope/Story_alison.htm

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/patients/care/stories/tell-me/brain-spine/alison-delgado/