Exercising people are happy people.
Nonsense. Ever see someone’s face at mile 20 of a marathon? Do they look happy to you?
OK, maybe people aren’t happy while exercising, but evidence shows they’re better off, in general, after the fact. Physical activity has a positive effect on mood, and is considered a valid treatment strategy to battle anxiety disorders and even depression. Although most explanations are somewhat wishy-washy, researchers believe that hedonistic value of exercise is important in mental health. Exercise simply makes us feel good about ourselves. And this is not only true in humans, but in animals, as well. Rats and mice that are given free access to a running wheel will use it, and lab rodents typically won’t do anything that doesn’t provide them some sort of pleasure.Read More
It's 6am and my alarm clock is buzzing, but I don't hear it. I don't even move. But the incessant noise wakes my wife, and her gentle nudges (read: elbows) and soft whispers (read: expletives) eventually convince me to get out of bed. It seemed like a great idea: Run in the morning before work, to free up countless evening hours. “Think of all you'll get done at night if you don't have to run after work”, I said to myself. “For once you'll actually hit your goal of blogging multiple posts per week! Maybe even finish some of those half-read books lining the shelves.” But two days into the new regime, I'm having second thoughts.Read More
On the heels of a post I did at The Scientist (“Amazing Rats”), where I proposed a new model of intelligence based on a animal’s ability to solve problems rather than its communication skill, I read a blog post by Jonah Lehrer at The Frontal Cortex where he gives his take on what intelligence really means. Rather than smarts merely defined by how many facts someone can cram into their heads, Lehrer argues that a better measure of intelligence is to look at how well people (or animals) can shift their selective attention. Facts are just facts, but the intelligent being can manipulate and organize the information for the task at hand, which places a high demand on the attention circuits in the brain.Read More
Ever since I saw the press releases yesterday telling of a new article to be released in Nature showing that brain-training software was ineffective, I knew a storm was brewing. The paper was still under embargo at that point, so I was anxiously awaiting its release today. Slowly, but surely, the mainstream media got wind of the paper, running headlines like “Brain Games Don’t Make You Smarter”. Then the blogosphere lit up, with ongoing chatter throughout the day on this controversial paper. I was stuck in the lab all day, and couldn’t put a post together, so I’m a little late to the party. But I wanted to give you a rundown of what exactly the study found, and point out a few intricacies of their findings.Read More