Tag Archives: brain

What is CTE and Why is it a Problem

Most people by now have heard of a neurodegenerative/brain disorder called CTE: chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This disorder is very common with those who have competed in contact sports like football.

Aaron Hernandez, former tight end for the New England Patriots and convicted murderer who committed suicide back in April, was found to have had stage 3 CTE after his brain was studied by Boston University. At the young age of 27, Hernandez is one of the youngest people to have the disorder since CTE’s discovery.

This news doesn’t take away from the fact that Hernandez murdered one person and may had killed two more. Hernandez however, is now one of the 112 former football players to have their brains studied post-mortem. Out of the 112, 111 had some type of CTE. That means that most likely, 99% of former, current, and future NFL players will have some type of CTE.

Don’t forget that football isn’t the only sport to have a issue with CTE.  Soccer, Hockey, MMA and Professional Wrestling like WWE have had former athletes posthumously diagnosed with CTE. Even MLB had a player diagnosed with CTE after his suicide in 2012.

Currently, there are multiple lawsuits dealing with concussion settlements. However, those who had played in high school and college but didn’t make it to the professionals don’t have a lawsuit. It can affect a high school student after a few years of participation in the sport. In 2010, 17-year-old Nathan Stiles died after playing in a football game in which he took several blows to the head. He would be diagnosed with CTE, the youngest reported case to date.

The doctor who discovered CTE, Dr. Bennet Omalu, once said that he wished he had never met Mike Webster, legendary NFL center and first person to be diagnosed with the disorder. Many players after hearing about the effects of CTE have retired, and those include Jake Locker and Patrick Willis. Some even regret playing the sport and even the great Bo Jackson discourages his children from playing the sport that made him famous.

Talk about CTE will never stop, but football and wrestling aren’t just going to stop tomorrow. It is encouraged to know about the effects of CTE before playing a contact sport and know most likely, you will have some type of it. That is the price of chasing riches and fame.

The brain connectivity of LSD and “ego dissolution”

When individuals take the psychedelic drug Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), they may feel as though the limits that isolate them from everything have disintegrated, as though they are connected with the rest of the world. A study has discovered a neural mechanism behind this occurrence, called “ego dissolution.”

According to the researchers, the study’s results, published April 13 in the journal Current Biology, suggest that further research on LSD and other psychedelic drugs could provide important insight into how the human brain works.

Ego dissolution is not a universally positive or negative experience, said Enzo Tagliazucchi. Tagliazucchi is  a neuroscientist at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam and co-author of the story. According to Tagliazucchi, depending on the experience of the trip and ego dissolution, it can be too overwhelming and lead to anxiety, panic and what is normally dubbed a “bad trip”.

Ego dissolution is at the core of the treatment of anxiety related to the fear of death in such patients. According to Tagliazucchi, for terminal-stage cancer patients, ego dissolution “can be a positive and transformative experience, leading to peace, acceptance, a new perspective on things.”

According to Tagliazucchi, the findings additionally propose that taking LSD may cause an improved sharing of data among various brain regions that reinforces a more powerful connection between an individual’s sense of self and their sense of everything else.

This is your brain on LSD. Graphic from Imperial College London.

In the study, the researchers examined the brains, through scanning, of 15 healthy individuals twice — once after they took a placebo, and once after the individuals took LSD.

The researchers discovered that, when the individuals were high on LSD, different regions of their brains had a stronger link to each other, when compared with the placebo’s effect on the individuals. The more connected these brain regions were in these individuals, the higher their sense of ego dissolution was.

According to the researchers, the results of the study suggest that individuals on LSD can experience ego dissolution because these brain regions become heavily interconnected.

According to Tagliazucchi, ego dissolution does not automatically occur every time someone takes LSD. The experience of this phenomenon may depend on the dose of the drug they take. When ego dissolution happens, it doesn’t last longer than the other effects of LSD, which typically last about 10 hours.

According to Tagliazucchi, he is planning to investigate how other psychedelic drugs modify consciousness by using neuroimaging and other methods.

Just breathe

Insomnia is the dark cloud that looms over your head late at night, taunting you, laughing at you as you toss and turn, as you beg for sleep to overtake you. It’s the endless thoughts that consume your mind, creating false insecurities and exaggerated life dreams that keep you thinking and contemplating everything that has ever happened in your life.

You obsess over every little thing that happened during the day, from a small conversation you had with you professor to deciding what you want to do with your life after college. Insomnia has zero mercy.

Don't be this guy. Just breathe through it. Photo from theawkwardyeti.com
Don’t be this guy. Just breathe through it. Photo from theawkwardyeti.com

No one can help the intensity or frequency that insomnia has on their life. People always say “Just relax! Stop thinking and go to sleep.” If it were that easy, insomnia wouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately, no one can physically turn off their thoughts, their hopes, their chronic dark thoughts that enter the mind no matter the time of day.

Insomnia doesn’t care how physically and emotionally tired you are. The constant, unwavering thoughts that burn holes through your brain don’t care about how badly your eyes burn, how your head feels too heavy to even lift off your pillow, how your legs ache from the exhausting day, consisting of walking across campus multiple times in order to get to your classes on time.

The only way I can treat my insomnia is to let my brain do its thinking, let it work out all the anxieties, all the problems and insecurities that course through your mind all day everyday, and after an hour, if those thought fail to cease, try to focus on your breathing, in and out. Focus on the rise and fall of your chest, the feeling of the oxygen entering your lungs, then exiting. Breath in positive thoughts, exhale negative ones. It’s the only way I can gently and calmly fall asleep without the constant dread of excessive thoughts failing to let me sleep.

All you can do with insomnia is try your best to breathe, to let your brain do its thinking, and don’t stress about the lack of sleep you’re getting. Focus on the good and let go of the bad.

5 things that happen when you do something creative instead of watching Netflix

Twenty episodes into a new season of that show you’re addicted to, you start to feel a guilty sensation every time you press that “Next episode” button. So turn off the TV and put down the remote and do something creative like writing a story (or maybe a script for your own irresistible show) or reading a book or drawing a picture. Here are seven things that happen when you decide to hit “Power off” instead of “Ok”.

1) You have more energy

While watching Netflix is highly entertaining, it doesn’t make your brain work like being creative and using your imagination does. Netflix will lull you into a lazy mood, but doing something creative is like a work out for your brain. You know those amazing endorphins you feel straight after a great workout? Your brain gets those too. Being creative will make you more alert and feel far more productive.

Put creativity above your Netflix habits. Graphic by Katie Gibson
Put creativity above your Netflix habits. Graphic by Katie Gibson

2) It will defeat mental blocks

Netflix is an easy way to avoid writing when you have writer’s block or reading when you can’t focus. However, those are mental blocks that you need to work through, not put off. I tried to put them off one time and ended up going two years without writing a word or reading outside of school. Don’t let your brain get lazy.

3) You’ll be happier

I know, I know, nothing will make you happier than *insert favorite show here*. But think of all those days you spent staring at your TV without moving, forcing poor Netflix to make sure you were okay fifteen times. After days like that, you’re bound to feel pretty crappy. That’s just human nature. People want to feel like they’re getting stuff done. Do something with your brain will give you that sense of productivity and keep you from feeling miserable after a day of binge watching TV.

4) You’ll become more creative

If you run a mile every day, you’ll likely to be able to start increasing your distance and times. The same goes for your brain. That mental workout mentioned early, will help you generate creative ideas faster which will help you in all aspects of your life.

5) You’ll be a more interesting person

Next time you go out into the real world, keep track of how many people are talking about Netflix and TV shows. That’s completely cool, but it will make you seem far more interesting when people find out you can write a novel or draw a killer picture or compose an amazing piece of music. Personally, I feel like I’ve lost my “sparkle” in college mostly due to being overworked and stressed constantly. But I get a little bit of that “sparkle” back when I can talk about a book that I’m reading or a novel I’m trying to write rather than just discussing how subpar season two of “Orange Is The New Black” was in comparison to season one.

Once again, absolutely NOTHING is wrong with watching television. However, you will be a happier, more well rounded human being if you break that bubble every once and a while and shake things up.

Yet another study of the human brain

It’s a well known fact that scientists have been studying the human brain for many years, trying to find out what exactly makes us humans tick. The more you think about it, the more complex man’s mind seems to be — almost to the point that it’s nearly impossible to grasp. But researchers have been developing theories for as long as science has been around.

Examining the brain. Graphic from Behavioral Health
Examining the brain. Graphic from Behavioral Health

One theory centers around something called the general intelligence g-factor. Scientists have been looking at this particular variable since the early 1900’s.The original research was done on the idea of memory, pattern recognition, and reading ability. Recently, they’ve found more  information on it; specifically a correlation with a connectome and the positive and negative events that happen in one’s life such as attitude, education level, and life satisfaction.

These findings suggest that if this connectome is on one side of the scale, you tend to have better traits and score highly in vocabulary, memory, and other things, which also often lead to higher income. People who scored on the opposite side of the spectrum scored lowly in these areas and were found to have higher scores in more negative traits, including anger, rebellion, sleep quality, and even substance abuse. They have come to find that many of the g-factors overlap, which is why we as humans tend to be good — or bad — at many things.

Of course, correlation does not always automatically equate to something, which is where criticism to the general intelligence g-factor comes in. As always, we must look at these findings with skepticism and continue researching until we’re sure of our answer.

Professor Smith from University of Oxford hopes that “by looking at brain imaging data [they’ll] be able to relate connections in the brain to the specific measures, and work out what these kinds of test actually require the brain to do,” rather than just guessing at whether or not the correlations make the case.

Either way, we can say with certainty that we’re well on our way to unraveling more  about the complexity of the human brain.

Ways to become more creative

My whole life, I’ve thought of myself as a creative person: I was a writer, I was a reader, and I had a crazy imagination. One day all of that went away. Technology started dominating my life to the point where I had no real use for my imagination anymore. I didn’t read or write or do anything remotely creative for a while because I felt like I had such a mental block in my brain.

This semester, for my Marketing minor, I had to take Marketing 101: Creativity and Innovation. In just the few weeks that we’ve been back at school, this class has really helped me open my mind back up and let the creativity back in again.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever suffered from a creative block so I’m going to share a few tips that have really helped me out.

1) Stop writing boring notes

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“Shut off the laptop, turn of the television, and step away from your phone. Instead of staring at a screen all day, read a book or draw a picture.”

We’re all so conditioned to write our notes in perfectly straight, black inked lines. This standard formula definitely hinders creativity. In class, we were instructed to get an unlined notebook and colored pens and pencils to take class notes in. Because of this, we’re able to create colorful mind maps and it really helps think out of the box.

2) Say everything that comes to your mind (within reason)

The most helpful thing I’ve learned all semester is that you have to fail in order to succeed. That means if you have a thought, say it. This can apply to anything in life, but it will especially apply if you’re doing a group project and want to share an idea, but are afraid of sounding stupid. If you can get over your fear of failure then it’ll be a million times easier to truly be creative.

3) Turn off the electronics

Shut off the laptop, turn of the television, and step away from your phone. Instead of staring at a screen all day, read a book or draw a picture. Actively using your imagination this way is like exercise for the brain. Creativity is very “use it or lose it”. If you don’t keep your brain functioning on a high level then it won’t work when you really need it to.

Everyone is born into the world with an active imagination and the ability to be creative. This is why children have imaginary friends and can play with dolls for hours. Along the way, the rigidness of the school system, stress over every day life, and technological advances shut out the creative parts of our brain until they barely work anymore. The good news is that you can always get your creativity back. You just have to be willing to break out of your comfort zone and think outside the box. Once you achieve this, you can do anything.

The neglectful brain

The human brain may be the smartest dumb thing on the planet. The same organ that came up with a solution for how to breathe in space also can’t figure out that it’s more dangerous to drive to work in the morning than it is to fly to another state. Those links aren’t going to ease your fears if you’re afraid of flying or cause a phobia of driving because your brain doesn’t care about numbers. Once it perceives something as dangerous it’s stuck in that way of thinking. Continue reading The neglectful brain