Video Gamers: Size of Brain Structures Predicts Success

>> vineri, 22 ianuarie 2010

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2010) — Researchers can predict your performance on a video game simply by measuring the volume of specific structures in your brain, a multi-institutional team reports this week.
The new study, in the journal Cerebral Cortex, found that nearly a quarter of the variability in achievement seen among men and women trained on a new video game could be predicted by measuring the volume of three structures in their brains.
The study adds to the evidence that specific parts of the striatum, a collection of distinctive tissues tucked deep inside the cerebral cortex, profoundly influence a person's ability to refine his or her motor skills, learn new procedures, develop useful strategies and adapt to a quickly changing environment.
"This is the first time that we've been able to take a real world task like a video game and show that the size of specific brain regions is predictive of performance and learning rates on this video game," said Kirk Erickson, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and first author on the study. Ann Graybiel, an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Investigator in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research; and Arthur Kramer, a professor of psychology at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, were co-principal investigators on the study. Walter Boot, of Florida State University, also contributed to the research.
The study was conducted at the University of Illinois.
Research has shown that expert video gamers outperform novices on many basic measures of attention and perception, but other studies have found that training novices on video games for 20 or more hours often yields no measurable cognitive benefits.
These contradictory findings suggest that pre-existing individual differences in the brain might predict variability in learning rates, the authors wrote.
Animal studies conducted by Graybiel and others led the researchers to focus on three brain structures: the caudate nucleus and the putamen in the dorsal striatum, and the nucleus accumbens in the ventral striatum.
"Our animal work has shown that the striatum is a kind of learning machine -- it becomes active during habit formation and skill acquisition," Graybiel said. "So it made a lot of sense to explore whether the striatum might also be related to the ability to learn in humans."
The caudate (CAW-date) nucleus and putamen (pew-TAY-min) are involved in motor learning, but research has shown they are also important to the cognitive flexibility that allows one to quickly shift between tasks. The nucleus accumbens (ah-COME-bins) is known to process emotions associated with reward or punishment.
The researchers began with a basic question about these structures, Kramer said: "Is bigger better?"
They used high-resolution Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to analyze the size of these brain regions in 39 healthy adults (aged 18-28; 10 of them male) who had spent less than three hours a week playing video games in the previous two years. The volume of each brain structure was compared to that of the brain as a whole.
Participants were then trained on one of two versions of Space Fortress, a video game developed at the University of Illinois that requires players to try to destroy a fortress without losing their own ship to one of several potential hazards.
Half of the study participants were asked to focus on maximizing their overall score in the game while also paying attention to the various components of the game.
The other participants had to periodically shift priorities, improving their skills in one area for a period of time while also maximizing their success at the other tasks.
The latter approach, called "variable priority training" encourages the kind of flexibility in decision-making that is commonly required in daily life, Kramer said. Studies have shown that variable priority training is more likely than other training methods to improve those skills people use every day.
The researchers found that players who had a larger nucleus accumbens did better than their counterparts in the early stages of the training period, regardless of their training group. This makes sense, Erickson said, because the nucleus accumbens is part of the brain's reward center, and a person's motivation for excelling at a video game includes the pleasure that results from achieving a specific goal. This sense of achievement and the emotional reward that accompanies it is likely highest in the earliest stages of learning, he said.
Players with a larger caudate nucleus and putamen did best on the variable priority training.
"The putamen and the caudate have been implicated in learning procedures, learning new skills, and those nuclei predicted learning throughout the 20-hour period," Kramer said. The players in which those structures were largest "learned more quickly and learned more over the training period," he said.
"This study tells us a lot about how the brain works when it is trying to learn a complex task," Erickson said. "We can use information about the brain to predict who is going to learn certain tasks at a more rapid rate." Such information might be useful in education, where longer training periods may be required for some students, or in treating disability or dementia, where information about the brain regions affected by injury or disease could lead to a better understanding of the skills that might also need attention, he said.

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Cutremur in Haiti - Port-Au-Prince

>> vineri, 15 ianuarie 2010







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Slăbire prin Yoga

>> miercuri, 13 ianuarie 2010


Au trecut sărbătorile de iarnă cu brio, însoţite de petrecerile şi mesele copioase, de la care cu greu se putea renunţa. Vacanţa a luat sfîrşit la mulţi dintre noi şi acum fiecare şi-a reluat activitatea de rutină (la cine mai plăcută, la cine mai puţin ) viaţa continuînd în modul ei firesc făcînd loc la alte evenimente de suflet. Cu siguranţă sărbătorile au adăugat multe amintiri frumoase în albumul personal, dar şi...kilograme în plus, supraalimetaţie, astfel neatrăgînd  prea multă atenţie menţinerii sănătăţii fizice şi psihice.
Ce putem face pentru a ne simţi mai bine, dar totodată şi de a scăpa de klogramele în plus? Fiind o fană a culturii orientale (în special a celei indiene) găsesc soluţia în practicarea exerciţiilor Yoga (pe care le practic cu încredere avînd rezultate foarte bune vis a vis de sănătate).
Exercitiile yoga sunt cunoscute pentru calitatea lor de a relaxa oamenii, dar putine persoane stiu faptul ca acestea pot sa si slabeasca. Yoga ajuta si la mentinerea greutatii.
In timpul unei sedinte de yoga se pot arde foarte multe calorii, suficiente pentru a induce o scadere in greutate. La persoanele care practica yoga stomacul devine mai sensibil in momentul in care este suficient de plin, contribuint la declansarea senzatiei de satietate.
Exercitiile de yoga ajuta si persoanele mai in varsta sa isi pastreze greutatea ideala.
Prin practicarea exercitiilor de yoga se ajunge la mentinerea greutatii. Rezultatele cele mai bune au loc la persoanele care sunt supraponderale, indiferent de sex.
Exercitiile yoga functioneaza de minune atat la femei, cat si la barbati.
Exercitiile yoga sunt o binecuvantare pentru oricine, intrucat este extrem de benefic pentru organism. In primul rand, exercitiile yoga sunt bune pentru relaxarea organismului si eliminarea grijilor, dar mai ales a stresului.
In al doilea rand, este bine pentru ca ajuta atat la mentinerea greutatii, dar si la slabire.
Un alt avantaj al exercitiilor yoga este acela ca pot fi facute atat in aer liber, cat si intr-o sala de fitness, sau chiar acasa.
Exercitiile yoga ajuta la formarea unui corp armonios dezvoltat si bine proportionat. Este ideal pentru femeile care isi doresc sa arate bine.
Exercitiile yoga sunt benefice atat din punct de vedere fizic, cat si psihic si spiritual.


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Aho aho

>> duminică, 3 ianuarie 2010


La noi sărbătorile de iarnă sunt destul de aşteptate, în special de copii, şi prezintă un şir de tradiţii care s-au păstrat de-a lungul anilor (caprele, urăturile, babele, etc.). Anul acesta sclipirea sărbătorilor a fost anticipată de prima zăpadă care a intensificat atmosfera mistică din sînul fiecărei familii. Cu scopul de a petrece anul ce e pe sfîrşite se utilizează mai multe obiceiuri vechi. În continuare o să povestesc mai detaliat despre un obicei nespus de «delicios » care se desfăşoară în noaptea de Revelion, cînd se petrece ultima noapte din anul vechi.

Astfel pe 31 decembrie, în fiecare familie din localitatea noastră au loc pregătirile finale pentru a petrece vechiul an. Şi anume, acum gospodinele pregătesc ultimul «element culinar» - plăcinta – care este indispensabilă la ultima masă din an. Însă această plăcintă nu este una obişnuită pe care o facem în fiece săptămînă, sau pe care o cumpărăm de la alimentara preferată. Plăcinta din pragul noului an este de natură predictivă. De ce ? O să vă explic îndată. În interiorul plăcintei este introdusă o monedă, apoi la ultima masă din an, plăcinta se taie în atîtea bucăţi în dependenţă cîte persoane sunt la masă. Cea mai importanta parte a acestui obicei, este faptul că persoana care nimereşte bucata de plăcintă unde este moneda, va avea noroc tot anul, va avea un an prosper. Aşa că fiecare doreşte să-şi găsească «norocul » :).

După masa copioasă din fiecare familie, se aud şi primii urători care aduc cu ei numai urări de bine caselor pe la care se duc şi care primesc în schimb dulciuri, bani, fructe, etc. Mai jos puteţi vedea cum arată aceste urări. La mulţi ani !


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