Saturday, March 31, 2018

More sex, better brain function

More frequent sexual activity has been linked to improved brain function in older adults, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford.
Source: AARP
Researchers found that people who engaged in more regular sexual activity scored higher on tests that measured their verbal fluency and their ability to visually perceive objects and the spaces between them.
The study, published today in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, involved 73 people aged between 50 and 83.
Participants filled in a questionnaire on how often, on average, they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months -- whether that was never, monthly or weekly -- as well as answering questions about their general health and lifestyle.
The 28 men and 45 women also took part in a standardized test, which is typically used to measure different patterns of brain function in older adults, focusing on attention, memory, fluency, language and visuospatial ability.
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This included verbal fluency tests in which participants had 60 seconds to name as many animals as possible, and then to say as many words beginning with F as they could -- tests which reflect higher cognitive abilities.
They also took part in tests to determine their visuospatial ability which included copying a complex design and drawing a clock face from memory.
It was these two sets of tests where participants who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the most highly, with the verbal fluency tests showing the strongest effect.
The results suggested that frequency of sexual activity was not linked to attention, memory or language. In these tests, the participants performed just as well regardless of whether they reported weekly, monthly or no sexual activity.
This study expanded on previous research from 2016, which found that older adults who were sexually active scored higher on cognitive tests than those who were not sexually active.
But this time the research looked more specifically at the impact of the frequency of sexual activity (i.e. does it make a difference how often you engage in sexual activity) and also used a broader range of tests to investigate different areas of cognitive function.
The academics say further research could look at how biological elements, such as dopamine and oxytocin, could influence the relationship between sexual activity and brain function to give a fuller explanation of their findings.
Lead researcher Dr Hayley Wright, from Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, said:
"We can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements -- but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this.
"Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a 'cause and effect' relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people.
"People don't like to think that older people have sex -- but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general wellbeing."

Story Source:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

One character not returning to Roseanne reboot

One actor not returning to the cast of the revived Roseanne show, is Mark, the boyfriend/husband of Becky.
Glenn Quinn died from a heroin overdose in 2002.

Best known for his portrayal of Mark Healy on the popular '90s family sitcom Roseanne, Quinn also amassed a large fan base for his portrayed of Doyle, a half-demon, on Angel, a spin-off series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
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Glenn Quinn.jpg

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Male contraception pill: It's a brain thing

Generally speaking, hormones control the growth, development, and metabolism of the body; the electrolyte composition of bodily fluids; and reproduction.

A once-daily capsule safely suppressed reproductive hormones in men, making it an appealing candidate for a male birth control pill, according to a small study.

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After about a month of treatment, a new prototype pill called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, had reduced levels of hormones including testosterone that are necessary for sperm production. During that time, none of the 83 men who completed the treatment suffered troubling symptoms that can arise with a dramatic drop in testosterone, researchers reported March 18 at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

“Scientists have been working on a male contraceptive for decades,” says Monica Laronda, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who was not involved in the research. “DMAU shows great promise.” Surveys show that many men are interested in forms of contraception besides condoms and vasectomies, she says, and men “would prefer a pill.” Other methods, including topical gels, are also being developed.

A plethora of hormones regulate many of the body’s functions, including growth and development, metabolism, electrolyte balances, and reproduction. Numerous glands throughout the body produce hormones. 

The hypothalamus produces several releasing and inhibiting hormones that act on the pituitary gland, stimulating the release of pituitary hormones. Of the pituitary hormones, several act on other glands located in various regions of the body, whereas other pituitary hormones directly affect their target organs. Other hormone-producing glands throughout the body include the adrenal glands, which primarily produce cortisol; the gonads (i.e., ovaries and testes), which produce sex hormones; the thyroid, which produces thyroid hormone; the parathyroid, which produces parathyroid hormone; and the pancreas, which produces insulin and glucagon. Many of these hormones are part of regulatory hormonal cascades involving a hypothalamic hormone, one or more pituitary hormones, and one or more target gland hormones. 

For the body to function properly, its various parts and organs must communicate with each other to ensure that a constant internal environment (i.e., homeostasis) is maintained. For example, neither the body temperature nor the levels of salts and minerals (i.e., electrolytes) in the blood must fluctuate beyond preset limits. Communication among various regions of the body also is essential for enabling the organism to respond appropriately to any changes in the internal and external environments. 

Two systems help ensure communication: the nervous system and the hormonal (i.e., neuroendocrine) system. The nervous system generally allows rapid transmission (i.e., within fractions of seconds) of information between different body regions. Conversely, hormonal communication, which relies on the production and release of hormones from various glands and on the transport of those hormones via the bloodstream, is better suited for situations that require more widespread and longer lasting regulatory actions. Thus, the two communication systems complement each other. In addition, both systems interact: Stimuli from the nervous system can influence the release of certain hormones and vice versa. 

Source: NIH

Saturday, March 17, 2018

5 celebrities we've lost to drugs

Which Celebrities Have Battled with Addiction?

Addiction affects everyone, but the tragic stories of celebrity overdoses affect the millions of fans who were entertained or inspired by their work. Drugs have claimed the lives of countless stars, but some celebrities survived their brush with addiction, sought treatment and are in recovery today.
No person is immune to addiction or its consequences. When celebrities abuse alcohol or other drugs, they’re at the same risk for developing substance use disorders as everyone else.
Their actions, and the consequences of their actions, are displayed in magazines, on TV and on the internet. When a celebrity checks into rehab or overdoses from a drug, the public knows. The constant reporting of celebrity drug use can make it seem like addiction is more common in Hollywood than in the rest of the world.
But celebrities have the same anatomies as everyone else. The percentage of celebrities who suffer from addiction is likely similar to that of the general public.

Prince, Fentanyl.

Amy Winewouse, Alcohol Intoxication.

Health Ledger, Prescription Drugs.

Jimi Hendrix, Barbiturate Overdose.

Whitney Houston, Cocaine and multiple other drugs.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Daylight Saving: Suggestions to help adapt to the time change

By moving the clocks ahead one hour in the Spring, we lose one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour earlier. This pushes most people to have a one hour earlier bedtime and wake up time. In the Fall, time moves back one hour.  We gain one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour later thereby pushing most people to have a one hour later bedtime and wake up time.

Learn more about the brain here.
It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity (Harrision, 2013). Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes. Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013). A study by Kirchberger and colleagues (2015) reported men and persons with heart disease may be at higher risk for a heart attack during the week after the time changes in the Spring and Fall.
The reason for these problems is thought to be disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep. Circadian rhythms are daily cycles of numerous hormones and other body functions that prepare us for the expected times for sleeping, eating, and activity. Circadian rhythms have difficulty adjusting to an abrupt one hour time change.
Other hazards for workers related to the time change in the Fall include a sudden change in the driving conditions in the late afternoon rush hour– from driving home from work during daylight hours to driving home in darkness. People may not have changed their driving habits to nighttime driving and might be at somewhat higher risk for a vehicle crash. Additionally, the Spring time change leads to more daylight in the evening which may disturb some people’s sleep.
To help reduce risks about one and a half weeks before the time changes in the Fall and Spring, employers can relay these points to help their workers.
  • Remind workers that several days after the time changes are associated with somewhat higher health and safety risks due to disturbances to circadian rhythms and sleep.
  • It can take one week for the body to adjust sleep times and circadian rhythms to the time change so consider reducing demanding physical and mental tasks as much as possible that week to allow oneself time to adjust.
  • Remind workers to be especially vigilant while driving, at work, and at home to protect themselves since others around them may be sleepier and at risk for making an error that can cause a vehicle crash or other accident.
  • Research found men and people with existing heart disease may be at risk for a heart attack after the time change.
  • Workers can improve their adaptation to the time change by using these suggestions (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2013). Circadian rhythms and sleep are strongly influenced by several factors including timing of exposure to light and darkness, times of eating and exercise, and time of work. One way to help the body adjust is to gradually change the times for sleep, eating, and activity.
Source: CDC/Claire Caruso, PhD, RN, FAAN

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Importance of Sleep for Hockey Players

There's no luxury about sleep. Lack of a regular routine of 8-9 hours causes serious problems and risks in day-to-day living. Consider the needs of a hockey player who wants to achieve at his or her highest level.

Fitness for hockey players begins with proper rest..

You know you should probably get more sleep.

Mom probably told you to go to bed earlier. Coach probably threw a 9:30 curfew on the squad on the road. Someone, at some point, has preached about the importance of a that supposedly magical 8-hours.

If you’re serious about performance – they’re not wrong.

Learn about the brain and sleep.

Getting into that late night Instagram lurk or Netflix binge could actually be holding you back from peak performance. This article is really to share the current Sleep/Sport Science research with my own athletes when I tell them that my favourite performance enhancement supplement is a good night sleep.

Let’s dive in.

Sleep Benefit 1: Improved Reaction Times
Elite reaction times aren’t just for goalies. Explosive cuts, avoiding a big dman stepping up on you, getting that shot off instantly in the slot – reaction time is essential for high performance.

And, this can be significantly impacted by sleep.

A Harvard study found that an all-nighter can reduce reaction times by 300% and take days to recover from (1). So while a good nights sleep before a game is important, not having good sleep habits throughout the week can still reduce performance on Friday.

Multiple studies have found that fatigue can have the same effect on reaction time performance as intoxication. So while it’s easy to understand the significance playing after a couple beers would have – hockey players need to consider if their sleep habits may be slowing them down.

So while (hopefully) elite athletes understand the significance playing drunk would have on peak performance, more hockey players need to consider if their sleep habits may be slowing them down on game day.

Benefit 2: Reduced Injury Rates and Improved Overall Health
The headline sounds obvious, and it is. Sleep improves health and reduces injuries, but a lot of athletes don’t really understand the magnitude of this.

A recent study looking at injuries rates of high school athletes found sleep was the single greatest predictor injuries, even greater than stressors such as practice hours or work load.

Furthermore, high quality sleep allows for greater regenerative activity in the body that hockey players need from the wear and tear of tough practices and hard fought multi-game weekends against rivals. Sleep should be considered your #1 injury prevention tool.

Benefits 3: Longer Playing Careers
Tied to reduced injury incidences and sleep’s regenerative benefits on daily wear and tear, a recently study found that fatigue levels directly correlated to the career levels of MLB baseball players.

If you want to hear the significance of sleep on performance from someone smarter from me, the lead investigator of this study (Dr. W. Christopher Winter from Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center) broke it down his study like this:

“We were shocked by how linear the relationship was, it is a great reminder that sleepiness impairs performance. From a sports perspective, this is incredibly important. What this study shows is that we can use the science of sleep to predict sports performance”.
There you have it.

Benefit 4: Better accuracy, faster sprint times
Research from another brilliant researcher, Cheri Mah (who studies sleep & athlete performance at Standford), looked directly at the relationship between sleep and performance in basketball players.
Her study recorded sprint times/shooting accuracy after every single practice for a entire season, and found that players who increased their sleep not only ran faster, but also improved BOTH free throws and 3-pointers by 9% each.

This level of improvement is significant in basketball and while, not hockey specific, performance gains this substantial could easily be theorized to be translatable to hockey.

Benefit 5: Fewer Mental Errors
You’ve likely experienced it: an all-nighter or late night with buddies and the next day you’re living in a fog. While this obviously would hurt your performance on-ice, even just reduced sleep at smaller doses (even just a couple hours) has been found to impair mental traits such as focus, speed & memory and decision making
This just isn’t it a research lab, but has been found to cause significant mental declines in athletes. MLB players were found to have poorer “plate discipline” (or decision making skills) as the season progressed through periods of declined sleep. Over an insane 162 games, decision making declined – and the primary cause is suspected to be fatigue. Scott Kutscher, the lead researcher on the paper suggested that:

“A team that recognizes this trend and takes steps to slow or reverse it – by enacting fatigue-mitigating strategies, especially in the middle and late season, for example – can gain a large competitive advantage over their opponent.”

Shoot for 7-9 hours depending on how hard you’re training. It doesn’t require a team of experts, it just requires turning the phone off and getting into bed a little bit earlier. Performance can be enhanced through more than just practice or training, and sleep’s an easy way to up your game. Enjoy those extra Zzz’s!

Source: Kyle Kokotailo,
Relentless Hockey

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Beyond a Hangover: Alcohol and the Brain

Effects on the brain

Graphic of a maze inside a human head silhouette
You’re chatting with friends at a party and a waitress comes around with glasses of champagne. You drink one, then another, maybe even a few more. 
Before you realize it, you are laughing more loudly than usual and swaying as you walk. By the end of the evening, you are too slow to move out of the way of a waiter with a dessert tray and have trouble speaking clearly. The next morning, you wake up feeling dizzy and your head hurts. You may have a hard time remembering everything you did the night before.
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These reactions illustrate how quickly and dramatically alcohol affects the brain. The brain is an intricate maze of connections that keeps our physical and psychological processes running smoothly. Disruption of any of these connections can affect how the brain works. Alcohol also can have longer-lasting consequences for the brain—changing the way it looks and works and resulting in a range of problems.

Most people do not realize how extensively alcohol can affect the brain. But recognizing these potential consequences will help you make better decisions about what amount of alcohol is appropriate for you.


The brain’s structure is complex. It includes multiple systems that interact to support all of your body’s functions—from thinking to breathing and moving.

These multiple brain systems communicate with each other through about a trillion tiny nerve cells called neurons. Neurons in the brain translate information into electrical and chemical signals the brain can understand. They also send messages from the brain to the rest of the body.
Chemicals called neurotransmitters carry messages between the neurons. Neurotransmitters can be very powerful. Depending on the type and the amount of neurotransmitter, these chemicals can either intensify or minimize your body’s responses, your feelings, and your mood. The brain works to balance the neurotransmitters that speed things up with the ones that slow things down to keep your body operating at the right pace.
Alcohol can slow the pace of communication between neurotransmitters in the brain.


Using brain imaging and psychological tests, researchers have identified the regions of the brain most vulnerable to alcohol’s effects. These include:
  • CEREBELLUM – This area controls motor coordination. Damage to the cerebellum results in a loss of balance and stumbling, and also may affect cognitive functions such as memory and emotional response.
  • LIMBIC SYSTEM – This complex brain system monitors a variety of tasks including memory and emotion. Damage to this area impairs each of these functions.
  • CEREBRAL CORTEX – Our abilities to think, plan, behave intelligently, and interact socially stem from this brain region. In addition, this area connects the brain to the rest of the nervous system. Changes and damage to this area impair the ability to solve problems, remember, and learn.


Heavy alcohol consumption—even on a single occasion—can throw the delicate balance of neurotransmitters off course. Alcohol can cause your neurotransmitters to relay information too slowly, so you feel extremely drowsy. Alcohol-related disruptions to the neurotransmitter balance also can trigger mood and behavioral changes, including depression, agitation, memory loss, and even seizures.
Long-term, heavy drinking causes alterations in the neurons, such as reductions in the size of brain cells. As a result of these and other changes, brain mass shrinks and the brain’s inner cavity grows bigger. These changes may affect a wide range of abilities, including motor coordination; temperature regulation; sleep; mood; and various cognitive functions, including learning and memory.
One neurotransmitter particularly susceptible to even small amounts of alcohol is called glutamate. Among other things, glutamate affects memory. Researchers believe that alcohol interferes with glutamate action, and this may be what causes some people to temporarily “black out,” or forget much of what happened during a night of heavy drinking.

Alcohol also causes an increased release of serotonin, another neurotransmitter, which helps regulate emotional expression, and endorphins, which are natural substances that may spark feelings of relaxation and euphoria as intoxication sets in. Researchers now understand that the brain tries to compensate for these disruptions. 
Neurotransmitters adapt to create balance in the brain despite the presence of alcohol. But making these adaptations can have negative results, including building alcohol tolerance, developing alcohol dependence, and experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.


Friday, March 2, 2018

Pain, Chronic Pain, and Opioids

Pain: What is it and how do you treat it?

Chronic pain is recognized by the World Health Organization as a leading medical issue, worldwide.

Pain also has been called a first possible step on the road to opioid addiction. A slip, a broken limb followed by a prescription to oxycontin or other powerful opioid, misuse of that prescription, and the path to heroin or fentanyl abuse can easily start.
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Pain is an unpleasant sensation and emotional experience linked to tissue damage. Its purpose is to allow the body to react and prevent further tissue damage.

We feel pain when a signal is sent through nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation.

The experience of pain is different for everyone, and there are different ways of feeling and describing pain. This can makes it difficult to define and treat.

Pain can be short-term or long-term, it can stay in one place, or it can spread around the body.

Fast facts on pain:

--Pain results from tissue damage.
--It is a part of the body's defense mechanism. --It warns us to take action to prevent further tissue damage.
--People experience and describe pain differently, and this makes it hard to diagnose.
--A range of medications and other treatments can help relieve pain, depending on the cause.

Pain chronic, acute

Pain can be chronic or acute and take a variety of forms and severities.

Pain is felt when special nerves that detect tissue damage send signals to transmit information about the damage along the spinal cord to the brain. These nerves are known as nociceptors.

The brain then decides what to do about the pain.

For example, if you touch a hot surface, a message will travel through a reflex arc in the spinal cord and cause an immediate contraction of the muscles. This contraction will pull your hand away from the hot surface.

This happens so fast that the message doesn't even reach the brain. However, the pain message will continue to the brain. Once there, it will cause an unpleasant sensation of pain to be felt.

How an individual's brain interprets these signals and the efficiency of the communication channel between the nociceptors and the brain dictate how people feel pain.

Source: Medical News Today
By Adam Felman   
Reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA