Posts Tagged ‘Health’

The Optimism Bias: (Don’t) Stop Kidding Yourself

April 25th, 2018 1 comment

Imagine you’ve just finished a long, tiring week of classes. It’s a Saturday afternoon and you’ve decided to reward yourself with a lazy day. You make some popcorn, grab your laptop and pull up Netflix. You’re watching Grey’s Anatomy, and you’re in the middle of season 5. You are shocked to find out that Izzie, a young doctor on the show, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. You watch episode after episode until you reach the heart wrenching season finale when a different favorite character dies in a tragic accident. As you exhaust your box of tissues, you wonder how producer Shonda Rhimes concocts these episodes. You think about your own life and conclude that, at the end of the day, none of the tragedies in this medical soap opera could ever happen to you. You’ll never get sick like the fictitious characters of whom you’ve grown fond. You’ll never get in that car accident and wind up as a trauma patient. Bad things will not happen to you. If you’ve ever had a conversation like this with yourself- one in which you underestimate the likelihood that negative events will impact your life – you have demonstrated the optimism bias.

…or will it? (Taken from

The optimism bias is the cognitive bias that leads us to overestimate the likelihood that a positive event will happen in our lives and underestimate the likelihood that a negative event will occur in our futures (Sharot, 2011). Optimism, by definition, is the expectation that good things will happen. Pessimism refers to the expectation that bad things will happen. Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Muscle Memory, but Not the Kind You Think

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

The stereotypes of the “nerd” and the “dumb jock” are some of the most pervasive in the media. The nerd is so un-athletic he might hurt himself walking to class, and the jock spends more time in the gym than in the library. While these stereotypes may be well known, the importance of exercise and health has increased over the last decade. Not only does exercise improve short-term mental concentration and mood by the release of endorphins, it is also being studied for long-term benefits. Even mainstream media has commented on exercise benefits, for example in the movie legally blonde displayed in figure 1.

Quote from Legally Blonde (2001) movie

Figure 1. Quote from Legally Blonde (2001) movie

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Getting Old Doesn’t Need to be Scary!

November 19th, 2015 No comments

Do you worry about what will happen to your body as you get older? Do you envision your brain slowing down and your grandkids speaking realllyy slllowwlyyy so you can understand them?

Cognitive functioning—which includes attention (allotting mental resources to notice something), memory (the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information), and executive functioning (a broad term for the system that regulates many cognitive processes)—tends to decrease with age. However, one of the many benefits of exercise is that it has been shown to improve cognitive functioning. And for many older adults, general fitness as it relates to health is a primary concern. But some forms of exercise can be harmful or painful for older adults who have joint pain. So what kind of exercise and how much exercise should older adults get in order to stay physically and mentally healthy?

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How Eating Disorders Can Lead To Bad Decision Making

November 23rd, 2014 3 comments

What classes do I sign up for? Which restaurant do I want to eat at? How much money is appropriate to spend on a birthday gift? Which is the best highway to take to get home? Whether we realize it or not, decision-making is an essential daily function. We rely on our decision-making abilities to guide us through our actions. But what affects these abilities? Data has shown that individuals with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) have long-term difficulty in decision-making. While serious eating disorders such as AN and BN can have short-term effects such as drastic weight loss and skewed self-image, it is also important to consider the long-term effects that these diseases may have. While some may think that rehabilitation of these diseases mainly involve the process of eating healthy and emotional and mental rehabilitation, rehabilitation, as this article proves, must reach far beyond for these individuals. Differences in decision-making are an important aspect to explore, as treatment in later stages of the disease should be adjusted to these findings. Chan et al.’s study demonstrated the effects of these diseases on what could be life-changing decisions.


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Does Type of Exercise Matter in Terms of Benefits for Working Memory?

April 27th, 2014 2 comments

It has never been a secret that consistent exercise is one of the keys to living a balanced, reduced-stress, healthy lifestyle.  If you are someone who works out often, you are probably familiar with the feeling of relaxation and lowering of stress that comes after a workout.  It turns out that working out reduces emotional distress and provides resilience to stress and physical exercise plays a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, depression, and hypertension among others.  Basically, an increase in physical activity and exercise results in an improvement in general status of health.  In general, the more physical exercise done, the greater the health benefits for the individual.


    Researchers at the University of Illinois were interested in comparing the health benefits, specifically on working memory, of differing forms of exercise.  The two forms of exercise the researchers were interested in were acute aerobic physical exercise and resistance exercise.  Read more…

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Aging and Metamemory

November 29th, 2013 6 comments

Everyone has to get old, and if you aren’t old yet, you likely have an older friend or relative in your life with whom you are close. Many seniors, like my grandmother, complain that their memory is failing them in their old age. Nani forgets where she placed her keys, has trouble recalling recently-learned names, and sometimes even forgets childhood facts. It can be difficult watching someone you love lose bits and pieces of their memory, and it’s even more upsetting to hear their sadness when they talk about how much they think they’ve lost. Because of these difficulties associated with age, and because there is such a fear in our society of this inevitable course, it isn’t surprising that there is lots of incredible cognitive aging research being conducted. One of the more interesting articles recently published investigated not only memory ability in healthy older adults, but metamemory ability.

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Eat Your Leafy Greens, Grandma!

October 26th, 2013 No comments

I bet you remember as a kid being told by your parents to “eat your veggies, even the greens.” But I bet you don’t remember your parents telling THEIR parents to eat their veggies. The vast effects from eating vegetables and having a healthy diet in younger developmental stages are enumerable, but consequences of diet on elderly populations are often overlooked.


Figure 1. Vitamin K can be naturally found in several leafy green vegetables, as shown above.

What is in these magical green veggies (lettuce, kale, spinach) anyway? Amongst other things, a notable compound present is vitamin K. This vitamin is most notably used in the body to promote protective blood clotting. However, other potential roles of vitamin K in the brain have been examined in rats. Vitamin K is present in high levels in the brain, and proteins that rely on vitamin K to function are also found in the brain. These same studies found evidence for vitamin K to specifically have effects in the aging brain. Older rats that were fed a vitamin K rich diet had better spatial learning memory than those fed a low vitamin K diet. This phenomenon was only observed in older rats, not the younger populations.  Read more…

Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,