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It’s healthy to keep learning!

October 11th, 2018 Comments off

Learning. It’s something that we associate with long days of study, with the result of gaining a qualification and, hopefully, a job.

However, medical professionals frequently stress that we should make learning a constant part of our daily routine. Physicist Albert Einstein certainly agreed, making the statement that “once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Grim words indeed.

But is there any truth in them? Neuroscientists have now been able to give us a fascinating insight into how the brain develops when it is learning. Here are a few examples

Improve your poker play

Poker might seem like a fun way to spend time with a few friends, and that’s certainly often the case. However, competitive poker is one of the most deeply mathematical and cognitive games around. Professional players are not only experts at reading body language, they are also capable of memorising hundreds of cards and patterns whilst applying advanced logic skills.

Sounds tough? You’d be right. Most players don’t start out as poker masters. However, like any game of skill, experts tell us it’s a case of learning, practicing, and finally mastering strategies. This is a skill that accumulates as the brain learns, which builds and strengthens neural pathways. This improves overall cognition, as well as helping with emotional control

Take up knitting

Ok, this one might sound a little unusual, but the Crafts Council argues that learning through craft has a range of learning benefits. These include training the parts of the brain needed for science and engineering, as well as art and design.

Knitting has the added bonus of being proven to reduce stress and anxiety. The type of concentration needed for knitting is similar to the brain state found in meditation, something so remarkable that doctors are now calling for the humble ball of wool and knitting needles to be prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure.

Learn to build a table

In even more proof that brains are much more complex than most of us realise, woodworking has the benefit of triggering whole brain development. This is because it involves many different aspects of the creative mind, including planning, imagination, and decision-making. It also develops the fine motor skills that are so important in many scientific and medical professions.

Closing thoughts

Persuasive arguments? We think so. With a range of benefits from improving your brain function, your emotional health, and your physical health, learning is something that the human brain has evolved to thrive by. Einstein was perhaps more correct than he realised. Learning is the ultimate brain-food, so pick up a hobby menu and give your mind a treat.

Why Do People Tolerate Spicy Foods and Other Strong Flavours?

August 14th, 2018 Comments off

Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom for purposefully seeking out spicy food and strong flavours. Most animals avoid ingesting anything that causes pain or discomfort for fear of a serious injury or death. There are three specific reasons why we humans enjoy strong flavours.

Culture

Humans are not born to enjoy spicy food, but instead learn to love the burn through culture. Children raised in spice-loving regions like India and Mexico will eat foods such as hot peppers to emulate their older family members. Researchers found that, over time, ingesting certain molecules found in spicy foods will erode the body’s supply of a neurotransmitter known as Substance P. This neurotransmitter is what makes the brain associate pain with those spicy molecules, such as capsaicin. Therefore, people raised in a culture that enjoys eating spicy foods will have less Substance P, and thus less spice-induced pain, than people raised in other cultures.

Thrill-seeking Behaviour

For those of us who have not depleted our stores of Substance P, seeking out spicy food and other strong flavours can be a safe way to experience excitement. In this way, spicy food lovers have something in common with people who enjoy horror movies and roller coasters. Researchers have found a link between “sensation-seeking personalities” and enjoyment of spicy food.

The After-effects

Scientists have found that after eating spicy food, people can experience an increase in endorphins. These hormones are released in response to pain, and they have a soothing effect likened to euphoria. Alcohol and nicotine are two other acquired tastes that some people enjoy because of their psychological effects. People may seek out a strong drink like vodka to alleviate stress. Nicotine, such as that found in a products like siberia snus has its own mood-altering effects, like alertness and relaxation. It’s no wonder people may tolerate the strong sensation of spice, liquor, or snus in order to enjoy their pleasant effects.