Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nature hikes boost brain power

Credit:  Morguefile

Researchers know it's important to stay in touch with natural surroundings. Numerous studies show the benefits of being outdoors or even surrounding ourselves with pictures of nature in the workplace that can increase productivity.

Results of a new study support the idea that getting outdoors - and especially getting rid of technology - can boost cognitive function and even help us with creativity and problem solving.

Increased used of technology, indoor work and media distraction prevents children and adults from visiting parks and other recreational areas that can help brain power by restoring executive function.

For the newest investigation, researchers tested the effects of hiking among 56 men and women. The participants were given a creativity test before the hike that was organized by the Outward Bound school in Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Washington State.

The group was also tested for creativity after spending time hiking in nature with no technology. The finding showed people who went for a hike with no media at their disposal increased creativity and ability to problem solve by fifty-percent.

The researchers aren't certain whether getting rid of technology or hiking was responsible for the changes in brain power found - or both -  but they do know other studies show reconnecting with our natural environment is good for brain health.

Citation: Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New discovery uncovers protein needed for big musles

Image credit: Bing

Researchers at Dana Farber Cancer Institute have discovered the protein PGC-1 alpha-4 is what helps muscles grow. The hope is that there could be a way to artificially raise levels of the protein in the body for cancer patients or people with chronic muscle wasting diseases.

According to the investigation results, the scientists were able to help mice with cancer maintain more muscle mass than mice that were untreated with the injected protein.

The study authors say even without exercise they were able to increase muscle mass in mice by 60% with PGC-1 alpha-4.

The finding is new and only in its early stages, but the authors say the finding is 'exciting', given the potential applications.

Mice given the protein were leaner and 20 percent stronger than normal mice. Read the rest of the story here. ◦

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Timing of eating could be important for obese women's heart health

Image credit: Bing
Obese women who are at risk for heart disease might lower their chances of heart attack and other cardiovascular events by eating three meals a day, versus small frequent meals.

For their study, researchers from University of Missouri tested women who consumed 1500 calorie diets, finding eating throughout the day raises blood fat levels; in turn increasing the risk of heart disease.

Tim Heden, and lead author said in a media release, the study is ".. one of the first to examine how meal frequency affects insulin and blood-fat levels in obese women during an entire day of eating.”

The researchers concluded obese women would benefit from consuming three meals a day. 

The results challenge the advice of health care practitioners and nutritionists who often recommend eating small meals throughout the day... read.more at 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Could media multitasking drive anxiety and depression rates?

Credit: Morguefile
New research shows people who multitask with media may be at higher risk for anxiety and depression.

Watching TV, texting and using the cellphone might be distracting us from other important activities in ways that aren't good for mental health.

According to the research that  319 people surveyed about their media use and mental health had a higher risk of depression and anxiety when they reported frequent use of a variety of media.

The finding might mean we're overusing media that can have a positive impact too.

Researchers have suggested too much TV and computer time can take away from family activities and other social engagement that is necessary for mental health and even rob us of sleep.

Teens are especially vulnerable to internet addiction, suggest some researchers. Other studies have suggested   TV viewing raises risk of depression for teens. Read the entire story at ◦

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mistletoe extract destroys colon cancer in lab studies

Credit: Morguefile
New research is uncovering how mistletoe extract might work as a chemotherapy against colon cancer.

Researchers studied 3 different extracts from mistletoe to find colon cancer cells are destroyed when exposed to the plant compounds.

The hope is to find an alternative and less toxic way to treat cancer of the bowel. Another option might be to use mistletoe extract to boost chemotherapy agents.

In lab studies, University of Adelaide researchers found mistletoe extract from fraxini that grows on the ash tree is gentle on healthy colon cells, making it a good candidate.

The treatment has been used in Europe for decades. The current research is being carried out to show how the extract works so human trials could someday be conducted. Read more about the study at Digital Journal.