Why stressed minds are more decisive

“When we’re put under pressure, our brains can suddenly process information much faster – but only in certain situations, says neuroscientist Tali Sharot.”

Some of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime will occur while you feel stressed and anxious.

Do we become better or worse at processing and using information under such circumstances?

 

A perceived threat made firefighters better at processing information

“My colleague Neil Garrett, now at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute in New Jersey, and I ventured from the safety of our lab to fire stations in the state of Colorado to investigate how the mind operates under high stress.”

“Firefighters’ workdays vary quite a bit. Some days are pretty relaxed; they’ll spend part of their time washing the truck, cleaning equipment, cooking meals and reading. Other days can be hectic, with numerous life-threatening incidents to attend to; they’ll enter burning homes to rescue trapped residents, and assist with medical emergencies. These ups and downs presented the perfect setting for an experiment on how people’s ability to use information changes when they feel under pressure.”

“When you’re stressed, your brain undergoes physical changes that can make it hard to ignore possible dangers.
We found that perceived threat triggered a stress reaction that made the firefighters better at processing information – but only as long as it conveyed bad news.”

“This is how we arrived at these results. We asked the firefighters to estimate their likelihood of experiencing 40 different aversive events in their life, such as being involved in a car accident or becoming a victim of card fraud. We then gave them either good news (we told them that their likelihood of experiencing these events was lower than they’d thought) or bad news (that it was higher) and asked them to provide new estimates.”

“Cortisol levels spiked, their heart rates went up and, lo and behold, they suddenly became better at processing unrelated, yet alarming, information”

“Research has shown that people are normally quite optimistic – they will ignore the bad news and embrace the good. This is what happened when the firefighters were relaxed; but when they were under stress, a different pattern emerged. Under these conditions, they became hyper-vigilant to any bad news we gave them, even when it had nothing to do with their job (such as learning that the likelihood of card fraud was higher than they’d thought), and altered their beliefs in response. In contrast, stress didn’t change how they responded to good news (such as learning that the likelihood of card fraud was lower than they’d thought).”

“Back in our lab, we observed the same pattern in undergraduates who were told they had to give a surprise public speech, which would be judged by a panel, recorded and posted online. Sure enough, their cortisol levels spiked, their heart rates went up and, lo and behold, they suddenly became better at processing unrelated, yet alarming, information about rates of disease and violence.”

“When you experience stressful events, whether personal (waiting for a medical diagnosis) or public (political turmoil), a physiological change is triggered that can cause you to take in any sort of warning and become fixated on what might go wrong. A study using brain imaging to look at the neural activity of people under stress revealed that this ‘switch’ was related to a sudden boost in a neural signal important for learning(known as a prediction error), specifically in response to unexpected signs of danger (such as faces expressing fear). This signal relies on dopamine – a neurotransmitter found in the brain – and, under stress, dopamine function is altered by another molecule called corticotropin-releasing factor.”

“Such neural engineering could have helped early humans to survive. When our ancestors found themselves in a habitat filled with hungry animals, they benefited from an increased ability to learn about hazards so as to avoid predators. In a safe environment, however, it would be wasteful to be on high alert constantly. A certain amount of ignorance can help to keep your mind at ease.”

“So a ‘neural switch’ that automatically increases or decreases your ability to process warnings in response to changes in your environment might be useful. In fact, people with clinical depression and anxiety seem unable to switch away from a state in which they absorb all the negative messages around them.”

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons and is edited for space.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180613-why-stressed-minds-are-better-at-processing-things

On the Road – Neuroscience shows audiobooks are more emotionally engaging than film or TV

About once a month I drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona to visit family.  Audio books are my only companion.  They can’t drive, or pump gas and they also can’t back-seat drive or demand I stop and feed them.  On the 5 hour drive I’ve listened to some great authors and very interesting topics.

The secret that all audiobook lovers know, is now official: you get more thrills listening to the audio adaptation of a novel than you do from its equivalent on Netflix.

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A new study, released by UCL, found that people experience heightened physiological reactions, with stronger heart and brain responses, when listening to audiobooks as opposed to viewing screen adaptations of the same works. This is the first time any research has been done looking at whether changing the way a story is delivered changes its emotional impact on us.

In the year plus long study, ” . . . a collaboration with Audible, scientists tested scenes from eight blockbusters and bestsellers – A Game Of Thrones, The Girl On The Train, Pride And Prejudice, The Silence Of The Lambs, Great Expectations, The Da Vinci Code, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, and Alien. They tracked the conscious responses of 103 participants aged 18 – 67 to the audio and video clips through a variety of surveys, while measuring heart rate and electrodermal activity with Empatica E4 biometric sensors – two physiological signals that can reveal cognitive processing and sub-conscious emotional arousal in the brain.”

Listening to a story on Audible produced greater emotional and physiological engagement than watching the scene on a screen, as measured by both heart rate and electro-dermal activity,” concluded Dr. Joseph Devlin, head of experimental psychology at UCL and lead researcher on the project.

The fascinating part is “ . . . when surveyed, participants assumed they were less engaged, the biometric sensors indicate otherwise. Having concluded the first phase of our multi-stage study with Audible, it seems as though the heart really does tell the story.”

“Highlights of the UCL study include:

  • The evidence found with over 99% certainty that audiobooks produced a stronger emotional and physiological response than visual storytelling mediums. This finding was consistent across different stories, and different participant ages and demographics.
  • Participants’ average heart rate was higher when they were listening to audiobooks by about two beats a minute.
  • Participants listening to audiobooks also had a higher peak heart rate during the story, by about 4 beats per minute.
  • Participants were roughly 2 degrees warmer in their body temperature, and their skin conductance (EDA) was higher by when listening to audiobooks.  (Research team cross-referenced accelerometer data with participants’ heart-rate data to rule out increased movement/fidgeting as a possible explanation for higher heart rates whilst listening to audiobooks.)
  • Audiobooks produced more consistent patterns of physiological change than films or TV clips, suggesting that the format may give authors better control of the emotional responses of their listeners.”

  It’s nice to have confirmation that I’m not just filling up time with audio-travel but keeping myself warm, exercising my heart & head, entertaining and inspiring me on the road. 

(PA)

https://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/

Pawsitively Tuesday – We’re just say’n . . . now you do the do’n

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did, 

but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

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Frankly Freddie, THE MENTAL BENEFITS OF WALKING (Parenthetically Speaking)

Dear Humans,

I hate to say “I told you so”  but I told you so – Walking is good for you.  It’s my preferred form of exercise.  Peggy and judy have found lots of studies on the benefits of walking. They asked me to promote it since I’m an expert walker:

Walking (preferably with me)

  • Gives you a creative lift.  A study at Stanford showed a 60% increase in creative output. Researches called the kind of creativity “divergent thinking”, thinking out of the box, looking at many different possibilities. Walking lets out minds wander and this puts us in a good mental state for generating new ideas.  (My Human Judy is already a “divergent thinker” . . .  to a fault.  Her brain hasn’t ever been able to walk a straight line)

  • Boosts your mood. In one study scientists saw increased energy, good mood, attentiveness and confidence with 12 minutes of walking compared to 12 minutes of sitting.  (I like my human to be attentive and obedient)

  • Walking in nature also reduced repetitive negative thoughts (ruminating).

  • Improves memory.  (You’ll remember that walking helps you)

  • Just 10 minutes of walking may relieve anxiety and improve mood as well as a workout lasting 45 minutes. (I prefer long walks but I’m all for anything that gets my human in a better mood)

If it’s raining or snowing or blowing you can use a treadmill for a walking workout.

Walking on a treadmill gives you the most benefit if you vary the speed and incline so that your heart rate is raised and lowered. Sort of like walking up and down hills, going fast some times, slow some times. Setting a high incline makes you use more energy to walk, and you can get a good cardiovascular workout without as much strain on your knees (For those of us who have 4 knees that’s important)

Interval training is a way to get the most from a workout. So whether you are outside on a trail or inside on a treadmill here’s how to do intervals. Start with a warm up warm up 5 minutes, then do an incline  or speed for 3 minutes a few minutes, then back to level then 1 minute level at a walk, and repeat for about 20 minutes total.  (I do interval training with Judy – I run, stop, raise my leg, run some more, stop, sniff, saunter, stop, raise my leg, run, stop, sniff, trot . . .)

Another protocol I often follow, and you can too, is to go as hard as I can for 1 minute, then sniff and walk until I recover, then go again. 

Finding your target zone

My target zone is most often a tree or a post.  For humans it may be different and here’s how you do it:

Find an online calculator for your target heart rate zone, or use this:

For vigorous exercise, use 70 to 85 percent of your heart rate reserve or HHR

Here is Mayo Clinics formula:

  • “Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate.
  • Calculate your resting heart rate by counting your heart beats per minute when you are at rest, such as first thing in the morning. (For the average adult It’s somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute.)
  • Calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR) – subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate.
  • Multiply your HRR by 0.7 (70 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number.
  • Multiply your HRR by 0.85 (85 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number.
  • These two numbers are your training zone heart rate for vigorous intensity exercise. Your heart rate during exercise should be between these two numbers.”

For example, I’m 6 dogs years old.

220-6= 114, my maximum HR
My  resting heart rate is resting
Then I subtract my resting heart rate from my maximum heart rate gives my heart rate reserve (HHR), (which is very confusing).

Multiply that by 0.7, then add my resting heart rate,

Multiply my heart rate reserve (HHR) by 85%  so 82×0.85=69.7 then add resting heart rate so 69.7+65=134.7 which is the high end of my target heart rate or training zone . . .

(I’ve computed my target zone to be 6 trees a minute.)

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDWE

Canine Dog Walking Expert 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-walking-most-underrated-form-exercise

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Brain Food – Energy & Anti-inflammatory Drink

There are a whole host of diseases from auto-immune to arthritis that are increasingly being linked to inflammation. And there is more and more in the news about the cognitive benefits of turmeric on Alzheimer patients and the anti-inflamatory effects of ginger and cinnamon.   

Here’s a beverage I drink with those spices.  It’s quite good.

 (Dr Sanjay Gupta drinks this every evening as a tea for calming.)

1 cup almond milk – either vanilla or chocolate 

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1 tsp honey to drizzle over top (No need for honey if using chocolate)

Heat the almond milk in microwave. Stir in spices.  Drizzle honey on top. (You can add a packet of Stevia to the mix if you like your drinks sweet)  

I buy bulk turmeric, cinnamon and ginger in the market and mix up a batch to have on hand.  

With the mixture I add 1-3/4 tsp of mixed spices to one cup of almond milk.

 

Michael Greger M.D. and NutritionFacts.org.  

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Frankly Freddie – Making humans extroverted, the Canine Way (parenthetically speaking)

1. Introverts enjoy having time to themselves. P & J would rather spend time reading, gardening and blogging.  They even like to go shopping alone. I give them as much quiet, alone time as possible because it’s  important to their sense of well-being.  (They recharge their batteries by being alone which is puzzling and, might I say, rather boring.  I’m planning on taking them on walks more often so they learn to socialize.)

2.  Introverts best thinking occurs when they’re alone.  I’ve noticed they come up with creative solutions on their own and then they tell each other what they think. (Sometimes the solutions are weird . . .  I think they think too much.  I’m planning on taking them on more walks so they learn not to be so weird)

3.  Introverts lead best when others are self-starters.  They can be the best leaders of all if the group is ready to lead itself, then the introverted leader will draw the most potential out of them.  (I’m planning on taking them on more walks to practice  leading me so I can draw the most potential out of them.)

4. Introverts are content to let others take center stage.   Extraverts, like me, are ready and eager to stand out in any social situation. It’s not that introverts know less than others; they just don’t feel a particular need to be in that limelight.  (I’m not planning on doing anything about this since they tend to hog all the credit for my blogs)

5.  Other people ask introverts their opinion.  They are less likely to volunteer opinions or advice in less public settings.  People high in introversion will keep their views to themselves and let the noisy extraverts take control.  (I’m not planning on doing anything about this since they are already EXTREMELY opinionated.  You’re welcome.)

6.  Introverts do not engage with people who seem angry or upset. This is true.  P & J will drag me on the other side of the street if they see a big dog coming.  People high in introversion don’t want to look at someone who seems mad. this is because they are more sensitive to potentially negative evaluations.  (I’m not planning on doing anything about this since I also enjoy peace, quiet and lots of loving attention)

7.  Introverts receive more calls, texts, and emails than they make, unless there’s no choice. All other things being equal, people high in introversion don’t reach out voluntarily to their social circles. If they have a few minutes to spare, they won’t initiate a call just to pass the time by socializing.  They don’t generate emails and other written correspondence but instead react to the communications they receive from others.  If you have no choice but to initiate communications, such as when they invite people to a social event, they will be less likely to pick up the phone and make a call and more likely to send the request through cyberspace or the post office.  (THIS IS REALLY TRUE about Judy.  She hates to talk on the phone.  When the phone rings she starts twitching.  Peggy talks on the phone A LOT.  I’m not planning on doing anything about this since I don’t care)

8.  Being an introvert definitely has its advantages. You’re less likely to make a social gaffe, such as by inadvertently insulting someone whose opinion you don’t agree with. They enjoy reflecting on their own thoughts and are rarely likely to get bored when they’re alone than someone who needs constant social stimulation. (I’m planning on helping them learn how to pet and scratch me more.  Stimulation is a good thing.)

Maybe Peggy & Judy are ‘ambiverts’?

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDE

Canine Dog Extrovert

references:

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.Fulfillment at Any Age

https://www.psychologytoday.com/

Understanding personality types for a happier relationship

Scientists have figured out exactly how much you need to exercise to slow your heart’s aging process

There’s bad news good news and there’s bad news.

The Bad News:  “More than 610,000 people die of heart disease in the US each year—accounting for about 25% of total deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year more than 735,000 Americans have a heart attack and 28% of those are a second heart attack.”

The Good News:  There are steps you can take to slow your heart’s aging process, increasing the chances of living a long, healthy life.

The Bad News: The trade-off is that you really do have to go to the gym.

“New research published in the Journal of Physiology pins down the number of days a week a person should exercise to maintain the overall health of their arteries, which stiffen with age and, as they do, increase the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Very few people experience heart attacks before age 45, and the average age is 65. But the new study suggests a way to keep your arteries physiologically “young.”

The study considered that every human has different-sized arteries, and found that the smaller arteries rely on fewer days of exercise per week than larger ones to maintain overall health.

The takeaway:

Medium-sized arteries need two to three days a week of 30-minute exercising to minimize artery stiffening. But to minimize the stiffening of equally important larger arteries, people should be exercising four to five days a week.

The study

“The scientists came to their findings by examining a group of 102 people—all of them older than 60—who had exercised over the course of their lives. The researchers started by measuring each person’s artery stiffness, then grouped them into four categories depending on how much they exercised through the years. One group was for people who generally exercised less that twice a week. Another was for “casual exercisers” who were active two to three times a week. The last two groups were for people who exercised four to five times and six to seven times per week.”

“A lifelong history of ‘casual exercise’ resulted in more youthful middle-sized arteries, which supply oxygenated blood to the head and neck,” the press release states. “However, people who exercised 4-5 times per week also had more youthful large central arteries, which provide blood to the chest and abdomen, in addition to healthier middle sized ones.”

This work showed exercise training over a long period of time can slow artery damage and the aging of the heart; the researchers say the next step is to study whether it can also reverse damage and aging of the cardiovascular system.

https://qz.com/1284072/the-right-exercise-to-slow-down-heart-disease-according-to-a-new-study/

Research published in the Journal of Physiology

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