Monthly Archives: March 2010

Napping and the Brain

Sleep has been known to be an important component to brain function and memory for some time. A recent study on sleep and learning conducted by Dr. Walker, University of California Berkeley provides further support.

The study involved 39 healthy young persons who were placed into a nap or no nap group. At noon, all subjects completed a memory task intended to engage the hippocampus, a region deep in the medial temporal lobe responsible for learning new fact based information. Both groups performed equally on this test.

At 2pm, the nap group took a 90 minute nap while the no-nap group did not. At 6pm of that day, subjects completed a new memory task. Those who remained awake throughout the day performed worse on the task while those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn.

Some scientists suggest the human animal is designed to sleep in bouts rather than one long period of time which supports taking naps. About 30% of Americans nap during the mid-day. The study’s results support the idea that sleep clears the brain’s short-term memory storage and creates the ability for new information to be learned. Napping may serve as a type of “rebooting” process, particularly when nappers enter stage two of their natural sleep cycle.

Results are preliminary and further research will be done to support these findings. However, scientists continue to help understand the sleep and its critical role in memory and brain health.

Sweet dreams!

Visualization and the Human Brain

You may have heard about the ability to “see one’s future” or maybe to “see yourself achieving a goal or success.” For some this may seem purely science fiction. However, it is important to not fall victim to the common tendency of many to underestimate the power of the human brain. You might be surprised to learn that many of the coincidences or “déjà vu” phenomena that occur in your life are brain based and directed.

Visualization is the term often used to describe our attempt to use mental imagery to guide behavior and outcome. This is used by many of our best known athletes and others who are the best at what they do. Very often it is the mental side of action that differentiates good from great.

Specific steps to practice visualization include the following:

1.    Identify a specific goal you have for your life, one that you have some control     over shaping. Specify what a successful outcome is for attaining your goal. Place     that goal into your brain and specify when it should occur. Identify those things     and people you need to have to reach the goal.

2.    Identify impediments to the goal including those that may exist outside of you and     those inside of you. The latter involve your own tendencies that may have limited     your success in the past. It might be lack of confidence, poor persistence,     problems dealing with setbacks, etc.

3.    Once steps 1 and 2 are completed, position yourself into a quiet area where you     can engage in deep breathing relaxation and meditation. On a daily basis you need     to turn inward and learn to set your body and brain into a relaxed state of     existence. You will need to practice these two-to-three times daily to learn how to     relax. You should feel completely at ease and focused on your existence.

4.    Once you are mentally relaxed and focused inward without any external     distraction, you can begin to see yourself completing the goal you identified. You     can visualize success, see the people and things that will help you to achieve     success, and feel the success. Your brain needs to establish the reality of the     success and map out the road to the desired outcome. The singular focus is on     success.

5.    Now you are ready to simply live your life and to realize your surroundings more     consciously. Life will provide the path for your goal and your brain understands     what to do because of your visualization training.  You may need to stop what you     are doing and re-engage in the visualization process above. If you remain true to     these steps you will find greater sense of accomplishment and goal attainment in     your life. It takes time. Visualization is a lifestyle change.