Brain Metabolism and Training Effects

Here is brain metabolism in Tetris, reported in Wired in 1993:

In Tetris, Haier sees "a tremendous learning curve. The question became: When the stimuli are faster and the decision making is harder, does the brain require more energy?" Haier found, as he suspected, that the brain requires less energy to play higher levels of Tetris. This is "counterintuitive," he says, "but consistent with a brain efficiency idea."

In first-time users, Tetris significantly raises cerebral glucose metabolic rates (GMRs), meaning brain energy consumption soars. Yet, after four to eight weeks of daily doses, GMRs sink to normal, while performance increases seven-fold, on average. Tetris trains your brain to stop using inefficient gray matter, perhaps a key cognitive strategy for learning. In fact, the lowest final GMRs are found in the best players' brains, the ones most efficient at dealing with Tetris's Daedalian geometry.

Here is Yahoo Sports on soccer players and brain metabolism, 2014:

Tokyo (AFP) - Brazilian superstar Neymar's brain activity while dancing past opponents is less than 10 percent the level of amateur players, suggesting he plays as if on auto-pilot, according to Japanese neurologists.

Results of brain scans conducted on Neymar in February this year indicated minimal cerebral function when he rotated his ankle and point to the Barcelona striker's wizardry being uncannily natural.

"From MRI images we discovered Neymar's brain activity to be less than 10 percent of an amateur player," researcher Eiichi Naito told AFP on Friday.

"It is possible genetics is a factor, aided by the type of training he does."

I think genetics is what makes Neymar capable of becoming the great player he is, with training, but the training effect (pros train more and better than amateurs, I believe) is common to all of our genes and brains. Training decreases the brain metabolism requirements for the same amount of work, and that work becomes more effective with that training as well.

Efficiency. A very good thing about the brain.

Some tongue-in-cheek comments about the Arizona execution process.

Here's Yahoo on the Arizona botched execution.

First of all, the fact that the executed man had loud breathing for about two hours after his lethal injection simply means the drug put him to sleep, hypnotic OD style, for a while before he died.  This is slow, but hardly inhumane.  The man did not suffer while asleep, after all, no matter the loud breathing. Snoring and snorting is not suffering. Gasping while asleep from such an OD is not gasping from pain, but from disordered breathing.

It's not being put to sleep and having some sleep apnea that's objected to as inhumane, it's the killing part, right?

Second, as long as we are treating murderers like dogs, here's an answer to the problem of lack of human death drugs:

EUTHASOL® (pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium) Solution

For use in dogs for humane, painless, and rapid euthanasia.

Active ingredients pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium result in humane, painless, and rapid euthanasia.
  • Indicated for use in dogs to induce painless, humane, and rapid euthanasia resulting from cerebral death triggered by active ingredients pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium.
  • Intravenous (IV) administration produces rapid anesthetic action and smooth, quick onset of unconsciousness.
  • Dosage is 1 mL per 10 lb of body weight.
  • IV administration is preferred. Intracardiac injection is also possible.
  • Available in 100 mL, multiple-dose vials.

Environmental Hazard
This product is toxic to wildlife. Birds and mammals feeding on treated animals may be killed. Euthanized animals must be properly disposed of by deep burial, incineration, or other method in compliance with state and local laws, to prevent consumption of carcass material by scavenging wildlife.
WARNING: For canine euthanasia only. Must not be used for therapeutic purposes. Do not use in animals intended for food.
CAUTION: Caution should be exercised to avoid contact of the drug with open wounds or accidental self-inflicted injections. Keep out of reach of children. If eye contact, flush with water and seek medical advice/attention.
Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
EUTHASOL<sup>®</sup> (pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium) Solution
Click image to enlarge

Lucy's Myth: But it's 92%, Not 10%

Sci-Fi myth: In the movie Lucy: Humans use only 10% of their brain capacity. Thus, a drug may give humans like Lucy superpowered brain function by allowing them to use more! It's amazing!

Reality: We use essentially all of our brain capacity. Some studies have shown that loss of 50 to 100 ml of brain out of about 1130 ml total brain volume is enough to cause cognitive impairment. So normal function would require that we use at minimum 92% of our brain capacity. Furthermore, it's likely that impairment sometimes happens even with less than an 8% volume loss. At least, the patients notice it.

Of course, a drug that made Lucy a mere 8% smarter, enough to perhaps, with the right help, defeat her opponents using ordinary means, would not make much of a movie.

Gotta love those scfi-fi movies though. Great entertainment, just misleading pseudoscience in their premisses (and on their premises).

Black (Chocolate) Sapote Fruit

English: Black Sapote, Black Persimmon, Chocolate-Fruit, Chocolate Pudding Fruit
Spanish: Zapote Negro
German: Schwarze Sapote
Horticultral Species: Diospyros digyna, Family: Ebenaceae.
The Aztec word "tzapotl" meant any soft, sweet fruit, and was not species-specific. The black sapote fruit is a persimmon, but tastes very different from other persimmons. The family Ebenaceae also contains the Chinese and Japanese persimmons.
The chocolate pudding fruit is green when unripe, brown-black when ripe, and may contain 2 to 10 shiny dark red-brown seeds. Some cultivars (including the Hawaiian version) are nearly seedless. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, it is also cultivated in Florida, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Hawaii. It is a slow-growing, evergreen tree which may reach 8 meters in height.
Of Culinary Interest: The Black Sapote is a tomato-like fruit, 10 x 13 cm in size, and is best picked with a bit of stem remaining. It is a large single berry type fruit with a thin, firm rind. Its unripe color is shining dark green with brown speckling, browning as it ripens. The fruit's flesh is rich, dark brown colored and is, when fully ripe, mousse or custard-like in consistency. The fruit is at its best once it has changed from green to a completely ugly brown-black appearance. When fully ripe,it has a sweet, nut-like mild flavor, like mild chocolate, but far lower in fat and calories.

See also the fruit pages, here.

Neurosurgical Panel Determines New Criteria for Concussion Diagnosis

Although it is often very clear when a head injury has occurred, criteria have been needed to assess concussion injury independently of a particular researcher's working definition. As the authors of the study below note, there is in the concussion literature a "pervasive circularity in the relationship between case identification and outcome reporting for individual studies. That is, in most of the published literature, criteria for a definition of a case of concussion were prespecified, and then patients were selected on the basis of those criteria. Thus, data on the prevalence of the criteria as outcomes in those samples are overestimated."

The authors reviewed multiple head injury studies (in sports, hospital, and military settings) in a effort to come up with criteria for concussion that would choose persons who had a concussion from those with potentially concussive events who were not felt to have had concussion.

The guidelines are to be published in September, but were just released in advance online.

The symptoms and signs found to be in common as indicators for concussion, regardless of individual study criteria among reviewed studies, were:

(1) observed and documented disorientation or confusion immediately after the event.

(2) impaired balance within 1 day after injury.

(3) slower reaction time within 2 days after injury.

(4) impaired verbal learning and memory within 2 days after injury.



Neurosurgery September 2014 - Volume 75 - Issue - p S3–S15

doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000000433

Concussion Guidelines

Concussion Guidelines Step 1: Systematic Review of Prevalent Indicators

Carney, Nancy PhD; Ghajar, Jamshid MD, PhD; Jagoda, Andy MD; Bedrick, Steven PhD; Davis-O'Reilly, Cynthia BSc; du Coudray, Hugo PhD; Hack, Dallas MD; Helfand, Nora; Huddleston, Amy MPA; Nettleton, Tracie MS; Riggio, Silvana MD

Correspondence: Jamshid Ghajar, MD, PhD, Brain Trauma Foundation, 7 World Trade Center, 34th Floor, 250 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007. E-mail:

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

BACKGROUND: Currently, there is no evidence-based definition for concussion that is being uniformly applied in clinical and research settings.

OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic review of the highest-quality literature about concussion and to assemble evidence about the prevalence and associations of key indicators of concussion. The goal was to establish an evidence-based foundation from which to derive, in future work, a definition, diagnostic criteria, and prognostic indicators for concussion.

METHODS: Key questions were developed, and an electronic literature search from 1980 to 2012 was conducted to acquire evidence about the prevalence of and associations among signs, symptoms, and neurologic and cognitive deficits in samples of individuals exposed to potential concussive events. Included studies were assessed for potential for bias and confound and rated as high, medium, or low potential for bias and confound. Those rated as high were excluded from the analysis. Studies were further triaged on the basis of whether the definition of a case of concussion was exclusive or inclusive; only those with wide, inclusive case definitions were used in the analysis. Finally, only studies reporting data collected at fixed time points were used. For a study to be included in the conclusions, it was required that the presence of any particular sign, symptom, or deficit be reported in at least 2 independent samples.

RESULTS: From 5437 abstracts, 1362 full-text publications were reviewed, of which 231 studies were included in the final library. Twenty-six met all criteria required to be used in the analysis, and of those, 11 independent samples from 8 publications directly contributed data to conclusions. Prevalent and consistent indicators of concussion are (1) observed and documented disorientation or confusion immediately after the event, (2) impaired balance within 1 day after injury, (3) slower reaction time within 2 days after injury, and/or (4) impaired verbal learning and memory within 2 days after injury.

CONCLUSION: The results of this systematic review identify the consistent and prevalent indicators of concussion and their associations, derived from the strongest evidence in the published literature. The product is an evidence-based foundation from which to develop diagnostic criteria and prognostic indicators.

Prejudices about mechanism and the assumptions of reductive neuroscience.

Reductive theories of neuroscience generally rely on the assumption that the mechanisms accounted for at lower levels of description account for the phenomena seen at higher levels. Thus, biochemistry is explained as due to atomic and chemical mechanisms, cell biology explained via biochemical mechanisms, and brain neurophysiology explained as an outcome of cellular physiological mechanisms.

What is "mechanism" in these theories? Mechanism is an explanation of a thing in terms of "objective" properties instead of its "subjective" qualities. Such a distinction is one considered by many to be the properly "scientific" one since the physics of the time of Galileo. Says Wikipedia:

The primary/secondary quality distinction is a conceptual distinction in epistemology and metaphysics, concerning the nature of reality. It is most explicitly articulated by John Locke in his Essay concerning Human Understanding, but earlier thinkers such as Galileo and Descartes made similar distinctions.

Primary qualities are thought to be properties of objects that are independent of any observer, such as solidity, extension, motion, number and figure. These characteristics convey facts. They exist in the thing itself, can be determined with certainty, and do not rely on subjective judgments. For example, if a ball is round, no one can reasonably argue that it is a triangle.

Secondary qualities are thought to be properties that produce sensations in observers, such as color, taste, smell, and sound. They can be described as the effect things have on certain people. Knowledge that comes from secondary qualities does not provide objective facts about things.

Primary qualities are measurable aspects of physical reality. Secondary qualities are subjective.

"Extension, motion, number, and figure," along with emergent but related qualities such as temperature, are used to configure the lower level things to account for the properties of higher levels. For example, the configuration of the neuron in cell biology terms is used to account for the neural circuitry of the reflex response in neuroscience: the cells are extended (in the Lockean sense of filling a particular area or volume) and numbered so as to make up the reflex arc in their function. Thus, reduction: we have used basic, objective properties of the lower level objects to create new objects with new properties, but all is explainable by "basic" physics.

The problem then is that we have not truly used anything that current physics considers physically basic in our reduction!

Currently, particle physics considers a few properties such charge, spin, momentum, and mass to be fundamental, and suggests that all other physical properties are emergent from those base intrinsic properties. By those measures, the "primary" qualities are in reality secondary ones. Perhaps Galileo's secondary qualities are then tertiary ones?

What is clear is that the eliminativist or illusionist about aspects of human experience will always go for elimination of something such as the "illusion" of time or the self, and will neglect attempting the elimination of other human experiences, such as distance or location. Why? For those too are emergent, relative, non-basic properties, or so quantum mechanics tells us!

It is an outmoded, obsolete mechanistic view of the universe that directs the eliminativist to what he seeks to reduce and then call illusion. Garbage in, garbage out.

Time, Emergence, and Biological Reality

According to physics, space and time are represented via the mathematical model of an R4 4-dimensional smooth Riemannian space with distances measured with the metric

ds^2 = -(cdt)^2 + dl^2,

where dl is the proper distance between the event points and dt is the coordinate time difference between the event points. Note here that in 3-dimensional space, dl^2 is also represented, once we choose a coordinate frame, as dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2, where x, y, and z are 3-dimensional coordinates. Note that in such a metric, time (dt) is unique because its sign is negative in the equation. To deny time reality is equivalent to denying space any reality.

In neuroscience, time is also unique in its representation in the brain. Unlike visual-spatial information or body configuration, which have special spatial mappings in parts of the mammalian cortex, time is encoded in the extrapyramidal system in the deep areas of the cerebrum on special neurons, which are involved in the proper coordination of muscle movement during a complex, timing-relevant task. Catching a ball, we use those neurons, neurons which specially encode time. Time emerges as a feeling for us because our brains use genuine timing in representing our activities.

Some have argued that since time can be measured in amounts far finer than can be encoded in our neurons, and because the subjective flow of intervals of time, our sense of timing, is far too coarse grained to correspond to any such quanta of time in physics, that this makes our sense of time not real. Such a distinction is arbitrary and irrelevant to the reality of time, and corresponds to saying that a map of the world is less real than a map of a city because its scale is different, or that the planet does not exist because we use maps or photographs to see its shapes. Saying there is no now because our sense of time is an emergent phenomenon is like saying that there is no location because location is an artifact of mapping.

Thus, time is uniquely relevant in human reality, both in physics and in our brains. One can claim that all representation of reality is relative to ourselves, and we do not see anything as it is in itself, as Kant has said, but that claim does NOT relegate time to any second class status as a scientific reality. Time is as basic and as real as anything else we have to say about the universe or its representation in our brains.


ABSTRACT: doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909881106

Neural representation of time in cortico-basal ganglia circuits

Authors: Dezhe Z. Jina,1, Naotaka Fujiib,1 and Ann M. Graybielc,2

Encoding time is universally required for learning and structuring motor and cognitive actions, but how the brain keeps track of time is still not understood. We searched for time representations in cortico-basal ganglia circuits by recording from thousands of neurons in the prefrontal cortex and striatum of macaque monkeys performing a routine visuomotor task. We found that a subset of neurons exhibited time-stamp encoding strikingly similar to that required by models of reinforcement-based learning: They responded with spike activity peaks that were distributed at different time delays after single task events. Moreover, the temporal evolution of the population activity allowed robust decoding of task time by perceptron models. We suggest that time information can emerge as a byproduct of event coding in cortico-basal ganglia circuits and can serve as a critical infrastructure for behavioral learning and performance.

Running and brain plasticity: Another reason for ambulation's benefit in the elderly.

It's been shown that walking and other regular physical exercise seems to slow cognitive decline in elderly persons with possible early dementia, and that the protective effect of ambulation seems more robust than just daily practice of cognitive tasks alone. This seemed a bit surprising when first found: with most body functions, it is practicing the function we want to enhance that helps most. Not, perhaps, with cognition in the elderly.

Now, we have a study in mice that suggests that running in mice enhances recovery of cortical plasticity and thus brain function. Although the study was of visual function, it may apply to cognition as well. Perhaps exercise has an effect on brain plasticity that enhances neuronal regeneration?



Sensory experience during locomotion promotes recovery of function in adult visual cortex

Authors: Megumi Kaneko, Michael P Stryker


Published June 26, 2014

Cite as eLife 2014;3:e02798

Recovery from sensory deprivation is slow and incomplete in adult visual cortex. In this study, we show that visual stimulation during locomotion, which increases the gain of visual responses in primary visual cortex, dramatically enhances recovery in the mouse. Excitatory neurons regained normal levels of response, while narrow-spiking (inhibitory) neurons remained less active. Visual stimulation or locomotion alone did not enhance recovery. Responses to the particular visual stimuli viewed by the animal during locomotion recovered, while those to another normally effective stimulus did not, suggesting that locomotion promotes the recovery only of the neural circuits that are activated concurrent with the locomotion. These findings may provide an avenue for improving recovery from amblyopia in humans.

Aloha Fridays:Keala Beamer plays Pupu Hinuhino

The shiny shell lullaby. Written, I believe, by Keala Beamer's mother, Nona Beamer. Enjoy.

Pupu Hinuhinu
Words and Music by Nona Beamer

 F Bb F C7 F C7 F Bb F C7 F

1. Pupu hinuhinu, pupu hinuhinu e, o ke Kahakai Kahakai e, pupu hinuhinu e.

 My shell, shiny shell, my shell pretty little one. I found it by the
 ocean. My shell pretty little one.

2. Pupu hinuhinu, pupu hinuhinu e, e lohe kakou e, pupu hinuhinu e.

 My shell shiny shell, my shell pretty little one, I listen to the
 ocean, my shell pretty little one.

3. Pupu hinuhinu, pupu hinuhinu e, e moe, e moe, e moe, pupu hinuhinu e.

My shell shiny shell, my shell pretty little one, to sleep to sleep to
sleep, my shell pretty little one.

Claws across the wolf's blood moon! My spotting telescope, Maryruth's iPhone 6+, and the neighbor's palm tree shadow, as seen ...