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There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.


Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.


I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is two weeks.

brain-cells

Ever since I had my first biology class, back in 3rd grade, I’ve been thaught that brain cells do not regenerate. I’ve always thought that we are all born with certain number of neurons, and you gradually lose them as you grow old, but that no new cells are born after we are. They said we could accelerate the rate at which they die, depending on our lifestyle, but there was no way to get the number back up to the original.

Well, apparently they were wrong. Sandrine Thuret presents some findings that suggest the hippocampus, a brain structure that controls memory and emotions, can generate 700 new neurons per day.  According to her, learning new things, exercise and sex (yes!) can increase the formation of new brain cells. On the contrary, sleep depravation and stress can decrease the creation of new brain cells. Alcohol consumption also decreases the production of new cells, but there is hope in red wine, as resveratrol, found in red wine, can promote the survival of the new cells. Food and nutrition also play a big role  in this process.

So if you think, like I do, that you haven’t been good to your tenants from upstairs, pay attention to Sandrine. Here I leave you with the transcriptioin of Sandrine’s presentation at TED. To watch her presentation click on the image of Sandrine just below.

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(click here to watch Sandrine Thuret on TED)

Can we, as adults, grow new nerve cells? There’s still some confusion about that question, as this is a fairly new field of research. For example, I was talking to one of my colleagues, Robert, who is an oncologist, and he was telling me, “Sandrine, this is puzzling. Some of my patients that have been told they are cured of their cancer still develop symptoms of depression.” And I responded to him, “Well, from my point of view that makes sense. The drug you give to your patients that stops the cancer cells multiplying also stops the newborn neurons being generated in their brain.” And then Robert looked at me like I was crazy and said, “But Sandrine, these are adult patients — adults do not grow new nerve cells.” And much to his surprise, I said, “Well actually, we do.” And this is a phenomenon that we call neurogenesis.

Now Robert is not a neuroscientist, and when he went to medical school he was not taught what we know now — that the adult brain can generate new nerve cells. So Robert, you know, being the good doctor that he is, wanted to come to my lab to understand the topic a little bit better. And I took him for a tour of one of the most exciting parts of the brain when it comes to neurogenesis — and this is the hippocampus. So this is this gray structure in the center of the brain. And what we’ve known already for very long, is that this is important for learning, memory, mood and emotion. However, what we have learned more recently is that this is one of the unique structures of the adult brain where new neurons can be generated. And if we slice through the hippocampus and zoom in, what you actually see here in blue is a newborn neuron in an adult mouse brain. So when it comes to the human brain — my colleague Jonas Frisén from the Karolinska Institutet, has estimated that we produce 700 new neurons per day in the hippocampus. You might think this is not much, compared to the billions of neurons we have. But by the time we turn 50, we will have all exchanged the neurons we were born with in that structure with adult-born neurons.

So why are these new neurons important and what are their functions? First, we know that they’re important for learning and memory. And in the lab we have shown that if we block the ability of the adult brain to produce new neurons in the hippocampus, then we block certain memory abilities. And this is especially new and true for spatial recognition — so like, how you navigate your way in the city.

We are still learning a lot, and neurons are not only important for memory capacity, but also for the quality of the memory. And they will have been helpful to add time to our memory and they will help differentiate very similar memories, like: how do you find your bike that you park at the station every day in the same area, but in a slightly different position?

And more interesting to my colleague Robert is the research we have been doing on neurogenesis and depression. So in an animal model of depression, we have seen that we have a lower level of neurogenesis. And if we give antidepressants, then we increase the production of these newborn neurons, and we decrease the symptoms of depression, establishing a clear link between neurogenesis and depression. But moreover, if you just block neurogenesis, then you block the efficacy of the antidepressant. So by then, Robert had understood that very likely his patients were suffering from depression even after being cured of their cancer, because the cancer drug had stopped newborn neurons from being generated. And it will take time to generate new neurons that reach normal functions.

So, collectively, now we think we have enough evidence to say that neurogenesis is a target of choice if we want to improve memory formation or mood, or even prevent the decline associated with aging, or associated with stress.

So the next question is: can we control neurogenesis? The answer is yes. And we are now going to do a little quiz. I’m going to give you a set of behaviors and activities, and you tell me if you think they will increase neurogenesis or if they will decrease neurogenesis. Are we ready? OK, let’s go.

So what about learning? Increasing? Yes. Learning will increase the production of these new neurons.

How about stress? Yes, stress will decrease the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.

How about sleep deprivation? Indeed, it will decrease neurogenesis.

How about sex? Oh, wow!

(Laughter)

Yes, you are right, it will increase the production of new neurons. However, it’s all about balance here. We don’t want to fall in a situation —

(Laughter)

about too much sex leading to sleep deprivation.

(Laughter)

How about getting older? So the neurogenesis rate will decrease as we get older, but it is still occurring.

And then finally, how about running? I will let you judge that one by yourself.

So this is one of the first studies that was carried out by one of my mentors, Rusty Gage from the Salk Institute, showing that the environment can have an impact on the production of new neurons. And here you see a section of the hippocampus of a mouse that had no running wheel in its cage. And the little black dots you see are actually newborn neurons-to-be. And now, you see a section of the hippocampus of a mouse that had a running wheel in its cage. So you see the massive increase of the black dots representing the new neurons-to-be.

So activity impacts neurogenesis, but that’s not all. What you eat will have an effect on the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. So here we have a sample of diet — of nutrients that have been shown to have efficacy. And I’m just going to point a few out to you: Calorie restriction of 20 to 30 percent will increase neurogenesis. Intermittent fasting — spacing the time between your meals — will increase neurogenesis. Intake of flavonoids, which are contained in dark chocolate or blueberries, will increase neurogenesis. Omega-3 fatty acids, present in fatty fish, like salmon, will increase the production of these new neurons. Conversely, a diet rich in high saturated fat will have a negative impact on neurogenesis. Ethanol — intake of alcohol — will decrease neurogenesis. However, not everything is lost; resveratrol, which is contained in red wine, has been shown to promote the survival of these new neurons. So next time you are at a dinner party, you might want to reach for this possibly “neurogenesis-neutral” drink.

(Laughter)

And then finally, let me point out the last one — a quirky one. So Japanese groups are fascinated with food textures, and they have shown that actually soft diet impairs neurogenesis, as opposed to food that requires mastication — chewing — or crunchy food.

So all of this data, where we need to look at the cellular level, has been generated using animal models. But this diet has also been given to human participants, and what we could see is that the diet modulates memory and mood in the same direction as it modulates neurogenesis, such as: calorie restriction will improve memory capacity, whereas a high-fat diet will exacerbate symptoms of depression — as opposed to omega-3 fatty acids, which increase neurogenesis, and also help to decrease the symptoms of depression. So we think that the effect of diet on mental health, on memory and mood, is actually mediated by the production of the new neurons in the hippocampus. And it’s not only what you eat, but it’s also the texture of the food, when you eat it and how much of it you eat.

On our side — neuroscientists interested in neurogenesis — we need to understand better the function of these new neurons, and how we can control their survival and their production. We also need to find a way to protect the neurogenesis of Robert’s patients. And on your side — I leave you in charge of your neurogenesis.

Thank you.

(Applause)

Margaret Heffernan: Fantastic research, Sandrine. Now, I told you you changed my life — I now eat a lot of blueberries.

Sandrine Thuret: Very good.

MH: I’m really interested in the running thing. Do I have to run? Or is it really just about aerobic exercise, getting oxygen to the brain? Could it be any kind of vigorous exercise?

ST: So for the moment, we can’t really say if it’s just the running itself, but we think that anything that indeed will increase the production — or moving the blood flow to the brain, should be beneficial.

MH: So I don’t have to get a running wheel in my office?

ST: No, you don’t!

MH: Oh, what a relief! That’s wonderful. Sandrine Thuret, thank you so much.

ST: Thank you, Margaret.

(Applause)

Sometimes envisioning a life without cars is just as simple as doing it.

The narrow street in front of Steven Clays’s house in Ghent, Belgium, is usually lined with parked cars and full of traffic. But for most of this summer, it turned into a makeshift park.

In the middle of the former traffic lane—now covered with astroturf and potted plants—neighbors sat at picnic tables and drank beer while kids played nearby. Parking spaces were covered with slides and pop-up bars.

The street was one of 22 in Ghent to become a “Living Street” for 10 weeks, beginning in late May. The project began three years ago, when the city of Ghent asked a group of citizens to imagine a sustainable future for the city. Their vision: A network of car-free zones built around central squares, with rapid transit bike lanes, public transit, and neighbors talking in the street.

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“We realized that only a vision by itself would not change the world,” say Dries Gysels and Pieter Deschamps from Lab of Troy, a “creative lab” for urban solutions. “To make it really happen, we launched concrete experiments, such as ‘Leefstraten,’ the living street, and tried to make our dreams of the city of tomorrow visible today.”

The Living Streets experiment began in 2013, driven by Lab of Troy, and gets larger each summer, as neighbors like Clays volunteer to plan and run the temporary parks in front of their homes.

“The main reason why we wanted to it was the traffic situation on our street,” says Clays. “It’s a residential neighborhood, but there are a lot of cars driving fast. We asked already the city council to do something about it, to no avail.”

It also solved the need for more public space in the area. “The road connects to a small park, so the street became like a very big park,” he says. “Neighbors saw each other more. More chances for interaction, for having a chat, for eating together outside, that kind of stuff.”

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It was a little like a never-ending block party, which did cause a few neighbors to complain about late-night noise. But Clays says that the group quickly adapted to solve any problems, and the process ended up making the block much closer than before.

“Creating a living street … is a huge opportunity to strengthen the social cohesion,” say Gysels and Deschamps. “The fact that they can use their streets as parks leads to much more intense contacts and often becomes the start of beautiful and interesting stories. Once the two month test period is over, these contacts stay.”

The experiment gave neighbors the opportunity to see what life would be like without cars. While some people found parking nearby, others deliberately parked their cars out of easy reach, on the other side of the major roads that circle the central part of Ghent.

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“They engaged themselves not to use their car for two months—a small experiment in mobility,” says Clays, who doesn’t own a car. “Pretty interesting. We don’t know yet the effects of the experiment. But I think it might be a wakeup call that they don’t need that car as much as they think.”

“One of the main strategic questions of this experiment is how we can organize our daily lives without using our cars as much as we do today,” say Gysels and Deschamps. “If we can, fewer cars will be needed and we can put them at distance. In order to regain public parking space and turn these into more livable places—with slides, petanque courts, pop-up bars, and picnic benches—the inhabitants search for suitable alternatives to put their cars.”

Ultimately, the experiment is designed to lead to support for more permanent car-free streets. But it’s a slow process. “This was just a test, and basically we’ve seen that it can work very well,” says Clays.

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On Clays’s street, it also led to a few immediate changes in public space. “The artificial grass on our street attracted little soccer players from every neighborhood,” he says. “First 10 people, then 20, then it was like a street soccer field for Ghent.” After neighbors started to complain, they realized they could put artificial turf on a concrete playing field around the corner—and even though the rest of the project has been taken down, the new field remains.

“When you do something like this, you can’t predict all of the effects,” he says. “What’s interesting about the experiment, if you just react to the effect, you can actually do something that really matters. Almost no parks around here are designed for playing soccer. That was one thing that improved through this.”

It’s the type of experiment that is becoming more common. In South Korea, the “Ecomobility Festival” went even farther, removing cars from an entire neighborhood. The same thing will happen in Johannesburg, South Africa, this fall.

“Cities are the laboratories of the future,” say Deschamps and Gysels. “We advise cities to get together temporary networks of engaged people—frontrunners from society—who can challenge and inspire everyone in the city.”

Here are some more pictures

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Click here to read the original article from Fast Company Magazine

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Co.Exist who focuses on sustainable design. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley. You can reach her at apeters at fastcompany dot com.

Practicing Non-Judgment

By Leo Babauta

We go through our day judging our experiences, other people, ourselves: this is good, this is bad. If all goes well, most of it will be good, but more than we realize, we dislike certain experiences, things about people, about ourselves.

We “like” online comments by others, or pages on the Internet. We give a thumbs up or thumbs down to movies, to restaurant experiences, songs. It’s ingrained in our thinking processes.

What would it be like to drop all of that judging as good and bad?

What would it be like to simply experience something, without judgment?

Try it now: sit here in this moment, and don’t think about whether it is good or bad … just observe the sensations of the moment. Don’t think about those sensations, just experience them.

These sensations are just phenomena in the world, happening without any good or bad intention, just happening. They aren’t happening “to” us, nor are they there “for” us. They just happen, without thinking about us as the center of the universe.

What I’ve noticed, when I experience anger, frustration, disappointment … is that I am judging my experiences (and others, and myself) based on whether they are what I want, whether they are good for me or not. But why am I at the center of the universe? What about the other person? What about the rest of the universe? If I drop away my self-centeredness, I no longer have reason for frustration. The experiences are just happening, and have nothing to do with me. They are neither good nor bad, they’re just happening.

Now, I realize we can’t do this all the time — as humans, it’s part of our experience to judge. And that’s OK. I’m simply suggesting that, some of the time, we drop the judgment and just experience. Just see what that’s like. And be OK with that too.

Click here to read the original article from Zen Habits.

tell me what you eat

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Is there such a thing as TV addiction? According to this article from the Huffington Post there is. And if you are binge watching TV, you could be an addict without even knowing it.

Maybe watching less TV and reading more books could be a good New Year Resolution to jot down your list for 2015, just like the rich and successful do, according to Tom Corley, author of the book Rich Habits, The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. Or you could use the time to go out and walk, and get some exercise. Even sleeping is better.

Read the article, make some decisions, change some habits, make your life better.

Half Of All Adult Americans Now Admit To Binge-Watching TV

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Mobile TV Watching

We are becoming a nation of blue-faced zombies, hunkered down in front of our screens and watching our stories.

Fifty-percent of adults now identify as binge-viewers, meaning they’re watching multiple episodes of a TV show back-to-back, according to a new study of 1,000 adults with pay TV subscriptions released by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The percentage was even higher for those under 35.

More than half of survey respondents admitted they binged more frequently in 2014 than they did last year, and 60 percent said they string three or more episodes together at least once a month. More than half of millennials say they do so daily or weekly.

Netflix popularized binge watching, a fact the company is proud of, but it’s not just Netflix fueling this trend. The survey notes that an explosion of quality drama on cable, Netflix and other streaming sites is driving more viewership.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement, “there are too many shows to watch, and not enough time to watch them.”

“They are binge-viewing just to keep up,” Matt Lieberman, director of PwC’s entertainment, media and communications practice, told The Huffington Post in an emailed statement.

Binge watchers are also big proponents of the second-screen: Sixty-two percent of the people surveyed use their mobile phones while they’re watching TV.

Viewers are also turning to multiple outlets just to access the shows they want, according to Lieberman. If you want to power through “The Good Wife,” for instance, you might need a Hulu Plus subscription because it’s not available on Netflix. If you’re looking for “Orange is the New Black,” on the other hand, you need Netflix. In other words, people are willing to pay extra to access as many shows as possible, even if they’re overwhelmed by the choices.

“We heard stories of consumers filling up their DVRs with their favorite series and also starting/stopping online subscription services just to get to their favorite content,” Lieberman said.

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Responses to PwC’s recent survey indicate that more and more cable subscribers are also signing up for Netflix subscriptions.

As Netflix subscriptions rise — the service saw a 20 percent increase in paid U.S. subscriptions this year — pay TV’s subscriptions are falling. PwC notes that there was a 6 percent drop in cable subscriptions in 2014 for those under the age of 35. Middle-aged folks, 35-49 years-old, didn’t cut the cord, though. And there was about a 1 percent uptick in subscriptions for those between 50 and 59 years old.

Though they’re not rapidly cutting the cord now, respondents to the PwC survey indicated they’re interested in jumping ship down the line: Only 42 percent expect that they’ll have cable TV service in 10 years.

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The future of cable according to the PwC survey.