In Healthy Eating Less is More: The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting

Mix a love of eating with a desire to live a long, healthy life what do you get? Probably the average 21st century person looking for a way to continue enjoying food despite insufficient exercise and/or an age-related decline in caloric needs.

Enter intermittent fasting, a topic that has found it’s way into most news sources, from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publications to WebMD and even the popular press. For instance, National Public Radio’s “The Salt” writers have tried and written about their experiences with dietary restriction.

While fasting has enjoyed fad-like popularity the past several years, it is not new. Fasting, whether purposely not eating or eating a restricted diet, has been practiced for 1,000s of years. What is new is research studies from which we are learning the physiologic effects of fasting and other forms of decreased nutrient intake.

You may have heard the claims that fasting makes people smarter, more focused and thinner? Researchers today are using cell and animal models, and even human subjects, to measure biochemical responses at the cellular level to restricted nutrient intake and meal timing, in part to prove/disprove such claims (1,2). Continue reading

Explore the World through All of Your Senses at the 2017 Forum on Consciousness

2017 forumThe 16th International Forum on Consciousness, Conscious Evolution: Awakening Through the Senses, in Madison, WI, May 18-19, will bring together a diverse group of presenters including Diane Ackerman (Best-selling Author, The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses),  Rebecca Alban Hoffberger (Founder and Director, American Visionary Art Museum), Louie Schwartzberg (Cinematographer, Director and Producer) and Andrea Stevenson Won (Director of the Virtual Embodiment Lab and Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Cornell University), among others.

This year’s forum focuses on the senses, and explores how altering awareness of sensory inputs might change perceptions of reality and expand consciousness in positive directions for self and others.  In addition to presentations, attendees will have opportunities to engage in direct sensory experience through virtual reality, movement, sound and visuals, as well as tastes and aromas. Find more information at www.btci.org/consciousness.

The forum is open to the general public, but participation is limited to 300 people, and advanced registration is required. The registration fee is $250.00 (US), and scholarship opportunities are available. Registrants will have the opportunity to join a presenter for a small-group discussion over dinner on Thursday, evening, May 18, for an additional $85.00 (US).

About BTC Institute

The BTC Institute is a not-for-profit organization operated exclusively for educational, scientific and cultural purposes. Learn more about its K–12 programs, scientific course offerings, and annual educational forums and symposia at www.btci.org/.

Restoring Memory in Alzheimer’s Mice with Microbubbles and Ultrasound

Neurons with amyloid plaques.

Neurons with amyloid plaques.

Imagine driving in your car and suddenly not recognizing where you, you don’t remember where you were going and have no idea how to find your way home. What if you looked across the breakfast table at your spouse and no longer recognizing them?  Or maybe you have to brace yourself every time you visit your parent, waiting for the day when they won’t know who you are. This is reality for the estimated 50 million (worldwide) Alzheimer’s suffers and their families.

For a world with an aging population, Alzheimer’s is a growing problem. Recent estimates suggest that 11% of people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. For people 85 and older, that number increases to 32% (1).

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating degenerative brain disease. It is the most common cause of dementia, and is characterized by a decline in cognitive skills such as memory, language skills, communication and problem solving abilities. These symptoms make it difficult for people with Alzheimer’s to perform everyday activities. It also is difficult to diagnose, even more difficult to treat, and, as of now, impossible to cure. Continue reading

Announcing: Stem Cells in the 4th Dimension—Mechanisms of Stem Cell Aging and Maturation

Image courtesy of Carlos Marti-Figueroa, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Image courtesy of Carlos Marti-Figueroa, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, University of Wisconsin, Madison

On April 13th, the BTC Institute and Promega Corporation will host the 11th Annual Wisconsin Stem Cell Symposium — Stem Cells in the 4th Dimension: Mechanisms of Stem Cell Aging and Maturation.

Our co-coordinators at the UW-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center have put together an outstanding list of presenters, including leading researchers who are investigating the effects of aging on stem cell populations and their progeny and recapitulating aging mechanisms in vitro to mature human stem cell derivatives and transplants.

The morning session will review systemic and cell autonomous factors known to impact stem cell maturation, aging and senescence. The afternoon session will focus on using these approaches and understanding to develop in vitro models of matured, stem cell-derived neural, cardiac, and pancreatic cells and tissues for regenerative medicine applications.

HIGHLIGHTED ISSUES:

  • Endocrine, micro-RNA, epigenetic, and metabolic regulators of aging
  • Systemic regulators elucidated by parabiosis
  • Treatment of age-related stem cell dysfunction
  • In vivo and in vitro models of neural, musculoskeletal, cardiac, and pancreatic tissue maturation

Continue reading

How Fruit Flies (and maybe Pigeons?) Navigate; A New Report

A rock dove, similar in plumage to a pigeon.

A rock dove, similar in plumage to a pigeon.

Several years ago an intriguing story of successful navigation in complex situation, by pigeons, the birds most often compared to rats, caught my eye.

Our backyard once had a coop full of pigeons, so I’m not a total stranger to their navigation abilities (nor am I a pigeon expert). My favorites were the tumbling pigeons.

But it didn’t take much time researching that article from 2012, to learn that one of the more hotly debated how-do-they-do-it topics is animal navigation, in particular, the ability of pigeons to navigate back to home/point A when released at point B.

So when it appeared online today, in Nature Materials, the story “A Magnetic Protein Biocompass” caught my eye. Continue reading

Explorations into the Body of Consciousness: Highlights from Dr. Charles Raison’s talk from the International Forum on Consciousness

Forum attendees have dinner with speakers.

Forum attendees have dinner with speakers.

The following blog highlights the presentation from Dr. Charles Raison at the International Forum on Consciousness, Conscious Evolution: The Awakening, co-hosted by the BTC Institute and Promega Corporation, May 7–8, 2015.

The Forum is designed to bring together people from diverse perspectives and professions to facilitate public dialogue regarding complex and challenging issues.  This year, our intent was to respond to voices of wisdom and action that call for us to shift our consciousness up a notch.

Our goals included building on the lessons of past and present in order to grow further into new systems, new ways of being that may better allow us to foster a long-term, sustainable relationship with the biosphere and the ever-evolving cosmos.

A full house of 325+ attendees, we were guided by eight outstanding presenters, all of whose talks and panel discussions may be viewed via links from our website (http://www.btci.org/consciousness/).   Our first speaker, Dr. Charles Raison, who recently joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin , effectively set the stage for the Forum, piquing interest for the talks and discussions that followed, as well as the many related conversations that continue to flow.

A few highlights from his talk:

  • Science strives for objectivity but every scientist has a personal motivation regarding the work they’ve come to do.
  • Quoting John Muir, “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Looking at consciousness this way is interesting – not mystical, but actually scientific.

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Neuroscience Explains Harry Potter’s Appeal

BookWithGlassesCurling up with a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures, whether you’re reading on a tropical beach while on vacation or nestled into your favorite chair at home. As your eyes skim over the words, your mind conjures up images of the events unfolding on the page. Books can take us to fantastic places, real and imaginary, that we will never visit in our lifetime. And while there is some pleasure to be gained from nonfictional books, my favorite books all seem to fall in the realm of fiction. I am not alone. The science fiction and fantasy genre of literature continues to be one of the most popular. Why do so many readers find these types of books so enticing and engaging?

It all comes down to science, specifically neuroscience.

Continue reading

Daydreaming: The Benefits of a Little Mental Break

Not staring off into space, rather crafting future plans.

Not staring off into space, rather crafting future plans.

Scott Barry Kaufman earned a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University in 2009, preceeded by a masters degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University in 2005.  This after he spent grades 1-8 in special education. Multiple early childhood ear infections caused him setbacks both education-wise  and socially. Continual bullying by a special education classmate may have further contributed to a lack of progress in early schooling.

Kaufman tells of how he, as a child, retreated to an inner world where he wrote stories, created soap opera plotlines and imagined a future as a successful psychologist.

He also tells how these mental retreats earned him no love from teachers. As you might guess, this inward-turning nature was used as further evidence of his learning disability.

But Kaufman was learning the power of daydreaming. While he was not convincing his teachers and classmates of any particularly strong cognitive abilities, he was basically planning a future that he ultimately achieved, despite somewhat incredible odds. In addition, he was, through daydreaming, reinforcing his dreams.

Today Kaufman is one of a number of psychology experts that are doing research, writing and speaking on the power and benefits of daydreams. Continue reading

Insights into the Function of P7C3 Compounds in Neuroprotection

The multiple Lombardi trophies won by Pittsburgh Steelers.  Image used under Wikimedia Creative Commons, and attributed to daveynin.

The multiple Lombardi trophies won by Pittsburgh Steelers. Image used under Wikimedia Creative Commons, and attributed to daveynin.

It is fall and the season for American football. For this football fan, watching the game is a bit less enjoyable than it used to be, as more and more information is available about the serious and permanent brain injuries suffered by football players.

In the introduction to a recent paper in the journal Cell, “P7C3 Neuroprotective Chemicals Function by Activating the Rate-Limiting Enzyme in NAD Salvage”, not a word about American football is mentioned.

However, the paper begins, “No substantive therapeutics are available for the treatment of almost any form of disease entailing nerve death” (1). The authors list a range of neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as ALS  or Lou Gherig’s disease. They also note that there are currently no effective treatments for trauma to the brain or peripheral nervous system.

The authors note that a chemical treatment that could interfere with nerve cell death would have a “transformative impact in modern medicine”. Continue reading

The Road Not Taken: Rodents Rue Bad Decisions

Two rats eatingThe past weekend I switched lines in the grocery store only to regret it a few seconds later when another shopper with an enormous cart got there before me and I had to wait an additional 20 minutes for the cashier to fix a problem with the register. Sound familiar? As far as I know rodents do not shop in the stores that I do but it seems that a rat might have felt the same in my place. Or so say a team of scientists from the University of Minnesota out to study decision-making abilities in rats. 1
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