Egypt Independent: Living-Main news en Physical exercise alone is really not enough to boost brain health <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>The beneficial effects of physical and mental exercise on brain health are already well established. A new American study has helped further pinpoint the impact of these two forms of exercise on the brains of ageing adults. Aerobic exercise was found to improve memory, in particular, while cognitive brain training improved executive function.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Previous studies have established that aerobic exercise &ndash; such as walking, swimming or jogging &ndash; helps protect the brain against the effects of ageing. This new study, from researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas, US, has found that physical activity alone is not enough to take care of the brain, as aerobic training principally benefits the memory.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to the research, physical exercise should be paired with regular mental exercise to stimulate cognitive functions such as decision-making, synthesising information and perspective-taking.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The scientists studied a group of 36 adults aged between 56 and 65 years old. Participants were split into two groups. The first group took part in a physical training program of activities such as brisk walking and cycling with five-minute warm-up and cool-down sessions. They exercised for three hours a week for three months.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The second group followed a mental training programme, again for three hours a week for three months, with exercises working their attention and prioritisation skills, their abilities to synthesise information, as well as perspective-taking and problem-solving skills.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The scientists used MRI scans to evaluate brain blood flow in the participants at the beginning and at the end of the study.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They found that brain blood flow was notably higher in participants in the mental training group, with an increase in global brain blood flow of up to 8 percent compared with participants in the physical training group. &ldquo;We can lose one to two per cent in global brain blood flow every decade, starting in our 20s,&rdquo; said Dr Sandra Bond Chapman, the study&rsquo;s lead author. &ldquo;To see almost an 8 percent increase in brain blood flow in the cognitive training group may be seen as regaining decades of brain health since blood flow is linked to neural health.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The researchers suggest that staying focused on a goal during reasoning-training exercises triggered neural plasticity, unlike physical training.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The physical training group did, however, show increased blood flow in the bilateral hippocampi, a part of the brain key to memory function that&rsquo;s particularly vulnerable to ageing and dementia.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In conclusion, the scientists recommend both mental and physical training to boost brain health and protect the brain from the effects of aging.</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Sat, 23 Jul 2016 13:11:00 +0000 AFP 2471309 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/03/12/501184/elderly_couple_alzheimer_exercise_cycling_.jpg Can reading encourage empathy? <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Although it has long been assumed that reading is good for your mental health, there has been little evidence so far to prove it. However in a new review published this week a professor from the University of Toronto, Canada, argues that reading fictional stories could encourage individuals to show more empathy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Keith Oatley, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, looked at a variety of studies to establish a link between literature and psychology, and believes that by exploring the lives of characters in a book, or even in a TV show, readers can better form ideas about others&#39; emotions, motives, and ideas in real life.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The review follows the recent trend of looking at the link between reading and mental health, in part spurred on by the increasing use of brain scans to gather evidence.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>One of the studies included in Oatley&#39;s review asked people to imagine phrases, for example, &quot;a dark blue carpet,&quot; or &quot;an orange striped pencil,&quot; while in an fMRI machine.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The scans showed that &quot;Just three such phrases were enough to produce the most activation of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with learning and memory. This points to the power of the reader&#39;s own mind,&quot; said Oatley.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Writers don&#39;t need to describe scenarios exhaustively to draw out the reader&#39;s imagination &mdash;&nbsp;they only need to suggest a scene.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Oatley also believes that fictional stories promote empathy and understanding in the reader as these stories create a social world and encourage us to engage with the characters, with the effects also seen not only in readers but also viewers of fictional TV shows and players of video games with a narrative story.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a study led by Oatley himself the team used the &quot;Mind of the Eyes Test&quot; to look at the effect of fiction on levels of empathy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Participants were asked to view 36 photographs of people&#39;s eyes, and for each set of eyes to choose from four terms to indicate what the person is thinking or feeling.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The results showed that even after taking into account a participant&#39;s personality and individual differences those who read fictional books had significantly higher scores than those who read nonfictional books.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Further studies have also shown that fictional narratives can generate empathy for a race or culture different to one&#39;s own, with one study showing that those who read a fictional story about the experiences of a Muslim woman in New York were less biased towards Arab and Caucasian faces when compared to a control group that read a non-narrative story.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Although Oatley acknowledged that more research needs to be done, he also pointed at the power of narrative: &quot;What&#39;s a piece of fiction, what&#39;s a novel, what&#39;s short story, what&#39;s a play or movie or television series? It&#39;s a piece of consciousness being passed from mind to mind. When you&#39;re reading or watching a drama, you&#39;re taking in a piece of consciousness that you make your own. That seems an exciting idea.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Sat, 23 Jul 2016 12:41:00 +0000 AFP 2471305 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/02/05/43/screen_shot_2016-02-05_at_12.05.48_pm.png Relax on World Hammock Day with this season’s best light fiction <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Whether you&rsquo;re on vacation or just relaxing in the garden at home, these five new light fiction novels will provide the perfect escape, hammock or no hammock.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>The Nest by Cynthia D&rsquo;Aprix Sweeney</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A New York Times bestseller about family politics, power dynamics and what money can make people do, this novel manages to remain warm and funny. Sweeney&rsquo;s protagonists, the Plumb family, are entertaining and relatable. A great debut for Sweeney.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A collection of imaginative short stories, ideal for picking up for a quick read, because there is a deliberate refusal to remain coherent or conventional on the part of Oyeyemi. Time, geography and characters are all fluid, but this does not make the collection difficult to enjoy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Pulitzer prizewinner takes on Shakespeare with this witty contemporary take on The Taming of the Shrew, published during the Bard&rsquo;s 400th anniversary year as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, where writers reinterpret Shakespeare&rsquo;s classics.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Donovan&rsquo;s debut novel is a comedy, mystery and drama in one. Two polar opposite characters are thrust together in very unusual circumstances. While the overall tone is light, the narrative isn&rsquo;t fluffy &mdash; questions about love, loneliness and family run throughout the novel.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>You don&rsquo;t have to be a dog lover to enjoy Rosoff&rsquo;s first foray into adult fiction, but it does help. Anyone feeling a little lost and powerless in life will connect with the protagonist. Globally light-hearted and funny, Jonathan Unleashed is the perfect entertaining read for the summer.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Sat, 23 Jul 2016 11:00:00 +0000 AFP 2471300 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/12/18/43/shutterstock_98.f537d152933.w640.jpg Newly developed wheel converts any bike into electric vehicle <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Right off the bat, Michael Burtov said he and his team at technology startup GeoOrbital did not re-invent the wheel.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But, in a sense, they did.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>After two years and five prototypes, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup has developed a new type of electric bicycle wheel that steered the company into crowdfunding stardom raising more than US$1.2mil at a record-setting pace on Kickstarter.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The newly developed bicycle wheel has the major components of an electric vehicle &mdash;&nbsp;a 500 watt motor, a lithium battery and a suit of electronics &mdash;&nbsp;all arranged to fit perfectly into the radial of a wheel made out of high density foam to avoid a flat.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The unique thing about this wheel is that we rearranged it,&quot; Michael Burtov, the CEO &amp; Founder of GeoOrbital said. &quot;We kind of re-imagined how we put these things together.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That wheel, which costs roughly $800, transforms any bicycle into an electric bike that can accelerate to 32.19 km/h in six seconds.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a more efficient system, it&rsquo;s just a more practical and applicable system,&rdquo; said Burtov, adding that his wheel has a USB port, enabling riders to charge their smartphones on the go.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The first wheel orders are scheduled for delivery in February 2017.</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Sat, 23 Jul 2016 10:33:00 +0000 Reuters 2471298 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/07/23/501184/newly_developed_wheel_converts_any_bicycle_into_an_electric_vehicle.jpg