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Information flows through only 20 percent of brain region

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New Delhi: Indian-origin researcher and his team from Indiana University discovered that just like most of the world’s air travel passes a few major hubs, the majority of information in the brain flows through well-traveled routes.

According to the team, 70 percent of all information within cortical regions in the brain passes through only 20 percent of these regions’ neurons.

“The discovery of this small but information-rich subset of neurons within cortical regions suggests this sub-network might play a vital role in communication, learning and memory,” said Sunny Nigam, Ph D candidate in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and lead author on the study.

These high-traffic “hub neurons” could play a vital role in understanding brain health since this sort of highly efficient network is also more vulnerable to disruption.

“The brain seems to favor efficiency over vulnerability,” said John M Beggs, associate professor of biophysics in a paper appeared the journal Neuroscience.

To conduct the study, scientists recorded small electrical impulses from up to 500 neurons from a part of the brain responsible for the sense of touch.

“This is the first study to combine such a large number of neurons with such high temporal resolution,” Nigam added.

The experiments, conducted in live and tissue samples, were based in rodents.

Similar high-traffic zones in the cortex have been shown to exist in more advanced mammals, including primates and adult humans.

Understanding how the brain maintains good “air traffic control” between information-rich and information-poor neurons will be the next step in unraveling the mystery of hub neurons.

“If we ever want to understand how these types of neurons keep information in our heads flowing smoothly, we really need to learn a lot more about how they work together,” Nigam noted.(IANS)

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New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.