Category Archives: Inspiring

This is your brain on Disney

If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then your brain must be doing something right.

Recent research published in the International Journal of Tourism Anthropology examines the effect that Disney has on neurological development.  The paper, written by University of Missouri professor Craig T. Palmer, refutes a previous hypothesis of the neurological development of creativity, storytelling, humor, and fantasy within the human brain.  Deemed the mating mind hypothesis, it suggested that our minds developed these artistic centers as a way to attract and court the opposite sex. (Sounds pretty reasonable to me.)  Courting leads to reproduction, which then leads to stabilizing evolution providing for larger centers in the brain relating to those traits.

To refute this statement, Palmer used the concrete example of Disneyland to compare it to.   Now I don’t know if Palmer actually wanted to refute the hypothesis or just find some sort of research that would allow him to spend an ample amount of his time in the park, but this guy knows how to pick a thesis. Palmer said that the development of these sections in the brain were actually more related to the parenting strategies used to tweak the behavior of their children.  The characteristics are seen as more of a transmission of culture rather than as a means for natural selection.  It would just so happen to be that those that were wittier and had a love for all things Disney would reproduce (giving hope to Disney fanatics everywhere).

So what does this mean in the long run?  It means that if you want your kids to listen to you and grow up to be respectable adults, looks like you’re heading to Disneyland.  So when you’re trying to find that new parenting technique to discipline an unruly child, just listen to Pinocchio and, “always let your conscience be your guide.”

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L is for the way you look at me, O is for oxytocin…wait, what?

Thanks to my friends over at Scientific American for this excellent display of your “brain on love.”

It’s  comforting to know that our obsessive behaviors while dating can be traced back to the neurochemical balances in our brains.

Now I just wonder if this would be the same image for “This is your brain on a sandwich.”

Momma always told me…

You can be whatever you want to be.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a hopeless optimist just like the next guy, but neuroscience has taught me to approach that statement with a skeptical V1 (the area where your eye projects in the brain).  Sometimes you just have to accept what you’re given.

Have you ever noticed professional athletic scouts filming possible recruits while they’re training?  What do you think they’re looking for?  Speed?  Vertical jump?  Which players eyes will match the color of their future uniforms?  They’re actually doing the next best thing to biopsying a chunk of the muscle to examine the size of the athlete’s axons.

There are two types of axons, fast and slow.  Fast fibers will allow an athlete to jump higher and sprint faster.  Likewise, slow fibers are better equipped for long distances.  So what would happen if a high jumper started adding long distance running into their exercise routine?  Sound like a good idea, right?  I mean, no one everyone loves running, right?  This would actually decrease the jumper’s vertical height.   Endurance training leads to an increase of the slower fibers synapsing onto the muscles.  That’s why you would want to make sure to keep your running distances short (high jump isn’t sounding so bad, now, is it?)

And although you can train to push your axons to favor one fiber over the other, some people are just born with it.  To quote Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”  That’s why a lot of long distance runners are really skinny (besides their metabolic activities) they have the slower, smaller axons.  Fast axons used in strength training are a lot larger.   See, now don’t you feel better about yourself?  Don’t blame that cheesybread with the extra cheese dipping sauce, blame  your high jumping parents for endowing you with mad hops.

(alright, so that last part might be stretching it a little bit, but I’m just trying to give ya a little hope!)