Short Rest Periods Are Performance Enhancers

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

In a study of healthy volunteers, NIH researchers found that taking short breaks, early and often, may help our brains learn new skills. Courtesy of Cohen lab, NIH/NINDS

In a study of healthy volunteers, NIH researchers found that taking short breaks, early and often, may help our brains learn new skills.
Courtesy of Cohen lab, NIH/NINDS

Leonardo G. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Investigator

Marlene Bönstrup, M.D.,
Postdoctoral fellow in  Dr. Cohen’s lab
NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Learning a new skill is typically divided into online (during practice) and offline (after practice has ended) components. Particularly motor skill learning occurs to a considerable degree offline, meaning that performance further improves even after practice has ended. A single practice session itself however, is typically divided into short (level of seconds) periods of practice and rest. In this study, we set out to investigate the contribution of those short periods of practice and rest to the learning during a practice session (i.e. online learning). We found that during early motor skill learning, when most of the total learning occurs, performance improvements actually precipitate during short periods of rest whereas during practice periods, performance mostly stagnated. We found a signature of neural activity predictive of those performance improvements during rest: The lower the beta rhythmic activity in the parietofrontal regions of the brain during those short periods of rest, the higher were participant’s performance jumps.  Continue reading

Brain Imaging Reveals How Prolonged Intermittent Cannabis Can Induce Memory Deficits

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD Office on Smoking and Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion CDC

Ana Maria Sebastião, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology and Neurosciences
Director Institute of Pharmacology and Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine and
Francisco Mouro, PhD
Unit of Neurosciences, Institute of Molecular Medicine
University of Lisbon, Portugal

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: There is pressing need to comprehend how cannabinoid exposure impacts brain functioning. While cannabinoid-related research has increased exponentially in the last decade, the mechanisms through which cannabinoids affect brain functioning are still elusive. Specifically, we need to know how prolonged cannabinoid exposure affects important cognitive processes, such as memory, and also find the roots of those effects. This is particularly relevant considering that several countries have already approved cannabis-based medicines.

In this sense, our work sheds new light into the mechanisms underlaying the memory-deficits provoked by a continuous exposure to a cannabinoid drug. More precisely, using brain imaging techniques, we found that long-term exposure to a synthetic cannabinoid drug impairs the ability of key brain regions involved in learning and memory to communicate with each other. Our data points to the necessity of considering cannabinoid actions in a broader perspective, including brain circuitry and communication.  Continue reading

Grouping Students By Abilities Fosters Dependence and Caps Opportunities for Learning

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Classroom” by frankjuarez is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Anna Mazenod

Institute of Education
University of London
UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In this paper we report baseline findings from a large study of grouping practices in state-funded secondary schools in England. The study seeks to improve our understanding of how students are grouped for their English and mathematics classes, and the potential impact of different grouping practices on student outcomes and experiences of schooling. This paper draws on a survey of 597 teachers and 34 teacher interviews in schools where students are grouped by their attainment for the subject. It focuses on teacher perspectives on teaching and learning in the lower attainment groups.

We found that students in the lower attainment groups were typically constructed as learners who benefit from specific approaches to learning justified through discourses of nurturing and protection. Most teachers felt that students in the lower attainment groups were not able to access learning independently from their teachers in comparison with their peers in the higher attainment groups. Some teachers for example described students in the lower attainment groups as ‘more dependent on people’ and students in the higher attainment groups as ‘independent learners.’

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Could Cinnamon May Improve Memory and Learning Ability?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D Floyd A. Davis, M.D., Endowed Chair of Neurology Professor, Departments of Neurological Sciences, Biochemistry and Pharmacology Rush University Medical Center VA Scientist Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Chicago, IL 60612

Dr. Kalipada Pahan

Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D
Floyd A. Davis, M.D., Endowed Chair of Neurology
Professor, Departments of Neurological Sciences, Biochemistry and Pharmacology
Rush University Medical Center
VA Scientist, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
Chicago, IL 60612

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue. In many cases between two students of the same background studying in the same class, one turns out to be a poor learner and does worse than the other academically. Little is known on what changes occur in the brain of poor learners and how to improve performance in poor learners. Here, we have demonstrated that cinnamon, a common food spice and flavoring material, converts poor learning mice to good learners. Results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

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