TagThe New York Times

How and Why Exercise Boosts Your Brain. Plus: How Little Exercise Can You Get By With?

The New York Times on how exercise raises the level of glycogen available to the brain:

After the single session on the treadmill, the animals were allowed to rest and feed, and then their brain glycogen levels were studied. The food, it appeared, had gone directly to their heads; their brain levels of glycogen not only had been restored to what they had been before the workout, but had soared past that point, increasing by as much as a 60 percent in the frontal cortex and hippocampus and slightly less in other parts of the brain. The astrocytes had “overcompensated,” resulting in a kind of brain carbo-loading.

The levels, however, had dropped back to normal within about 24 hours.

That was not the case, though, if the animals continued to exercise. In those rats that ran for four weeks, the “supercompensation” became the new normal, with their baseline levels of glycogen showing substantial increases compared with the sedentary animals. The increases were especially notable in, again, those portions of the brain critical to learning and memory formation — the cortex and the hippocampus.

New York Times: How Exercise Fuels the Brain

Also:

While many of us wonder just how much exercise we really need in order to gain health and fitness, a group of scientists in Canada are turning that issue on its head and asking, how little exercise do we need?

The emerging and engaging answer appears to be, a lot less than most of us think — provided we’re willing to work a bit. […]

For years, the American Heart Association and other organizations have recommended that people complete 30 minutes or more of continuous, moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk, five times a week, for overall good health.

But millions of Americans don’t engage in that much moderate exercise, if they complete any at all. Asked why, a majority of respondents, in survey after survey, say, “I don’t have time.”

Intervals, however, require little time. They are, by definition, short. But whether most people can tolerate intervals, and whether, in turn, intervals provide the same health and fitness benefits as longer, more moderate endurance exercise are issues that haven’t been much investigated.

New York Times: How 1-Minute Intervals Can Improve Your Health

(via socialphysicist)

Will genetic research advances lead to a new era of racism?

At the same time, genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA. Ancestry tests tell customers what percentage of their genes are from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The heart-disease drug BiDil is marketed exclusively to African-Americans, who seem genetically predisposed to respond to it. Jews are offered prenatal tests for genetic disorders rarely found in other ethnic groups.

[…]

But many geneticists, wary of fueling discrimination and worried that speaking openly about race could endanger support for their research, are loath to discuss the social implications of their findings. Still, some acknowledge that as their data and methods are extended to nonmedical traits, the field is at what one leading researcher recently called ‘a very delicate time, and a dangerous time.’

‘There are clear differences between people of different continental ancestries,’ said Marcus W. Feldman, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University. ‘It’s not there yet for things like I.Q., but I can see it coming. And it has the potential to spark a new era of racism if we do not start explaining it better.’

Full Story: The New York Times.

(via Hit and Run).

Plan 9 From Outer Space

“Fears of an alien invasion created greater alarm in the US than the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack, writes Philippe Mora.

In January 1979, The New York Times reported that despite repeated, feverish denials, the CIA had indeed investigated the UFO phenomenon: “CIA Papers Detail UFO Surveillance” screamed the headline. The report is said to have so upset the then CIA director, Stansfield Turner, that he reportedly asked his staff: “Are we in UFOs?” The answer was yes – since the late 1940s, apparently. But exactly how, what, when, why and who remained layered in mystery, leaving grist for the conspiracy mill.

But this year a raft of newly unclassified CIA documents revealed that the remote possibility of alien invasion elicited greater fear than the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack.”

via The Sydney Morning Herald

George Bush I (1796?1859)

Found this article yesterday while reading the print edition of The New York Times Magazine (link to article). Fortunately, it’s online (for the time being), but I’ll copy n paste it in its entirety for your reading pleasure:-

By TED WIDMER
Published: July 22, 2007

None of us can control our ancestors. Like our children, they have minds of their own and invariably refuse to do our bidding. Presidential ancestors are especially unruly – they are numerous and easily discovered, and they often act in ways unbecoming to the high station of their descendants.

Take George Bush. By whom I mean George Bush (1796-1859), first cousin of the president’s great-great-great-grandfather. It would be hard to find a more unlikely forebear. G.B. No. 1 was not exactly the black sheep of the family, to use a phrase the president likes to apply to himself. In fact, he was extremely distinguished, just not in ways that you might expect. Prof. George Bush was a bona fide New York intellectual: a dabbler in esoteric religions whose opinions were described as, yes, ‘liberal’; a journalist and an academic who was deeply conversant with the traditions of the Middle East.

There was a time when the W-less George Bush was the most prominent member of the family (he is the only Bush who made it into the mid-20th-century Dictionary of American Biography). A bookish child, he read so much that he frightened his parents. Later he entered the ministry, but his taste for arcane controversy shortened his career, and no church could really contain him. Ultimately, he became a specialist at predicting the Second Coming, an unrewarding profession for most, but he thrived on it.

In 1831 he drifted to New York City, just beginning to earn its reputation as a sinkhole of iniquity, and found a job as professor of Hebrew and Oriental languages at what is now New York University. That same year, he published his first book, ‘The Life of Mohammed.’ It was the first American biography of Islam’s founder.

For that reason alone, the book would be noteworthy. But the work is also full of passionate opinions about the prophet and his times. Many of these opinions are negative – as are his comments on all religions. Bush often calls Muhammad ‘the impostor’ and likens him to a successful charlatan who has foisted an ‘arch delusion’ on his fellow believers. But he is no less critical of the ‘disastrous’ state of Christianity in Muhammad’s day. And throughout the book, Bush reveals a passionate knowledge of the Middle East: its geography, its people and its theological intensity, which fit him like a glove. For all his criticism of Muhammad, he returns with fascination to the story of ‘this remarkable man,’ who was ‘irresistibly attractive,’ and the power of his vision.

‘The Life of Mohammed’ went out of print a century ago, and there it was expected to remain, in perpetuity. But in the early 21st century, it was reissued by a tiny publisher simply because of the historical rhyme that a man with the same name occupied the White House. The first George Bush never witnessed the Second Coming, but now his book was enjoying an unexpected afterlife.

Predictably, it enraged some readers in the Middle East, where rage is an abundant commodity. In 2004, Egyptian censors at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy denounced the book by President Bush’s ‘grandfather’ as a slander on the prophet, and the State Department was forced to issue a document clarifying the family relationship. That document may have unintentionally fanned the flames when it pointed out that ‘The Life of Mohammed’ never compares Muslims to insects, rats or snakes, though it does, on occasion, liken them to locusts.

The stage was set for conspiracy theories to spread across the Middle East like sandstorms. But then something really strange happened. The same censors read carefully through the book and in 2005 issued an edict that reversed their earlier ruling, admitting that it was O.K. Bush’s theological intensity might kill him with an American audience, but in the Middle East it seems to have allowed him to pass muster. Clearly this passionate religious scholar was no enemy of Islam. You could almost say that he was part of the family.

Perhaps the Egyptians could sense something honorable about this distant life, which dedicated itself to the search for knowledge. After George Bush died, a friend remembered the feeling of walking into his apartment, a third-story walk-up on Nassau Street, ‘a kind of literary Gibraltar,’ where he would find the professor surrounded by his piles of rare and ancient volumes.

It all seems so improbable. George Bush? A bookworm? In a crummy apartment? A mystic might look at this history and find evidence that God is indeed inscrutable. But as the first George Bush knew, religions, like families, contain plentiful contradictions. As the current George Bush has discovered, no place can tease them out like the Holy Land.

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