Tuesday, February 21st
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Please contact SIRRI
at (480) 777-7075 or e-mail
to reserve your seat(s).
If you are unable to attend,
please call for a free
Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe:
Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Valentines Day is the perfect time to blend cherry and chocolate! With this recipe from the cookbook, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, you are sure to bring a smile to the faces of all who try it!
Makes 24 Cookies
- 2 3/4 cups blanched almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
- 3/4 cup agave nectar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (73% cacao)
- 1 cup dried-fruit-juice-sweetened cherries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder. in a medium bowl, whisk teogether the grapeseed oil, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Fold the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in the chocolate and cherries. Spoon the dough 1 heaping tablespoon at a time onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cookie.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies look dry and start to crack – be careful not to overcook. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 20 minutes, then serve warm.
SIRRI offers these services for both children & adults:
- Neurofeedback & Biofeedback
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- Cognitive Retraining: memory, processing & problem solving skills
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- Auditory & Visual Processing
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Hearing Metaphors Activates Brain Regions Involved in Sensory Experience
ScienceDaily (Feb. 3, 2012)
When a friend tells you she had a rough day, do you feel sandpaper under your fingers? The brain may be replaying sensory experiences to help understand common metaphors, new research suggests.
Linguists and psychologists have debated how much the parts of the brain that mediate direct sensory experience are involved in understanding metaphors. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, in their landmark work 'Metaphors we live by', pointed out that our daily language is full of metaphors, some of which are so familiar (like "rough day") that they may not seem especially novel or striking. They argued that metaphor comprehension is grounded in our sensory and motor experiences.
New brain imaging research reveals that a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is also activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard.
The results were published online this week in the journal Brain & Language.
"We see that metaphors are engaging the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in sensory responses even though the metaphors are quite familiar," says senior author Krish Sathian, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, rehabilitation medicine, and psychology at Emory University. "This result illustrates how we draw upon sensory experiences to achieve understanding of metaphorical language."
Sathian is also medical director of the Center for Systems Imaging at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Seven college students who volunteered for the study were asked to listen to sentences containing textural metaphors as well as sentences that were matched for meaning and structure, and to press a button as soon as they understood each sentence. Blood flow in their brains was monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging. On average, response to a sentence containing a metaphor took slightly longer (0.84 vs 0.63 seconds).
In a previous study, the researchers had already mapped out, for each of these individuals, which parts of the students' brains were involved in processing actual textures by touch and sight. This allowed them to establish with confidence the link within the brain between metaphors involving texture and the sensory experience of texture itself.
"Interestingly, visual cortical regions were not activated by textural metaphors, which fits with other evidence for the primacy of touch in texture perception," says research associate Simon Lacey, PhD, the first author of the paper.
The researchers did not find metaphor-specific differences in cortical regions well known to be involved in generating and processing language, such as Broca's or Wernicke's areas. However, this result doesn't rule out a role for these regions in processing metaphors, Sathian says. Also, other neurologists have seen that injury to various areas of the brain can interfere with patients' understanding of metaphors.
"I don't think that there's only one area responsible for metaphor processing," Sathian says. "Actually, several recent lines of research indicate that engagement with abstract concepts is distributed around the brain." "I think our research highlights the role of neural networks, rather than a single area of the brain, in these processes. What could be happening is that the brain is conducting an internal simulation as a way to understand the metaphor, and that's why the regions associated with touch get involved.
This also demonstrates how complex processes involving symbols, such as appreciating a painting or understanding a metaphor, do not depend just on evolutionarily new parts of the brain, but also on adaptations of older parts of the brain."
Sathian's future plans include asking whether similar relationships exist for other senses, such as vision. The researchers also plan to probe whether magnetic stimulation of the brain in regions associated with sensory experience can interfere with understanding metaphors.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation
Emory University. "Hearing metaphors activates brain regions involved in sensory experience." ScienceDaily, 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.
Upcoming Session Dates
for the Sensory Learning Program
Monday, Feb. 20 through Friday, March 2
Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 16
Monday, March 19 through Friday, March 30
Right Hand or Left? How the Brain Solves a Perceptual Puzzle
ScienceDaily (Feb. 9, 2012)
When you see a picture of a hand, how do you know whether it's a right or left hand? This "hand laterality" problem may seem obscure, but it reveals a lot about how the brain sorts out confusing perceptions. Now, a study which will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, challenges the long-held consensus about how we solve this problem.
"For decades, the theory was that you use your motor imagination," says Shivakumar Viswanathan, who conducted the study with University of California Santa Barbara colleagues Courtney Fritz and Scott T. Grafton. Judging from response times, psychologists thought we imagine flipping a mental image of each of our own hands to find the one matching the picture. These imagined movements were thought to recruit the same brain processes used to command muscles to move -- a high-level cognitive feat.
The study, however, finds that the brain is adept at decoding a left or right hand without these mental gymnastics. Judging laterality is "a low-level sensory problem that uses processes that bring different senses into register" -- a process called binding, says Viswanathan. Seeing a hand of unknown laterality leads the brain to bind the seen hand to the correct felt hand. If they are still out of register because of their conflicting positions, an illusory movement arises from the brain's attempt to bring the seen and felt hand into the same position. But "this feeling of moving only comes after you already know which hand it is."
In the study, participants couldn't see their own hands, which were held palm down. They saw hand shapes tilted at different angles, with a colored dot on them indicating a palm-up or down posture. One group of participants saw the shape first and then the dot; and the other, the dot first. Participants in both groups put the shape and dot together mentally and indicated which hand it was by pushing a button with that hand. However, when the shape and dot were shown simultaneously, participants in the first group felt movements of their right hands when seeing a left hand and vice versa; the other group always felt a movement of the correct hand. This behavioral difference (which experimenters gleaned from response time) was due to differences in participants' perception of the seen hand -- establishing that an earlier sensory process made the decision.
In a second experiment, participants were told which hand it was and had to judge whether its palm was down or up, indicating their answer with one hand only. This time, the illusory hand-movement occurred only when the seen hand-shape matched that of the participant's own palm-down responding hand, but not otherwise. Even though no right/left judgments were required, the response was dominated by an automatic binding of the seen and felt hands, and the illusory movement followed, says Viswanathan.
The study helps us understand the experience of amputees, who sometimes sense an uncontrollable itch or clenching in the "phantom" body part. Showing the opposite hand or leg in a mirror allows the patient to "feel" the absent limb and mentally relieve the discomfort -- a "binding" of vision and feeling.
Association for Psychological Science. "Right hand or left? How the brain solves a perceptual puzzle." ScienceDaily, 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.
To Perform With Less Effort, Practice Beyond Perfection
ScienceDaily (Feb. 9, 2012)
Whether you are an athlete, a musician or a stroke patient learning to walk again, practice can make perfect, but more practice may make you more efficient, according to a surprising new University of Colorado Boulder study.
The study, led by CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Alaa Ahmed, looked at how test subjects learned particular arm-reaching movements using a robotic arm. The results showed that even after a reaching task had been learned and the corresponding decrease in muscle activity had reached a stable state, the overall energy costs to the test subjects continued to decrease. By the end of the task, the net metabolic cost as measured by oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide exhalation had decreased by about 20 percent, she said.
"The message from this study is that in order to perform with less effort, keep on practicing, even after it seems as if the task has been learned," said Ahmed of CU-Boulder's integrative physiology department. "We have shown there is an advantage to continued practice beyond any visible changes in performance."
A paper on the subject was published in the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Co-authors on the study include postdoctoral fellow Helen J. Huang and Professor Rodger Kram, both in CU-Boulder's integrative physiology department. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The study involved 15 right-handed test subjects who used a handle on a robotic arm, similar to a joystick, to control a cursor on a computer screen. The tasks involved starting from a set position to reach for a target on the screen and involved both inward and outward arm movements, Ahmed said.
As part of the study, test subjects had to exert more energy in some reaching movements when the robotic arm created a force field, making subjects "push back" as they steered the cursor toward the target. With repeated practice of moving the robotic arm against the force fields, the subjects learned the task by not only cutting down on errors, but effort as well, according to Ahmed.
The test subjects first performed a series of 200 reaching trials with no force field to push against, then two sets of 250 trials each when pushing back against the force field. The experiment ended with another 200 trials with no force field, said Ahmed. A metronome was used to signal the test subjects to move the robotic arm every two seconds toward the target during the trials.
Each of the test subjects wore a nose clip and breathed through a mouthpiece to chart the rates of oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production, a measure of metabolism. The research team also collected surface electromyographic data by placing electrodes on the six upper limb muscles used during reaching tasks: the pectoralis major, the posterior deltoid, the biceps brachii, the triceps long head, the triceps lateral head and the brachioradialis.
"What is unique about our study is that we are the first group to measure metabolic cost in addition to muscle activity while performing a physical reaching task," said Huang, who performed most of the research and was first author on the Journal of Neuroscience paper. "The results are very surprising and challenge the widely held assumption that muscle activity entirely explains changes in metabolic cost."
The study suggests that efficient movements ultimately involve both efficient biomechanics and efficient neural processing, or thinking. "We suspect that the decrease in metabolic cost may involve more efficient brain activity," Ahmed said. "The brain could be modulating subtle features of arm muscle activity, recruiting other muscles or reducing its own activity to make the movements more efficiently."
The results could be applicable, for example, to stroke patients who have to re-learn to walk, Ahmed said. "The rehabilitation process should not necessarily stop if the patient reaches a plateau in performance," Ahmed said. Continued practice reduces the metabolic cost of the task, an indication the brain still may be learning something," she said.
"Using the robotic system, we can understand the principles underlying the control of human movement and can apply those ideas to design rehabilitation programs that may allow stroke patients to re-learn their movements faster, to retain that learning and to transfer that learning to other tasks as well," she said.
So whether it is playing a musical piece over and over again even after you have the notes and timing down cold, or throwing a ball or swinging a racket after your coach tells you things look great, there appears to still be a benefit to practicing, Ahmed said. "Just because someone can perform the task well doesn't mean there is not added benefit to continued practice."
University of Colorado at Boulder. "To perform with less effort, practice beyond perfection." ScienceDaily, 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.