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Reviewing the Latest Research

Scientific research into how our brains work and what we can do to make them work better continues to unfold at a breakneck pace. Consequently there is always more information to add to the Sort Your Brain Out story. Too keep you abreast of the latest I have compiled some of the most interesting articles posted on my Twitter feed since the book was published last April. I've grouped them into 33 different categories so you can scroll down to the subjects you are most interested in: Brain Hacks, Brain Health, Brain Nutrition, Brain Training, Creativity, Decisions, Dementia, Drugs, Eating, Emotion, Gaming, Gut-Brain Interactions, Heuristics, Holding Onto Marbles, Interview, Language, Learning, Meditation, Memory, Music, Navigation, Neuroanatomy, Neurodevelopment, Neuroplasticity, Optical Illusions, Parenting, Psychology, Reward Pathways, Senses, Sleep, Stress, Window To The Soul & Young Brains.

Brain Hacks

How the #brain makes and breaks habits via @SciAmMIND

Exercise may leave you feeling less anxious because you perceive your environments as less threatening

Some of those “old chestnuts" that reduce cognitive burden in a world of info overload:

The power of the green office: Having plants around increases productivity by 15%

“How to debug your brain..” is 1 of the strangest blog posts I’ve ever read. Can’t work out whether that’s good or bad:

Brain Health

Power of tumeric: Curry spice 'helps brain self-heal'

Novel approach to treating brain cancer boosted by new UK system of extra support for Promising Innovative Medicines:

Former Surgeon General for US also has #SortYourBrainOut message - he advises weekly saunas to sweat off the toxins!

Has anyone out there ever tried Prof Bartlett’s Brain Vitality Index? Interesting? Motivating?

Ever wondered if small blood vessels in your brain are getting clogged up? Try standing on 1 leg:

Get out in that glorious sunshine! Even mild Vit D deficiency is assoc with increase risk of dementia: skin+sun=vitD

Imagine: in the not-too-distant future school kids might be asked2donate blood2help rejuvenate grandparents' brains!

Shed some fat to #SortYourBrainOut by reducing its inflammatory impact on #brain tissue (which promotes Alzheimer’s)

Crafts like knitting work the brain to produce flow which can help to ease symptoms in people w/ PTSD,depression etc:

Keeping your heart & blood vessels in good nick leads to better #brain function

Physical fitness in childhood improves white matter in the brain - Medical News Today:

Pre-natal exposure to phthalates (commonly found in many consumer products) associated with reduced IQ aged 7:

Brain Nutrition

Study suggests higher levels of omega-3 in diet are associated with better sleep:

Brain Food: Superfoods for ultimate brain power and what to avoid … good video!

I love the idea of actively training people to become addicted to healthy food:

Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health

vmPFC activity (above bridge of ur nose!) upon viewing different foods is positively correlated with calorie content:

Scientific American made a film which explains why a turkey dinner makes us sleepy. win/fail?

Space-aged brain food put to the test by amusing Guardian blogger:

Recently published paper indicates there are more anti-oxidants in organic than non-organic foods:

Eat fish on a weekly basis (don’t stress to much about which type) for your #brain’s sake:

Weight loss probiotics? Does this just allow people2continue keep eating badly;w/out getting fat?

I wonder if cold weather increases glucokinase activity in hypothalamus? I ate a whole pack of Matchmakers last night

Brain Training

Old skool Dr Kawashima’s Brain Age re-launched on the Wii U Virtual Console:

Brain training package LearningRX claims new data shows transfer of benefits beyond trained skills:

Remarkable documentary detailing Navy SEAL training that enables recruits to control their brain's fear response:

Lumosity brain training (upon which I have now got my parents totally hooked) tries2expand its 60M users thru android:

Top ten #brain training apps courtesy of Huffington Post:

Most people “know it is possible to maintain a healthy brain, but more than half of respondents admit they don't know how”

"Can you really teach people to be mentally tougher?”

Brain training games must play second fiddle to regular exercise & social engagement if you want to #sortyourbrainout

Latest brain training app on the block, Berlin cash-backed Memorado, raises $1.3M in seed funding:

Brain training is not a new fad, Pelmanists were at it in the UK 100 years ago:

Meditation suggests that happiness is...a skill, something you can train just [like training] your body in the gym”

Could a Video Game Be the Key to Stroke Recovery?

Forget brain training games; spend your lunchtime trying to wrap your noggin around these classic mind benders:

If Brain Fit Clubs crossed the pond & popped up in the UK - would anyone go for it? Or could it only work in the USA?

Regular exercise helps kids brains,improving ability2 "block out irrelevant information&concentrate on..task at hand”

Sort Your Brain Out! @DrJackLewis & @polarbearpirate share their top tips: (thanks @fifthframe) #SYBO #Brainpower

Time "spent doing solo software drills..not spent hiking, learning Italian..playing w/ ur grandchildren”=not worth it

MUST READ-> Fostering and Measuring Skills: Improving Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills to Promote Lifetime Success

Expanding working memory boosts fluid intelligence This free game will help you do just that!

BBC article on first results from The Great Brain Experiment @CitizenBrains

All the best scientists experiment on themselves ;-) I’m studying my working memory, are you?

I’m going to master this dual 3-back task if it kills me:

If, like me, you’ve really struggled with transition from Dual 2-Back to Dual 3-Back.. soldier on!!

Took me 50 trials 2 reach Dual 4-Back! If @ first you don’t succeed..

Brain train gaming for sporting prowess, anyone?


Extremely thorough account of investigations into links between creative genius and mental illness:

“Creativity is a perversely difficult thing to study” Steven Pinker on fMRI exp on creative writing:

Can epilepsy fuel creativity? is very relevant to Gone Fishing (For Great Ideas) chapter in our book

Link between creativity & subclinical levels of madness (colloq.) has always rung true to me. Finally some hard data:

Magic of a powerful narrative - a neuro perspective: Great article from the Mack Daddy of oxytocin research - Paul Zak

Innovation MYTHS: open-office plans decrease productivity, group brainstorming -> fewer & worse ideas than solo

Imagination and Reality Flow in Opposite Directions in the Brain:

#creativity in decline amongst youngsters despite broadly accepted importance in achieving success:

How do ideas happen? And how do we feed our brains to have more of them? @mattfutureproof gives it some thought:

Finding inspiration in your sleep:

The relationship between mental illness & creativity is not straightforward:

Why You Should Doodle More. #creativity


Not acting fast enough to save Earth from climate change/not saving enough for retirement -caused by same brain flaw?

Excitement and anxiety battling it out in #brain during a decision where you win either way (WIN-WIN):

Our “gut feelings” are messages that simplify life decisions for us by guiding our attention toward smarter options..


36-pronged approach simultaneously targeting diet, exercise, sleep, brain stimulation improves memory in mild Alz:

Investigating links between mental illnesses / immune system; particularly depression and Alzheimer’s:

Dose of curcumin (in turmeric) enables eye test4 Alz to catch it early enough4development of new drugs:

In 2011, I blogged about potential for arthritis drug to halt Alz: Now more new data:

Study reveals how gardens could help dementia care

Testing people’s sense of smell may provide clues to accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s:

On the connection btw Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cinnamon -- @Alzheimersnet via @APlaceForMom

The value of Exercise: being physically active in middle age may reduce the risk for Alzheimer's disease in old age


In case you missed the chat about chemical Brain Enhancement the first time round:

New study suggests magic mushroom therapy much more effective than nicotine replacement for smoking cessation:

Didn’t even realise methamphetamine caused #brain damage, let alone this finding that THC protects against it:

Popular anti-depressant drug (SSRIs), long thought to take weeks to take effect, changes healthy brains in just 3hrs:

Antipodean link between cannabis & suicide risk is tenuous. Correlation does not mean causation, explained here:

Fantastic article in this month’s The Psychologist by @ProfDavidNutt on therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs:

Finally homing in on truth behind the proposed link between childhood cannabis use & psychosis in later life?

In the Q&A after my brain talks one topic consistently seems to pique curiosity: CAFFEINE -so I wrote a blog on it..

Worth further study? Of 446 adults treated 4 head trauma, lower incidence of death among those testing +’ve for THC:

“1 transcendent trip can alter people’s personalities on a long-term basis..making them more open..more appreciative“

If this wasn’t the NYT/well-written I’d never have retweeted yet another piece entitled “This Is Your Brain On Drugs"

Cannabis is orexigenic (i.e. smoking weed gives you the munchies) now we have a better understanding of the mechanism

If your nightly cup of cocoa has a whopping dose of flavanols - it might just improve your memory:

Microbubbles + ultrasound = ferrying drugs across the blood brain barrier:

This type of article usually makes me cringe. This 1 didn’t! Brain benefits of green tea etc:

Does cannabis really shrink your brain and compensate by increasing connectivity? NHS Choices set the record straight

Electrical brain stimulation 2 - Caffeine 1

Update on therapeutic uses of MDMA (ecstasy) and psilocybin (mushrooms):

Smart drugs like modafinil don’t make your brain work better if you’re a bright spark:

A little bit of booze improves your sense of smell:

Supplementing radiation therapy with cannabinoid drugs slows down the progression of brain cancers even more in mice:

The bonding hormone oxytocin inhibits the fear center in the brain -

Finally a proper nootropic on the horizon! Keep an eye on Ana Pereira's clinical trial of riluzole in mild Alz.

The American Academy of Neurology calls for more long term studies into therapeutic use of medical marijuana:

marijuana &your brain -does it REALLY do significant damage?

Drugs in space and sleepless in the shuttle

More on impact of cannabis use on the adolescent brain, courtesy of Nature:

Great news for drunks! New compound seems to mitigate against the brain damage that results from binge drinking:

Laughing gas shows therapeutic promise in treatment-resistant clinical depression:

Smokers have tougher time quitting menthol cigs - menthol alone increases nicotinic receptors in pleasure pathways!

Time for another cuppa? Nice animation from @AsapSCIENCE about caffeine & how it affects your brain


“Eating a lot of sugar or other carbohydrates can be hazardous to both #brain structure and function”:

2.1Bn people on Earth are obese/overweight; that’s a lot of narrowed #brain blood vessels :

People w/ "binge eating disorder..lower grey matter OFC&striatum” which help keep track of goals/rewards:

After eating - leptin travels up to #brain - reducing hunger - via astrocytes not just neurons:

"mother's high-fat diet triggers brain inflam in..developing fetus leading2anxiety&hyperactivity in offspring” [mice]

"trans fats increase the shelf life of foods..reduce the shelf life of people” +it makes you stupid:

Another reason to stay in - Home cooking a main ingredient in healthier diet:

Obesity=chronic low-grade inflammatory state, influencing neuropsychiatric status thru' effects of inflammation on brain (Castanon et al, 2014)

Cell hub within amygdala (renowned for it’s role in fear response) switches off urge to feed: #neuroscience #brain

"Signals in the #brain that tell us to stop eating function less efficiently as we approach mid-life” #thankyouHenry

Forget the gastric band, to reduce obesity we may some day just crank up the juice on our vagus nerve stimulator:

Weight gain/obesity from high fat/high sugar diet prevented when receptor is blocked - but where do the calories go?

More mindless eating of high calorie food when brain area implicated in resisting impulses is experimentally zapped:


Longest running study homes in on what really makes men happy:

"aggressive men’s blood pressure went down..non-aggressive men..blood pressure [rose,whilst watching violent scenes]”

"I’ve got a bad feeling about this" Habenula #brain region activated when viewing images assoc w/ nasty consequences

"Chewing gum, surprisingly, improved mood, possibly because chewing seems to increase blood flow to brain”

"What we have found is a process that may dampen the brain's sensitivity to negative life events."

As days get shorter "production of a transporter protein ramps up in S.A.D., lowering available serotonin”

Ever noticed that musclebound gym freaks seem particularly moody? Appears that stronger men are quicker to anger:

Exercise protects against depression - but how? - The rise of PGC-1a1 as a possible mechanism


Immersive virtual reality gaming is now so good it might be game over for reality, new blog just posted

Video gaming in kids might not have adverse impact on cognition but “displacement threat" should not be trivialised

Anyone want to make a game with me?

"Throw Trucks With Your Mind..ultra-violent meditative competitive game” - anyone?

Gut-Brain Interactions

This account of human evolution sees us merely as puppets dangling on the strings of our gut bacterial puppeteers!

Balanced, well-written account of story-so-far re science taking influence of gut on brain more & more seriously:

Nice update on the latest research investigating the link between gut bacteria and brain function from Nature #SYBO

"armies of bacteria living in our guts can pull the strings in our #brains to get what they want” #neuroscience #SYBO

Daily microbiome tracking - I wish I could have done this for my connectome!

Gut bacteria may influence food cravings2get what they want by sending message2 #brain via vagus nerve: #weirdscience


Brains go to great lengths to preserve personal narratives -only getting labelled “confabulation” once at the extreme

I don’t have a stock portfolio… but if I did I’d certainly keep these psychological biases in mind: #SortYourBrainOut

Attractive people are often assumed to be “good” but does being “good" bias people to rate them as more attractive?

Holding Onto Marbles

"Less time sitting down” = better way of helping older people keep their white matter in good nick: #SortYourBrainOut

"cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles” ...but not "brain games"

Brain Age test for middle aged people to slam the brakes on our descent into cognitive decline - NICE! #RetirementDNA

Brain function can improve as you age: - great to hear given that I’ve spent all day thinking about #RetirementDNA !!

I did a little piece in the Independent Online on Holding Onto Your Marbles to promote #SortYourBrainOut #SYBO

You are what for a living: Daily mental activity induced by your job can help u build cognitive reserve #SYBO

The big message for #brain health to aid the battle against dementia in 2015? “Use It Or Lose It” #SortYourBrainOut

"parts of the brain that were the last to develop were also the first to show signs of age-related decline”


What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Neuroscience w/ @DrJackLewis


Time to learn a new language? “those who spoke2or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities”

"Listening effort and accented speech". The case for NOT outsourcing call centers?

This is unbelievably amazingly awesome - Star-Trek style instant voice translation

"people who speak more than 1 language fluently have better memories..more cognitively creative & mentally flexible”

If you get someone to say a word out loud, but tweak the sound of their own voice, you can make them talk nonsense:

Mandarin speaking nanny for your infant child,perhaps? Adult brains recognise language features from infancy exposure:


“..striatum learns the pieces of the puzzle and then the prefrontal cortex puts the pieces.. together.” via @PsyBlog

What goes on inside the brain as we learn from our mistakes

Don’t Dismiss MOOCs – We're Just Starting To Understand Their True Value:

Dopamine helps with math rules as well as mood:


Laughter puts #brain in2state similar to that of deep meditation


Nice short video with distinguished neuroscientists explaining basics of #memory:

Bring unpleasant memory to mind, inhale Xenon, goodbye emotional pain - future of recovery from heartbreak / trauma?

Incredibly intricate interplay between hippocampus and septum enables us to create chunks of memory: #neuroscience

Default mode network, usually associated with daydreaming/mindwandering, very much involved in certain memory tasks:

"frontoparietal network plays key role in analysis,memory retrieval,abstract thinking&problem-solving/fluidity2adapt"

20mins of daily magnetic stimulation for just 5 days improved memory in study of 16 volunteers:

Shedding New Light on the Formation of Emotional Fear Memories: #neuroscience #memory


Musical training improves various aspects of executive #brain function in old & young alike

Speaking of Default Mode Network: activity ramps up when you hear song you like -is this losing yourself in the tune?

Numerous benefits of providing music lessons to underprivileged kids includes improved language processing

Music saved my voice: Brain aneurysm robs music teacher of ability to speak, melodic intonation therapy wins it back

Been wondering when a band would jump on the binaural beat bandwagon - headphones on - relaxing?: #SortYourBrainOut

What Wired thinks about a music neuroscience app that helps you increase focus by many hundred % #neuroscience #music

Why is melody in the high notes and rhythm in the bass: #neuroscience #music #SortYourBrainOut #SYBO


Fascinating research from @hugospiers throws more light on #brain navigation systems

Bat Nav @GCweirdscience

Your brain’s internal compass - the stronger the signal it produces, the better your sense of direction: @hugospiers


If your brain was size of planet Earth this infographic shows size of its nuts&bolts


Ultra-fine particles found in air pollution seem to play havoc with early brain development

Consumption of highly-sweetened drinks throughout adolescence leads to cognitive impairment (in rats, so far)

Great advice re: how best to stretch a child’s #brain described at 3m40s in this lovely interview: #SortYourBrainOut

Baby's brain rehearse speech five months before they talk @ScienceDaily #babytalk #SYKBO via @perked_brain

“..newborn #brains grew at an average rate of 1%/day” Cerebellum doubles in size over 1st 90days #neuroscience #SYKBO

"When it comes to #brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground” #SYKBO

On topic of importance of play4children.. Nils Norman compared adventure playgrounds across globe, book only £85!!:

The Case for Packing Libraries Full of Toys and Games - … #creativity

Young humans grow up much slower than our primate cousins because our #brain is so "energy expensive": #neuroscience


NHS Choices continue to marshal the dubious fringes of science journalism - multi-tasking shrinks your brain, huh?

"30mins..daily training for 1 month..improvement in..ability to understand speech in noisy..conditions”

This is the most accurate description of our study: Media multitasking 'brain shrink' claims unproven NHS Choices -

Bats are the only creature that can see using echolocation, right? Wrong! This amazing young blind lad can do it too:

Brain Scans Reveal Gray Matter Differences in Media Multitaskers: … #neuroscience

Brainy processing at your fingertips #neuroscience

Football "is a triumphant display of the incredible plasticity of the human brain

How Culture Shapes Our Senses - NYT @tanyaluhrmann Ht @somatosphere

Making it to 24 years old without realising your whole cerebellum is missing is a true testament to neuroplasticity:

My PhD supervisor used2say painters were visual scientists. Here @wiredscience effectively suggests same4film editors

When it comes to changes in brain thickness... Bigger is not always better: #geekchicweirdscience @GCweirdscience

Coaxing brain support cells (glia) to convert into electrical brain wires (neurons) to fix damaged parts of the brain

Zoe Kourtzi leads Adaptive Brain Computations project in Cambridge; aiming to understand & test how learning happens:

"Vagus nerve stimulation takes advantage of the brain's neuroplasticity” to cure tinnitus: #neuroscience #tinnitus

Well read? How digital reading is changing (hurting) comprehension.

Intensive smartphone use causes your brain’s territory for processing thumb sensations2enlarge: 169articles in 4days!

Neuroplasticity in action - how your touch screen devices are changing your brain: #SortYourBrainOut @polarbearpirate

The Tortured Brain - Insightful article that pulls together info on CIA torture practices, neuroplasticity & PTSD:

Something special about neuronal gamma activity (40Hz)-making mouse #brain supersensitive2gentle touch: #neuroscience

Sleep-Dependent Neuroplastic Changes during Auditory Perceptual Learning

Optical Illusions

Here You can change some visual attributes to increase or decrease the café wall illusion.

This is definitely one for @GCweirdscience Spinning chocolate cake illusion: Stunning #GeekChicWeirdScience

Optical illusions anyone? Go on, you know you wanna spend your lunch break tying your occipital lobe in knots:


Many pregnant women are slightly iodine deficient which can have knock on effect on their baby’s #brain development:

Supportive parenting is neuroprotective:

Amazingly, fatherhood actually changes a man’s #brain: #neuroplasticity #neuroscience #SortYourBrainOut #SYBO

For those archaic types that still believe a good spanking is good for your kids - not true, read this: #neuroscience


Nice example of using knowledge of the #brain to underpin habits of thinking that help you get what you want

Psychology is weird, child psychology is much weirder. By @jane_c_hu via @le_feufollet

Reward Pathways

"the striatum shows more activity to monetary rewards when the reward was judged to be fair” #SortYourBrainOut

Doing it with someone else makes it feel more intense: ...whatever “it” may be!

How to create an addictive gaming experience? Hijack the reward system. Unfortunately, it really is as easy as this..

Study investigating curiosity highlights the importance of dopamine in learning… not just pleasure and drive:

Stimulation of the "pleasure hub” (VTA) whilst mouse dreams of a certain place in space makes it prefer it when awake


"Stem cells in the tongue produce new taste cells every fortnight”

Olfactory Reveille: it’s now possible to purchase an alarm clock that emits the smell of bacon at "wakey-wakey" time!

New study: Neurons in your skin perform advanced calculations

Newsweek Interview: Digitising Smell: The Third Sense Is Coming to Your Phone - interview with @adriancheok

Every cloud... silver lining of #dyslexia is a #brain that is more adept at certain visual abilities: #neuroscience

Reaching for object of unknown size in cluttered environment people grasp correctly anyway - spooky! @GCweirdscience

Cunning study: how brain makes vision feel Hi-Def despite fovea only covering area size of thumbnail at arm’s length:

Why we don’t (usually) notice stunt doubles: Brain design "feature" not “flaw" #SYBO #SortYouBrainOut @GCweirdscience

Can humans really distinguish 1 trillion different odours? Or just 10? via @ewencallaway

Neuroscience of Taste: Chef's Creations Delight the Senses - Live Science

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas: The neuroscience of our nostalgia. #science

The taste of music - courtesy of the crown prince of multisensory interactions: Prof Charles Spence #SortYourBrainOut

If it was 1st April there’s no way I would post this - ‘average’ person can guess ur car from ur face: #weirdscience

How #brain sees shape that isn’t really there. Less activity required when illusory contours perceived

Insights into vision from people blind from birth but given back the gift of sight in adulthood by science/medicine:

Where Hollywood movies and #neuroscience converge:


"Working antisocial hours can prematurely age the brain&dull intellectual ability” #SortYourBrainOut - get a new job?

Not just too little (<6hrs) but also too much (>8hrs) sleep is linked2poorer cognitive function in older people

"The less older adults sleep, the faster their brains age”

Soothing/tingling sensation travels over scalp in response to specific types of sensory stimulation

I often bang on about importance of good night sleep for brain health -so it’s good to see evidence accumulating

Lack of sleep linked to negative thinking (and neurodegeneration

Doesn't surprise me one little bit: … I often find myself continuing daytime tasks in my sleep (even debugging code!)

Earlier I admitted2solving computer programming bugs in my sleep.According2 @sciammind it's been going on since 60’s!

Implanting designer gene into certain region of brainstem makes deep sleep switch-on-and-offable:

In #SortYourBrainOut @polarbearpirate & I stress importance of sleep for brain health,here’s why + ways2improve sleep

Not big, not clever... going without sleep is deleterious to brain function:

Love how cunning yet simple this experiment is: - establishing whether or not we dream in slow motion

To Sleep, Perchance To Learn: why memory suffers when we’re sleep deprived & the chemical injection that can boost it

"memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation..people are getting less sleep each night than..ever”

Meditate While Lying in Bed For More Restful Sleep

Get a new iPad for Christmas? Don’t use it just before bedtime or it will screw up your sleep:

'Sleep drunkenness' more common than thought:

The chicken and egg of sleep problems / beta amyloid deposition in the brain of elderly people:

Why we yawn:


How stress hormones promote brain's building of negative memories

Impact of stress on body and brain is a core part of SortYourBrainOut philosophy. Brilliantly described here:

Window to the Soul

"pupil dilation correlated more closely with perceived effort than actual effort” - for both physical & mental effort

Catching undiagnosed glaucoma before it damages vision - simply by analysing eye movements whilst people watch telly:

Young Brains

In low-income neighborhoods, 1 book is available for every 300 kids. In richer areas the ratio is 13 books per child

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades:

What happens in a teenager’s brain when they are criticised by their mother (what it means is another matter)

Analysis of 5-HT receptors in brainstems of babies who died of SIDS (a.k.a. cot death) reveal new subtypes/functions:

A Vaccine for Childhood Anxiety: Effort-Based Praise

Baby brains - how you curate their environments & choreograph their social interactions sculpts their personality:

Newborns spend about 16-17 hours sleeping a day. But about 80% of neonatal and newborn sleep time is actually REM ('dreaming') sleep.

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