Monthly Archives: March 2016

How Sleep Is Critical for Learning and Remembering – Podcast with Professor Marcos Frank

We do not enter into the world with infinite knowledge of ourselves and our surroundings. We don’t have knowledge or skill to survive, to dance, or to do martial arts with grace and efficiency. We don’t know enough about ourselves or know how to interact best with different types of people we encounter. We don’t know how to accelerate our ability to get better at something. We are born, however, with the capacity to learn and to remember, and by virtue of this skill, we have an incredible potential to do great things.

Professor Marcos FrankToday, important stuff happened to you. Tonight, when you sleep, your brain will extend the process of turning that stimulation – the sites, sounds, thoughts, emotions, facts, etc. – into memories that you can access at a moments notice in the future. It’s amazing when you think about it: experiences, facts, skills, and even thought patterns become a part of who we are. How much do you know now that you didn’t know 1o to 15 years ago, or even last week, last month, or yesterday? The process of accumulating information, and accessing when needed, is so routine it’s easy to forget that something is going to make it possible. As it turns out, sleep plays a vital role in the formation of certain types of memories. In this interview, I speak with someone who has made, and continues to make, significant contributions to help the world better understand how all this magic works. My guest is Marcos Frank, Ph.D., who is the Interim Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did.


When Is the Best Time to Eat?

Around this time of year, much of the world is advancing their clocks by one hour to make efficient use of seasonal daylight. Americans switched to Daylight Savings Time last week, and this week Europeans will revert to Summer Time.

When this happens, we all “lose” an hour of sleep, because we have to get up and get things done an hour earlier than we have been. This is in relation not just to the light and dark cycles of the day, but also to our body clocks.

One hour sounds like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how we function, at least in the short term. For example, data from the past two decades shows that there is a statistically significant spike in the number of car wrecks on the Monday immediately following the shift to Daylight Savings Time in the US.

As we all adjust to the time change, it’s worthwhile to consider how other aspects of our lives can sway our circadian rhythms. Circadian clocks govern the rhythms of sleep and activity in virtually all animals and are responsive to a variety of stimuli like light and stress. Research is starting to suggest that our eating patterns – specifically when we eat – can also have a pervasive impact.


Introducing the humanOS Radio Podcast with Guest, Professor Matt Buman

I am very happy to announce our new podcast, humanOS Radio. The aim is interview three categories of people: 1) Researchers whose work informs us about some aspect of how we live, 2) Entrepreneurs who are translating science into solutions, and 3) Investors making bets to predict (and support) the major future influencers on health. The format will be flexible, but most shows will around 30 minutes or less. I think the best way to get a sense of what humanOS will deliver is to listen to an episode or two. Without further ado, please find my conversation with Matt Buman, PhD., who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University.


How Exercise Helps You Learn

In this series of articles, we look at the effects of exercise on the brain, including how it helps us maximize our capacity to learn. In the previous post, we saw how moderate-intensity exercise helps enhance cognition by increasing brain blood flow. However, this effect works in the short term, as long as we continue to maintain the right exercise-intensity level: Not intense enough and we don’t augment blood flow to the brain; too intense and blood flow returns to baseline flow levels all while the demands of exercise require us to increasingly focus on the exercise itself (not the problem you’re trying to solve in your head).

So, an interesting question to ask is this: can exercise induce lasting improvements in cognitive ability? Current research suggests that the answer to this question is yes. Exercise promotes an increase in the levels of certain substances that enhance the brain’s capacity to acquire and retain new information.


Starving Cancer of Glucose and Glutamine

Biologists have known for nearly a century that some types of cancer cells consume significantly more glucose than normal cells.

Regular cells burn most of a sugar molecule in their mitochondria in order to make energy, which is why mitochondria are often referred to as cellular “power plants.”

Cancer cells, however, function quite differently. They rely heavily upon another energy-producing process in the metabolism of sugar called glycolysis. This produces energy faster, but also extracts much less of it from the sugar molecule. Cancer’s preference for glycolysis has been dubbed the “Warburg effect,” after German physiologist, and Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg, who was the first to demonstrate it experimentally.

It has never been entirely clear why the difference exists. Cancer cells presumably need a considerable amount of energy in order to grow and proliferate throughout the body. How do they do it?