Cognition

Articles

Can a Scale that Leverages Behavioral Economics Help You Lose Weight? (Podcast interview with Professor Dan Ariely)

Why do we repeatedly make decisions that we know will undermine our goals – like procrastinating, or spending too much money?
Nowhere is this sort of self-defeating pattern more evident than in health-related behaviors. For example, in order to successfully lose weight and maintain weight loss, we need to make a variety of different choices on a daily basis. Yet most of us struggle to consistently make the right decisions, even when we know what we should be doing.
Advances in digital technology have given us unprecedented access to data through wearable devices, which can provide continuous information about our bodies and physical performance. But humans are not robots, and what we do with that information does not always support our long-term goals.
In this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Dr. Dan Ariely. Dan is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He has dedicated his life to understanding irrational behaviors. He has long recognized that even with access to useful information, we don’t always make the right choices. Furthermore, how we respond emotionally to health-related data can be counterproductive.
Body weight can be a particularly treacherous metric in this respect. For instance, due to shifts in water balance in the body, your weight can fluctuate up and down all the time, for reasons that often aren’t really related to body composition. Dr. Ariely became interested in this phenomenon and resolved to design a better scale that took these psychological tendencies into account. In this interview, I talk with Dr. Ariely about this device and the research behind it. Click to learn more!


The New World of Cognitive Enhancement (with Daniel Schmachtenberger)

“Man is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain.” – Corneliu Giurgea

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I spoke with Daniel Schmachtenberger. Daniel is a social engineer, an evolutionary philosopher, and he works with a group called Neurohacker Collective, who is dedicated to optimizing human performance.

In this interview, we discuss current research investigating human cognitive enhancement and nootropics. We also talk specifically about the cognitive enhancer Qualia, which is a carefully formulated nootropic stack Daniel helped design.


Sauna Bathing for Brain and Heart Health (Guest Jari Laukkanen, MD, PhD)

Taking a hot sauna regularly can feel good and relax you, but can it also prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease?

If you’re from the US, you probably associate saunas with gyms and spas. But saunas have existed in some form for hundreds of years, particularly in Scandinavia, where they are used regularly as part of the culture. Nowhere are they more ubiquitous than in Finland – it is estimated that 99% of Finns use one at least once per week. They have traditionally been used as places to relax with friends and family and to recover from intense physical activity.

And while sauna usage is typically associated with health behaviors, like for example using a sauna after exercise or before sleep as a way to relax, research has now taken a closer look to see if sauna usage itself is health promoting.

In the newest episode of humanOS Radio, I talk with Jari Laukkanen, MD, Ph.D. Jari is a clinical cardiologist who runs a research lab at the University of Eastern Finland. He primarily studies the role of a wide range of cardiometabolic risk factors in relation to cardiovascular disease. In his latest study, he and his colleagues examined thousands of Finnish men over the course of two decades. Participants were divided into groups based on how frequently they sauna. It turns out that men who sauna more frequently appear to have a tremendous benefit to their heart and brain health. Listen here to learn more.


Social Norms – Mysterious Forces That Shape Eating

You are fully in control over your food choices, right? Well, we know that a wide range of rules govern how we act, and even our beliefs, when we are with different groups of people. Social psychologists characterize this influence as ‘social norms,’ and guess what? This influence affects eating, too.

In this latest episode of humanOS radio, I interview Emma Templeton from Thalia Wheatley’s lab at Dartmouth and Michael Stanton, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing & Health Sciences, California State University, East Bay. Recently, they published a study in the journal, PLoS ONE, that elegantly tests the influence of social norms on the perceived healthfulness of food and also eating behavior. Listen here to listen.


New Discovery Could Mean Better, Next-Generation Sleep Drugs

Why is it that when you’re binge watching your favorite new series on Netflix, you can stay up for hours past your normal bedtime – even if you were tired before you started watching? On the other hand, if you weren’t being entertained or captivated by a game or puzzle, you’d be much more likely to be lulled to sleep at that time. Indeed, sleep and goal-directed behaviors are mutually exclusive: you can’t do both at the same time. While this relationship is intuitively clear, for the first time, scientists at Stanford have clarified the circuitry between the brain’s reward and arousal systems. In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Luis de Lecea, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. Recently, he and his colleagues published a study in the prestigious journal Nature demonstrating that dopamine neuron activity (in the ventral tegmental area of the brain) is necessary in order to be awake. Furthermore, when they inhibited these neurons, there were able to promote what seemed like natural, healthy sleep.


The Most Advanced Understanding of How to Optimize Motivation, with Dustin DiTommaso

Where to you get the energy to do something hard or inconvenient? It matters because so much of what’s important in life comes from finding that strength. The topic of the discussion in this podcast is motivation, which can be described as the activation energy needed to do most-to-all volitional activities. Specifically, we’ll be discussing the leading behavior model of motivation called Self-Determination Theory. Like most complex subjects, motivation is NOT a monolithic entity, although it’s usually referred to as if it were. Rather, there are different types of motivation, and these different types have different affects on behavior. The good news is that with a greater understanding of the subject, you can better strategize when to use the specific types and, ultimately, how to use various the types together to stay engaged with something that is important but hard or inconvenient, long term.


Attention Deficit: Biological Condition or Cultural Creation?

What is attention deficit disorder?

In this latest episode of HumanOS Radio (iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube) I speak with Professor Stephen Hinshaw of UC Berkeley. Much of his research has focused on the causes of and treatment for hyperactivity and similar behavioral problems in children and adolescents.

In our chat, we discuss the background of ADHD, how it was historically characterized and diagnosed, and some of the many theories of what causes the condition. Then we will explore some of the most common treatments, as well as some of the unique challenges associated with understanding and resolving mental illness in general.


Brainy Beds? Professor David Samson on Sleeping Platforms, Sleep Quality, and Thinking Speed, plus News!

Did our brains evolve as they have due to how we slept? In part, likely yes. In this episode of the humanOS Radio podcast, I speak with Professor David Samson about his research looking at primate sleeping platforms and their potential role to increase the cognitive abilities of certain great apes beyond the capacities of other primates. How does this connection work? The primates who create more comfortable beds for themselves appear to achieve substantial amounts of deep and REM sleep over the night. This is turn may have lead to the expansion of cognitive abilities over time. Can you benefit from the information shared in this discussion to improve your own sleep?


Top Health News This Week (May 7-20, 2016)

Every day, we collect the most interesting health and biology news out there, and post it on our Facebook Fan Page and on Twitter. But news and social media move fast, and it’s hard to keep up with everything that comes out every day. Here is a handy roundup of all of the most compelling stories we encountered this week – in case you missed something awesome.

This week, we covered information related to 1) nutrition, 2) sleep & circadian rhythms, 3) physical activity, and 4) aging, fasting & inflammation.


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.