The myth of multi-tasking.
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
5M ago
Paying attention to the statistics A few years ago, I was invited to speak to a group of teenagers who had been brought together to create innovative road safety solutions for their peers. The statistics they were grappling with were: 88% of young drivers admit to using their mobile phones while driving. Texting is the most prevalent behaviour at traffic lights (50%) and while driving (25%). 25% of drivers check email, social media and the internet at the lights, and 15% do so while driving. They considered the problem in light of the following sobering statistics (data from the Queensland G ..read more
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Motherhood: hardwired or learned?
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
6M ago
The age-old nature versus nurture debate is alive and kicking in the world of pregnancy and parenting. Is the intuitive ability to nurture infants written into the female genome? Is maternal instinct a patriarchal myth designed to keep women locked in the home? Is oxytocin (literally, the hormone which allows swift childbirth) an absolute requirement for parental empathy? Or can fathers and non-birth mothers learn by doing? Do women forget because pregnancy shrunk their brain? Or are they so frazzled by the demands of trying to do it all that their attention is torn and they’re too tired to n ..read more
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This is your brain on placebo effects
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
7M ago
You might feel better immediately when you visit your doctor to get a pill to treat a sore back. But how much of your recovery is due to the pill you’ve swallowed? How much of your recovery is ‘in your head’? If your doctor reveals the prescribed pill was a sugar pill, do you feel deceived, or are you impressed by the power of the human brain? In 2015, these questions were explored in a fascinating piece in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, The neuroscience of placebo effects: connecting context, learning and health. Authors Tor Wager, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Un ..read more
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Brain-to-Brain Synchrony: How Neuroscience Decodes Trust, Rapport and Attachment
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
8M ago
Because we’re social creatures, we tend to synchronise our actions and emotions (or at least the ones we choose to express) with the people we’re surrounded by. Physiological synchrony helps us feel we’re more strongly connected with other people. When people sing in a choir, their heartbeats synchronise. When dancers move together in a troupe, their breathing patterns match (and remarkably, so do the breathing rates of audience members watching the dancers!). Synchrony may be another of Mother Nature’s tricks to ensure we bond and trust other people — it’s like the social glue that holds grou ..read more
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How to go with the flow.
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
11M ago
Whitewater kayakers and musicians experience it. So do video gamers, rock climbers, and experienced meditators. If you’ve ever experienced losing complete track of time or your sense of self when you are engrossed in a difficult yet satisfying task, chances are you have experienced it too. They call the optimal state of consciousness in which you perform and feel your best ‘flow’. What is flow? The concept of flow was first described by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi who described it as: “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter ..read more
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Curiosity changes the brain to boost memory and learning.
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
1y ago
Emma Saville, The Conversation The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to remember not only information about that topic, but also other unrelated information shown at the same time. A study published in 2014 in Neuron shows what happens inside our brains when our curiosity is sparked. Participants in the study were asked to rate how curious they were to find out the answer to a specific trivia question, such as: “What does the term ‘dinosaur’ actually mean?” The participants were then placed in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine that measures brain activity, based on c ..read more
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Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift”
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
1y ago
Scientists call the trillions of microbes that inhabit your body the microbiome. They outnumber your own cells ten to one and weigh up to twice the weight of the average human brain. Most of them live in your gut and intestines, where they help to digest food, synthesise vitamins and ward off infection. The microbiome extends its influence to the brain. In November 2014, members of the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) held a symposium titled Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. A summary paper of emerging topics covered in the symposium claimed, “…the disc ..read more
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Does CBT teach your prefrontal cortex to keep emotions in check?
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
1y ago
Does CBT Teach Your Prefrontal Cortex To Keep Emotions In Check? In 2014, science journalist Emily Anthes wrote a piece on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Here are a few of the highlights from Anthes’ piece and 2023 research update. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) lifts depression CBT aims to help people to identify and change negative, self-destructive thought patterns. The programme equipped patients with the skills they needed to critically examine their negative beliefs and become their own therapists. It doesn’t work for everyone, but the stats on recovery showed an interesting ..read more
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Are music lessons the key to smarter kids?
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
1y ago
My youngest son is now 13, but when he was four, he started piano lessons. Four years old might seem a little young, but the classes were designed to make learning music fun. His teachers used a unique multi-sensory approach that engages the different senses: auditory, visual and kinaesthetic (movement). The kids learned the notes do, re, mi, fa, so, etc, and each note had a corresponding colour, place on the body (do, the lowest note, is down on the toes…), and animal! His teachers believed piano is the best instrument to start on because: All of the notes are easily accessible – meaning eac ..read more
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The coffee drinker’s guide to better brain health
Dr Sarah McKay Blog
by Sarah McKay
1y ago
Two early-morning long blacks. A lunchtime flat white (especially if I’m near a cafe). And sometimes a sneaky pick-me-up afternoon espresso. Time to come clean: that’s a typical day for me. I guess to many of you, that might seem like WAY too much caffeine.  But I’m not concerned because neuroscience shows that coffee has neuroprotective effects. Neuroscience and coffee. According to international statistics, the world’s highest per capita coffee consumption is among Finns, with 12.0 kg in the year 2007, followed by 9.9 kg among Norwegians and 8.7 kg among Danes. Studies of ..read more
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