Smart yoga mat can be used as personal trainer


This smart yoga mat has been developed by a Munich-based company Lunar Europe. The mat dubbed Tera is embedded with sensors and a constellation of LED lights.

The embedded sensors would help in tracking pressure and shifts in body movement while the data is used to cue patterns in the lights, designed to guide stance and posture.

According to a report, an app connects to the mat through Bluetooth, cueing up lights along the way.

The mat is designed in a circular shape, which helps to accommodate the natural radius of human motion, making transitions between poses and keeping up the flow of the practice easier.

Tera can accommodate yoga meant for weight control or strengthening back muscles.

Source; post

Sharing your stress can reduce fears, study shows

A new study from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles suggests stress isn’t something you should keep to yourself.

Research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests sharing your stress with someone who is having a similar emotional reaction may reduce stress levels more than sharing with someone who is not experiencing similar stress levels.

In the study, researchers measured participants’ emotional states, levels of the stress hormone cortisol and perception of threat when faced with the task of preparing and giving a videotaped speech. The 52 female undergraduate participants were divided into pairs and encouraged to discuss how they felt about the situation before giving their speeches.

Researchers found that when the pairs were in a similar emotional state, it helped buffer each individual against high levels of stress.

Their findings could be useful for people experiencing stress at work.

“For instance, when you’re putting together an important presentation or working on a high-stakes project, these are situations that can be threatening and you may experience heightened stress,” study leader Sarah Townsend, assistant professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, told Medical News Today. “But talking with a colleague who shares your emotional state can help decrease this stress.”

Source; Fox news

How Music Can Boost Our Workouts

Making music — and not just listening to it — while exercising makes the exercise easier, a remarkable new experiment finds, suggesting that the human love of music may have evolved, in part, to ease physical effort.

Researchers and exercisers have long known, of course, that listening to music alters the experience of exercising. Earlier studies have shown, for instance, that briskly paced music tends to inspire equally briskly paced workouts, and that music also can distract and calm nervous competitors before a race or other high-pressure situation, improving their subsequent performance.

But to date, no one had thought to investigate whether creating — and not merely hearing — music might have an effect on workouts, let alone whether the impact would be qualitatively different than when exercisers passively listen to music pumped through gym speakers or their ear buds.

So, for the new study, which was published online last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and other institutions began by inventing an electronic kit that could be integrated into the internal workings of weight-training machines, transforming them into oversize boom boxes. Once installed, the kit would produce a range of propulsive, electronic-style music with a variety of sound levels and rhythms, depending on how the machine’s weight bar or other mechanisms were manipulated during workouts.

The researchers installed the kits into three different workout machines, one a stair-stepper, the other two weight machines with bars that could be raised or pulled down to stimulate various muscles.

They then recruited a group of 63 healthy men and women and divided them into groups, each of which was assigned to use one of the musically equipped machines during a strenuous though brief six-minute exercise session.

As the volunteers strained, their machines chirped and pinged with a thumping 130 beats per minute, the sound level rising or falling with each individual’s effort and twining with the rhythms created by the other two exercisers. “Participants could express themselves on the machines by, for instance, modulating rhythms and creating melodies,” said Thomas Hans Fritz, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute who led the study.

The groups were, in effect, D.J.’ing their workouts, creating sounds that echoed their physical efforts.

During a separate exercise session, each group used the same machines, but minus the musical add-ons, while elsewhere in the gym, other volunteers sweated at the musically equipped machines, meaning that one group was passively listening to sounds created by another.

Throughout each workout, the researchers monitored the force their volunteers generated while using the machines, as well as whether the weight lifters’ movements tended to stutter or flow and how much oxygen the volunteers consumed, a reliable measure of physical effort. Afterward, the scientists asked the volunteers to rate the tolerability or unpleasantness of the session, on a scale from 1 to 20.

Tabulated afterward, the results showed that most of the volunteers had generated significantly greater muscular force while working at the musically equipped machines than the unmodified ones. They also had used less oxygen to generate that force and reported that their exertions had felt less strenuous. Their movements were also more smooth in general, resulting in a steadier flow of music.

Creating their own rhythms and melodies had lowered the physiological cost of exercise and greatly increased its subjective allure compared with when the exercisers passively listened to virtually the same music, Dr. Fritz said.

A similar dynamic may have motivated early humans to whistle or hum while they hunted or tilled and later to raise their voices in song during barn raisings and other intense physical labor, he said.

But why orchestrating your own soundtrack should have more physical benefit than merely hearing similar music in the background is not altogether clear.

“We think that the observed effects are most probably due to a greater degree of emotional motor control,” when you actively engage in making music, Dr. Fritz said. Emotional motor control, as opposed to the more workaday “deliberate” type that normally guides our muscular movements, he said, operates almost below consciousness. Your body responds to it with little volition and you move, he said, with reduced effort and increased joy. This is “musical ecstasy,” Dr. Fritz said, and it seems to have permeated, to some degree, the gym where the exercisers composed music while sweating.

Unfortunately, the musical kits that Dr. Fritz and his colleagues have developed are not available commercially, although they may be in the future. For now, he said, you may need to content yourself with purposely ignoring the supplied soundtrack at your local gym and instead singing to yourself. Perhaps harmonize, no matter how tunelessly, with a workout partner. Disdain naysayers and music lovers. You will be, in the felicitous phrasing of Dr. Fritz, “jymming; that’s like jamming, but with a ‘y’ from ‘gym.’”


Are you feeling forgetful: here are some tips

Forgetfulness may be a normal sign of aging, or a warning sign of a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease.

In case of the former, the National Institute on Aging suggests how to help sharpen your memory:

  • Create lists or use a calendar.
  • Associate what you want to remember with something meaningful, such as a favorite song or TV show.
  • Engage in new hobbies that challenge you physically and mentally.
  • Get plenty of regular exercise.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Find healthy ways to manage anxiety and stress, and see a doctor if you struggle with these feelings.



How sleep loss adversely affects immune system

Researchers have identified the genes that are most susceptible to sleep deprivation and are examining if these genes are involved in the regulation of the immune system.

Conducted at the sleep laboratory of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the study restricted the amount of sleep of a group of healthy young men to four hours per night for five days, imitating the schedule of a normal working week.

Blood samples were taken before and after the sleep deprivation test. White blood cells were isolated from the samples, and the expression of all genes at the time of the sampling was examined using microarrays.

The results were compared with samples from healthy men of comparable age who had been sleeping eight hours per night for the week.

Researcher Vilma Aho said that they compared the gene expression before and after the sleep deprivation period, and focused on the genes whose behaviour was most strongly altered.

She said that the expression of many genes and gene pathways related to the functions of the immune system was increased during the sleep deprivation.

Aho asserted that there was an increase in activity of B cells which are responsible for producing antigens that contribute to the body’s defensive reactions, but also to allergic reactions and asthma. This may explain the previous observations of increased asthmatic symptoms in a state of sleep deprivation.

The amount of certain interleukins, or signaling molecules promote inflammation, increased, as did the amount of associated receptors such as Toll-like receptors (TLR). On the gene level, this was apparent in the higher-than-normal expression of the TLR4 gene after sleep loss. CRP level was also elevated, indicating inflammation.

The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.



Sleep: very important to maintain healthy lifestyle

Three new studies have shown that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is important for adults to seek treatment for a sleep illness and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

One study of 2,240 adults is the first to examine the link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and mortality in Asians.

Results showed that all-cause mortality risk was 2.5 times higher and cardiovascular mortality risk was more than 4 times higher among people with severe OSA.

Another study of 2,673 patients in Australia found that untreated OSA is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes in very sleepy men as well as near-misses in men and women.

Participants with untreated OSA reported crashes at a rate three times higher than the general community.

That last study examined the relationship between sleep duration and self-rated health in Korean adults.

Results showed that short sleep duration of 5 hours or less per day and long sleep duration of 9 hours or more per day was associated with poor self-rated health.

All three of the studies are published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.


Playing Music Is Good for Brain

It makes sense in a culture that invented iPods and ear buds that music is emerging as a potent force for helping us stay mentally fit as we age. Unresponsive nursing home patients are finding their old, awake-to-the-world selves through playback of some of their favorite tunes.

Scientists are investigating the therapeutic powers of specific rhythms. And across the country, groups of seniors are participating in drum circles. Playing music, it turns out, can help sharpen the brain and heal the body, and it’s especially beneficial as we get older – even if you can’t read a note.

If you’ve never tickled the ivories or coaxed a jazz tune from a trumpet, the web can help you get started, from finding a music teacher in your neighborhood or connecting with a local group, to learning how to play chords via video or grasping the foundations of music theory on interactive sites.

What’s so good About Playing Music?

Before you start your musical journey, you might wonder what makes the trip worthwhile.

  • Exercise the brain
  • Fight memory loss
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Ward off depression
  • Inspire creativity
  • Increase productivity
  • Decrease the incidence of job burnout for those still working
  • Reduce stress
  • Help you socialize
  • Be an emotional outlet

Playing a musical instrument increases the amount of gray matter in the motor, auditory and visual-spatial areas of the brain, according to the Journal of Neuroscience, which in turn may reduce age-related mental decline. 


What happens to your body when you get jealous

We’re probably all hardwired for jealousy; even babies and dogs feel it. Not to be confused with envy, which is about coveting what someone else has (e.g., a fab house), jealousy is about protecting what’s yours—or what you think is yours. It frequently involves a me-you-her romantic triangle and often crops up at the start of a relationship.

The Mind Game
It might not be a “jealousy center,” but scientists suspect the brain’s left frontal cortex, which deals in emotions like shame, is involved.

Another key player is your noggin’s dopamine system; it regulates the chemical associated with happiness or reward.

Spurred by the above are the three types of jealousy:

Reactive jealousy happens after your mate has actually deceived you. You know he strayed and feel PO’ed, anxious, or sad. (Ditto if, for example, you caught your BFF out with a fun new friend.)

Suspicious jealousy rears its head when you see him flirting with someone else or if you start to doubt his commitment. Cue feelings of insecurity and distrust.

Delusional jealousy takes over when either of the above swell to the point of obsession, a la Fatal Attraction. You might act irrationally (freaking if he ogles an actress) or fanatically (creepily checking up on him).

The Body Blow
Once you’re green-eyed, you might have trouble seeing anything else—quite literally. A study found that women in the throes of jealousy had trouble spotting obvious objects. The greater their jealousy, the harder time they had. (Note to self: No driving while jealous!)

Jealousy might also kick-start the body’s stress response. Enter an overflow of stress hormones, spiked blood pressure, and an increased heart rate.

The End Results
Except for any delusion, these reactions could be. . .good for you. Researcher’s believe that jealousy evolved in humans to motivate people to protect the unions that would help them survive. (Hence, jealousy is often followed by aggression.)

In other words, jealousy is an innate part of life and no cause for embarrassment. Studies show that couples who get just a little green-eyed from time to time tend to have long, rich unions.


Key to healthy brain: Exercise

     A new study has discovered that exercising regularly can reduce one’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease, by keeping the brain healthy.

Dr Maree Farrow, co-author of the paper released by Alzheimer’s Australia and Fitness Australia, said that about half of Alzheimer cases are potentially attributable to risk factors one can change, reported.

The study showed that a little boost in the number of physically active people could have a dramatic impact on the number of dementia cases.

Source: Deccan chronicle

Learning and memory disorders could soon become history

 Researchers have created new, specific memories by direct manipulation of the brain that could help understand and potentially resolve learning and memory disorders.

Research led by senior author Norman M. Weinberger, a research professor of neurobiology and behaviour at UC Irvine, and colleagues has shown that specific memories can be made by directly altering brain cells in the cerebral cortex, which produces the predicted specific memory.

The researchers say this is the first evidence that memories can be created by direct cortical manipulation.

During the research, Weinberger and colleagues played a specific tone to test rodents then stimulated the nucleus basalis deep within their brains, releasing acetylcholine (ACh), a chemical involved in memory formation. This procedure increased the number of brain cells responding to the specific tone.

The following day, the scientists played many sounds to the animals and found that their respiration spiked when they recognized the particular tone, showing that specific memory content was created by brain changes directly induced during the experiment. Created memories have the same features as natural memories including long-term retention.

The study has been published in Neuroscience.