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Study of brain activity shows that food commercials influence children’s food choices

Science Daily – Staff Writer

“Food advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry, with approximately $1.8 billion annually aimed at children and adolescents, who view between 1,000 and 2,000 ads per year. Some studies have shown that there is a relationship between receptivity to food commercials and the amount and type of food consumed. In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the brain activity of children after watching food commercials and found that the commercials influence children’s food choices and brain activity. Twenty-three children, 8-14 years old, rated 60 food items on how healthy or tasty they were. Dr. Amanda Bruce and researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and University of Missouri-Kansas City then studied the children’s brain activity while watching food and non-food commercials and undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). According to Dr. Bruce, “For brain analyses, our primary focus was on the brain region most active during reward valuation, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.” During the brain scan, children were asked whether they wanted to eat the food items that were shown immediately after the commercials.”(more)

What’s Going On Inside the Brain When We Play Music?

KQED News Mind/Shift – Staff Writer

“Humans love music, especially when there’s repetition that catches the attention. And even though many people listen to music to relax, the brain is doing a lot of work to break apart and understand the music before putting it all together again. Brain scans of people listening to music show many different parts of the brain firing at once, but that’s nothing compared to what’s going on inside the brains of musicians themselves. “Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full body workout,” says educator Anita Collins in a TED-Ed video on how playing music benefits the brain. Playing music requires the visual, auditory, and motor cortices all at once and since fine motor skills require both hemispheres of the brain, the act of playing music may strengthen the bridge between the two sides.”(more)

Childhood head injury linked to higher risk of poor adult mental health and life chances

Science Daily – Staff Writer

“Childhood brain injuries, including concussions, are associated with an increased risk of subsequent mental illness, poor school attainment and premature death, according to a study published today in PLOS Medicine. A research team, based in the UK, US and Sweden, funded by Wellcome, analysed data from more than a million Swedes born between 1973 and 1985 to examine the long-term impact of having a traumatic brain injury before the age of 25. Professor Seena Fazel from Oxford University, lead author of the study, explained: ‘Swedish data recording makes it possible to link anonymised health, welfare and education records. We looked at low educational attainment, instances of psychiatric care, receiving welfare and disability benefit and early death.”(more)

4 ways to keep your kid’s brains active during the summer

KSL.com – Staff Writer

“School is out for the summer. Kids have spent the last nine months cramming as much knowledge as they can into their developing brains. Yet they can lose a lot of those new skills during the lull of the summertime. “There are all sorts of studies that talk about kids losing skills over the summer if they don’t continue to practice what they learned from the previous year,” said Jody Triptow, education specialist at Primary Children’s Hospital. Reading fluency and comprehension and math literacy and skills are some areas that can weaken during this time. Here are four ways to keep your children intellectually active.”(more)

Our brain benefits from an overlap in grammar when learning a foreign language

Max Planck Society – Staff Writer

“Researchers from Nijmegen have for the first time captured images of the brain during the initial hours and days of learning a new language. They use an artificial language with real structures to show how new linguistic information is integrated into the same brain areas used for your native language…The major discovery was that the brain cares whether or not the grammatical properties of the new language (in this case, word order) resemble the grammatical properties of your native language. If they are similar, your brain uses its own grammar in learning the new language. And if the word order of the new language differs from your mother tongue, your brain needs to build a new grammatical repertoire. For the first time, researchers have shown that it helps the brain if it can reuse characteristics of our mother tongue when learning a new language.”(more)

Why Kids Need Unstructured Play—And Why They’re Not Getting It

Independent Women’s Forum – Rachel DiCarlo Currie

“…here’s what a team of researchers from the University of Virginia concluded after studying changes in U.S. public-school kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2010: Our findings suggest a shift toward more challenging (and potentially more engaging) literacy and math content. However, they also highlight a concerning drop in time spent on art, music, science, and child-selected activities…As the UVA team indicated, there are potential benefits to the new regime. Yet it is indeed troubling that, in their eagerness to make kindergarten more “academic,” teachers and administrators seem to be reducing opportunities for children to explore their imaginations, improve their creativity, and cultivate key social skills…All of this has implications for children’s brain development. “The experience of play”—unstructured play, that is—“changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain,” University of Lethbridge scientist Sergio Pellis has explained. “And without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed.”…The bottom line is that, far from being a frivolous distraction, unstructured play is an essential complement to classroom instruction.”(more)