Spatial Awareness, Emotions and Memory


Three years ago I had the opportunity to present our work at Advanced Brain Technologies to the attendees of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization Conference in Boston. You meet the most interesting people at these events. One standout from this gathering was a fascinating woman named Dr. G, Chief Brainiac behind The George Greenstein Institute, and one of the brainy minds behind Inventio!Brains.

Since Boston we’ve kept in touch through the social network and industry events like the Sharp Brain Virtual Summit.  I’ve grown increasingly curious about the lens Dr. G sees the world through bridging between neuroscience and the arts, so I’ve invited her to join me as a guest on the Sound Brain Fitness Teleseminar Series tomorrow evening to explore her work.

You can learn more about this event below. Registration is free. I hope you’ll join us for what I am sure will be a fun and informative hour.     

Spatial Awareness, Emotions and Memory 

Some call it cognitive mapping. Some call it spatial memory. Whatever you call it, be sure to recognize and practice the strategic use of your hippocampal networks for dynamic, whole brain attention, memory and growth!

Drawing on decades of research and teaching of applied neuroscience and spatial mapping practices to artists and designers, Dr. Greenstein shares her insights on training spatial awareness, emotions and memory and the “What, How, When and Where” value distinctions between using stimulus reward and strategic mapping practices for gaming.

In this talk, Alex and his guest, an expert in applied neuroscience and “knowledge transfer” Dr. M. A. Greenstein will explore 3 big ideas impacting your brain health and ed/psych practices:

• Cognitive Mapping and Landmarking is the best kept secret for promoting good brain health practice through your lifetime

• Active Observation and Mindful Attention are key for promoting Cognitive Mapping and Landmarking

• Cognitive Mapping and Landmarking are encoded, stored and used again by visual and spatial strategies found in performing arts training as well as online gaming

Date: April 3, 2013   Time: 8:00 pm Eastern

Free Registration

Rock-a-bye Brain

A Good Laugh and a Long Sleep

Guest Post By: Seth Horowitz, Ph.D., Neuroscientist and author The Universal Sense

Sometimes the best science is done by looking at the obvious — the daily behaviors that we do — to solve a mystery.  And watching almost any sleep-deprived parent and his or her young child will give you an instant insight into two powerful mechanisms that underlie human sleep, one of neuroscience’s greatest mysteries, as the parent rocks his or her infant back and forth, crooning a lullaby.  These are two behaviors that have probably been used by humans seeking sleep for their children (and themselves) since humans first appeared, and both are driven by our ears.

It may seem odd to think that rocking someone to sleep has anything to do with your ears, but your ears contain two sensory systems — the auditory system for hearing sounds, and the vestibular system, which normally underlies balance.  Both are driven by similar types of sensors, called hair cells. These are tiny, tufted cylinders with tips that wave back and forth in fluid -filled chambers, each responding to different types of motion: oscillations of pressure waves that are translated into sound, and slower, linear or angular motions based on how the head moves (which drives balance).

Normally, the two systems are separate, projecting to different areas of the brain and helping define different ways in which we sense our environment.  But both systems can overlap under certain circumstances. Managing sleep is one of the most profound ways in which they interact.

Balance and the Vestibular System: your brain’s way of processing movement

One of the things that the balance system does is let us know when things are wrong with the way we are moving.  Standing on a boat in high seas, your vestibular system will tell you that the world is moving up and down at one rhythm, while your stomach and eyes are experiencing movement in different directions.  Radical motions that separate what your inner ears and your eyes tell you are happening trigger nauseogenic motion sickness.  But slow down the motion, make it almost regular, slower, and gentler, and your inner ears do something odd.  They put you to sleep.  Whether it’s a baby rocking gently or a passenger in a car, bus, or train, gentle vibrations transmitted through your body to your inner ears trigger another form of motion sickness. It’s called Sopite syndrome, and, rather than making you want to lose your lunch or die, it activates your global sleep network.  But it’s not always convenient to drive your child around on bumpy roads to get her to drift off, or possible to rock your baby in a quiet environment.

Low frequency sounds: feel the beat

This is where the other part of your ears can help.  While normally there is no cross talk between your hearing and balance system, high pressure/low frequency sounds can trigger responses in the balance-sensitive hair cells in your ears.  This is why most effective dance music pumps up the bass, hijacking your sense of hearing to trigger motor responses. In other words, rhythmic deep bass sounds make you feel the beat and want to match it with body motion.

But the truth is, we don’t hear very low frequency sounds very well, and even sound pressure levels of 70 dB — what would seem like a moderately noisy street or bar scene at higher frequencies — are perceived as relatively quiet at lower frequency.  And here lies the opportunity.  By providing semi-regular, low frequency sounds that are audible, but not loud enough to make you want to dance or run away, you can trigger Sopite syndrome and provide a gateway to sleep.  And by providing soft, regular sounds in a familiar register (like the universal aspects of lullabies, which stretch back more than a thousand years), you block out the distracting environmental sounds that can interrupt falling asleep.

The Listening Program® SLEEP uses those combinations of sounds so that your ears tell your brain it’s time to sleep. You may not feel like you’re being rocked like a baby, but your brain will get that impression. And it’s all due to the two functions of your ears.

So the next time you do bundle your cranky child into the back seat of your car and finally get her to fall asleep, remember to thank her ears.  Just make sure you don’t let yourself get lulled by those very same inputs to your own brain.

Follow @SethSHorowitz

Thinking, Sleeping Fish


Before I get to sleeping fish I first have to share this remarkable video. Watch above. Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics in Shizuoka Prefecture have captured real-time video of thoughts forming in the brain of a zebrafish as it stalks its prey. Read more in Scientific American.  Zebrafish have also captured the attention of sleep scientists. How do you know a zebrafish is asleep you ask? According to Yokogawa et al., it stops swimming (for at least six seconds), stays immobile at the bottom or on the surface, and becomes less sensitive to external stimuli, such as a mild electric shock.

We recently received a 75 gallon aquarium as a gift. So, I have a new hobby, fish-keeper.  I’ve become fascinated watching the behavior of our community fish. Each species has unique traits, and I see the personality of each individual fish emerging. Our fancy goldfish that my three-year-old son has affectionately named ‘Nemo’ (because he is orange), comes alive and greets us like a puppy wagging his tail when you walk in the room. He is always clearly ready to eat. Picasso the plecostomus hides behind the driftwood until the lights go out and his nocturnal day begins. On occasion he rewards us with a daytime lap around the tank to let us know he is still alive and breathing.  We have a couple black moors that are pretty fun, and a school of catfish that act like a bunch of caffeinated monkeys with boundless energy. I don’t think they sleep, ever…

Now that I’m an official fish-keeper, knowing the utility scientists have found in zebrafish as research subjects; I’m considering adding some to our fish community and designing a sleep study. My research question is; will an auditory sleep aid influence the circadian rhythms of zebrafish? But before the study can begin, I have to solve a very real challenge. How do I get zebrafish to keep headphones on? If you have any ideas, please let me know!

The Power of Music


We have all experienced the healing power of music. Each of us instinctively select music we like to change our mental, physical, and emotional health.  Music effects research is helping us get a better grasp on what happens in the brain and body when we play and listen to music. As this understanding deepens, it improves our ability to select music which is good for us, and for companies like Advanced Brain Technologies to create evidence based music to give people healthy alternatives for improving their lives.

One of the leading neuroscientist’s helping us to understand what happens to the brain on music is Dr. Daniel Levitin of McGill University. He was interviewed by CBS News this past Saturday about the power of music. You can watch the video here

Neuroimaging: A Slippery Slope

Is there a brain image for that?

In the quest to seek understanding of who we are, and how we work, the exploration of the vast landscape of the human brain is helped immensely by functional neuroimaging. However, it is not the answer to all we seek.

The brain is a complex system of integrated networks that cannot simply be reduced to an image and our interpretation of what that image represents. We should remain holistic in the study of the brain, never forgetting the intricacy of this wondrous organ. Emotion and behavior is the result of a complex symphony, not to be judged based on the performance of a single musician in the orchestra.

The following article in the Atlantic is a great reminder to us all.  Your Complicated Amygdala: Why Brain-Imaging Work is Misleading delves into revealing work done by William Cunningham at Ohio State University recently published in Current Directions of Psychological Science.

Seeing is believing, which is a slippery slope when is comes to the brain. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it never tells the entire story.


A Week of Sound, Music and the Brain

Several months back a good friend Vera Brandes who is the head of music medicine research at Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg sent me a link to an event happening at the university in our home town of Ogden, Utah. The event- The Interdisciplinary Society for Quantitative Research in Music and Medicine Inaugural Music  & Medicine Symposium.  I had heard nothing of the young organization or the event about to take place in my own backyard. I was embarrassed a friend in Austria had to bring it to my attention. It was hard to believe such an important event was being held in our field of music effects research, in Ogden, and we knew nothing of it!  

So…Once I got the news I contacted the organizer Dr. David Akombo, co-founder of the organization and Assistant Professor of Music at Weber State University. We arranged a meeting, and quickly found many synergies. In short order ABT became the main sponsor and David and I went to work to expand the one day symposium to a full week of events with a partnership between Advanced Brain Technologies, Weber State University and The Interdisciplinary Society for Quantitative Research in Music and Medicine.

A Week of Sound, Music and the Brain is Five Powerful Events in ONE!

June 2-6, 2011 some of the world leaders in music medicine research will gather in Ogden, Utah along with students, musicians, educators, healthcare providers, and others interested in music and the brain.

Event highlights:

June 2- Healing at the Speed of Sound™ Workshop. A Day with Don Campbell and myself, ABT Provider Forum, and ABT Open House.

June 3- ISQRMM Inaugural Music & Medicine Symposium. Keynote address by Mark Jude Tramo of  The Institute for Music & Brain Science, research papers presented by investigators from across the world, live music performances, and a workshop I will lead on music listening therapy.

June 4-6- TLP Provider Certification Course for healthcare, education and music professionals to certify to offer The Listening Program® and other ABT solutions to their clients and students.

This is going to be a life changing week for those who attend.

I hope you will join us and help spread the word! Please visit the event website to register online and learn more.

Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment

The new book Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment by David Perlmutter,M.D., F.A.C.N. and Alberto Villando, Ph.D. was released today.

I have known David for a number of years, as a Scientific Advisor to my company and as the neurologist I refer people to when they show signs of or have a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. His previous books The Better Brain Book, and How to Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten are high on my list of recommended reading for those interested in matters of the brain. I am confident Power Up Your Brain will be added to the list!

From the author’s website- The quest for enlightenment has occupied mankind for millennia. And from the depictions we’ve seen-monks sitting on meditation cushions, nuns kneeling in prayer, shamans communing with the universe-it seems that this elusive state is reserved for a chosen few. But now, neuroscientist David Perlmutter and medical anthropologist and shaman Alberto Villoldo have come together to explore the commonalities between their specialties with the aim of making enlightenment possible for anyone. Joining the long-separated worlds of science and spirit, Perlmutter explores the exciting phenomena of neurogenesis and mitochondrial health, while Villoldo brings his vast knowledge of shamanic and spiritual practices to the table. Together they draw from the most powerful tools in each discipline to create the Power Up Your Brain program, a ground-breaking, five-week plan that helps prime the brain for enlightenment. With nutritional advice, dietary supplements, physical exercise, shamanic practices, meditation, and visualizations, Perlmutter and Villoldo guide readers, step by step, through a program to help them clear their minds from previous trauma and open themselves up to experience the inner peace, vast insight, and extraordinary creativity that define the experience of enlightenment, paving the way to successfully face the challenges to come.

Order your copy and please let me know what you think! We are also giving away a free signed copy of the book on the Advanced Brain Technologies Facebook page. Like us and you’ll automatically be entered for the drawing!