Tag Archives: hippocampus

Measuring and Increasing Hope to Improve Performance, Health

Hope shifts focus from the present moment to action paths (“pathways”) required to achieve future goals and motivation to follow these goal routes (“agency”).

Some advocates of mindful attention to the present moment question cultivating hope because it focuses on the future instead of the present, despite abundant empirical evidence that hope is positively associated with academic achievement, health outcomes, and more.

Benjamn Franklin

Benjamn Franklin

Buddhist thinkers argued that hope is illusory and prolongs human suffering and even America’s sage, Benjamin Franklin, noted that one who lives on hope will die fasting.

C. RIck Snyder

C. RIck Snyder

In contrast, hope investigator University of Kansas’s Charles “Rick” Snyder substantiated the health and performance benefits of hope and distinguished hope from learned optimism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.

He developed and validated measures of hope as a trait and as a state, evaluating “pathways” and “agency” beliefs, with collaborators Cheri Harris, John R Anderson, Sharon A. Holleran, Lori M Irving, Sandra T. Sigmon, Lauren Yoshinobu, June Gibb, Charyle Langelle, and Pat Harney.

Snyder and team reported that children and adults across ethnic and gender groups who scored higher in hope demonstrated:

He offered tips for setting goals and enhancing “pathways” and “agency” toward goals, including:

  • Prioritizing self-selected goals
  • Developing multiple paths for each goal
  • Expecting positive outcomes while designing ways to remove potential obstacles.
Pam Omidyar

Pam Omidyar

One practical application of Snyder’s Hope Theory is Re-Mission,video game for cancer patients, developed by HopeLab’s Pam Omidyar, Pam Kato, and UCLA’s Steven Cole.

Pam Kato

Pam Kato

Adolescent patients in remission with acute leukemia, lymphoma, and soft-tissue sarcoma are required to continue daily chemotherapy treatments for up to several years.
Those who miss even 20% of their daily treatments increase their mortality risk by 200%.

Steve Cole

Steve Cole

Kato collaborated with Cole, West Virginia University’s Andrew Bradlyn and Brad Pollock of University of Texas to evaluate video-game interventions to improve young people’s medication adherence.

 They conducted a randomized trial with baseline and 1 month and 3 month assessments at 34 medical centers in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Brad Pollock

Brad Pollock

Volunteers were 375 males and females between 13 to 29 years old undergoing chemotherapy for at least 4 months.
Participants in the video game tailored to young cancer patient increased adherence to chemotherapy by 50%, and showed increased self-efficacy and knowledge, compared with those who played commercial video games or no video games.

fMRI studies showed that their brains were most active when they played the game instead of observing the game interface.
Most active areas were:

  • Limbic structures including caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens, measuring anticipatory excitement before securing a reward
  • Thalamus, “the internet of the brain”
  • Hippocampus, the link between experience and long-term memory

Cole further evaluated Re-Mission and Zamzee, a motivational system to promote physical activity among young people, and now leads HopeLab’s Re-Mission 2 to further amplify positive health behavior and resilience.

-*How do you leverage hope to improve your work performance and health behaviors?

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Juggling as Brain Training

The physical skill of juggling can change the brain’s structure and function for the better, and may be a recommended therapy for brain injuries.

Bogdan Draganski

Bogdan Draganski

Volker Busch

Volker Busch

Bogdan Draganski, now of University of Lausanne collaborated with University of Regensburg colleagues Volker Busch, Ulrich Bogdahn, and Gerhard Schuierer, and Arne May, now of University of Hamburg  with Christian Gaser of University of Jena, to visualize brain plasticity among volunteers who learned to juggle.

Ulrich Bogdahn

Ulrich Bogdahn

Volunteers showed transient and selective structural changes in the left parietal lobe’s posterior cortex  and bilateral central temporal areas brain, areas associated with processing and storing complex visual motion on used whole-brain magnetic-resonance imaging.

Gerhard Schuierer

Gerhard Schuierer

This study demonstrates that the brain’s macroscopic structure can change based on stimuli like juggling, rather than being limited to functional changes in the cortex.

Arne May

Arne May

May and Gaser collaborated with University of Hamburg colleagues Janina Boyke, Joenna Driemeyer, and Christian Büchel in related research.

Christian Gaser

Christian Gaser

This time, they trained 25 people with an average age of 60 years in juggling for 12 weeks, and 25 control group volunteers were not trained.

Christian Büchel

Christian Büchel

The team conducted three MRI brain scans for each participant:

  • Before juggling practice
  • After 3 months of juggling
  • After another 3 months of no juggling.

Jugglers showed significant increase in the brain’s “gray matter,” nerve cells’ bodies responsible for information processing, located in the hippocampus (memory formation), bilateral nucleus accumbens (reward systems that may lead to action) and visual cortext’s middle temporal area.

Without practice during the three months after the training, none of the volunteers retained their ability to juggle and their gray matter declined to pre-training levels.

This suggests the value of continued practice in physical and cognitive skills to maintain brain structure and function.

Jan Scholz

Jan Scholz

University of Oxford’s Jan Scholz, Miriam Klein-FlüggeTimothy E.J. Behrens, and Heidi Johansen-Berg extended this research to demonstrate that people who learn to juggle also increased “white matter” containing axons that connect different cells, not just gray matter.

 The Oxford team conducted baseline brain scans using diffusion tensor imaging to reveal  white matter structure for 24 young men and women volunteers, who later practiced juggling for half an hour a day for six weeks.

Miriam Klein-Flügge

Miriam Klein-Flügge

The researchers compared brain scans of 24 non-juggling volunteers and found that the volunteer jugglers increased white matter in the parietal lobe’s intraparietal sulcus, which integrates vision and reaching and grasping in the periphery of vision.
Even less-skilled jugglers had similar increases in white matter, attributed to amount of time devoted to practice.

Heidi Johansen-Berg

Heidi Johansen-Berg

In contrast, the non-jugglers showed no changes in white matter after the six week period, suggesting value in practicing juggling to develop the brain’s structure and functioning to enable rapid, coordinated movement and body positioning.

Brain scans taken after four weeks without juggling practice showed that the new white matter remained and the amount of gray matter increased, showing some skill retention in the absence of consistent practice.

-*What physical skills do you develop as brain training?

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