Brain Matters: Ongoing Conversation About the Brain


Many in our congregation and families are experiencing life changes related to brain challenges due to illness, injuring, aging, etc. We will learn about the brain and its functions and together devise ways that we can help patients and caregivers face these challenges as a community. Join Rabbi Edwards to begin studying challenges to the brain. Thursday, May 2, 7:30pm — 9:30pm

Here are some of the new discoveries about the brain and its psychological function over the past year:

1. Receiving a Compliment has Same Effect as Receiving Cash

Compliments may not pay the rent, but according to new research, they help improve performance in a similar way to receiving a cash reward. ”To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation.”

2. How Stress Damages Your Mental Health

Research by Dipesh Chaudhury of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York shows that traumatic events appear to cause depression by derailing the brain’s so-called reward system, which normally causes pleasurable feelings whenever we engage in fun activities like spending time with friends. People who have suffered major stress, such as soldiers returning from combat, often report that they no longer find pleasure in these things.

Mice respond in a similar way to traumatic events, Chaudhury says. And his research shows that this response can be prevented by reducing the activity of certain brain cells involved in the reward system.  [Source: NPR, October 15, 2012]  A drug causing a similar outcome could eventually be effective in humans.

3. How Your Brain Could be Keeping You Fat

A recent study has uncovered a new part of the brain that, at least in mice, shows positive signs of neurons growth: the hypothalamus, associated with body temperature, metabolism, sleep, hunger, thirst and a few other critical functions.

Researchers from the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine injected mice with a chemical that incorporates itself into newly dividing cells.  They found that the chemical appeared in rapidly proliferating cells called tanycytes in the hypothalamus, and further tests confirmed that the tanycytes specifically produced new neurons and not other types 0f cells.

The research team then wanted to find out what these neurons do, so they studied the new hypothalamus neurons in mice that had been fed a high fat diet since birth. Since the hypothalamus is associated with  hunger and metabolism, the team speculated that the neurons may be linked in some way to weight gain.  Turns out, they were right

You can find a couple terrific lists highlighting the best of the best in psych and brain science here and here.

Please RSVP to the Rabbi at and let her know if you would like to suggest a specific brain-related topic. Future dates: May 2 and June 6.

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