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Live Life and Age Well: What We Can Learn From Leisure World

Last spring there was an episode of 60 Minutes discussing the Leisure World Cohort.  These residents of the California retirement community were thoroughly evaluated in the 1980’s on everything from their physical activity to what vitamins they took.  Years later, despite their advancing ages, the population from this community has aged exceptionally well and preserved the integrity of their brains.

What did they do to live longer?

Did they discover the fountain of youth?

No, of course, they didn’t.  Instead the residents of this community learned how to live well.  Check out this short clip on what the residents of this community teach us about living life and aging well.

Living to 90 and Beyond-Part 1

Living to 90 and Beyond-Part 2

Brain Myths Debunked

Pop culture influences a lot about what we know, or what we think we know, about our brains.

For example:

“We only use 10% of our brains!” or “I’m very artistic, so I am right-brained.  What are you?”

Many times these “facts” are not based on scientific evidence.

Today let’s debunk 7 common myths about the brain:

Be More Awesome

This pep talk is for all the teachers and the students out there….and that means YOU!

“Everybody is a teacher, and everybody is a student….What are YOU teaching the world?”

Thank you Kid President for this great pep talk!

Santa and the Brain

Have you ever stopped to think about how the magic of our secular Christmas impacts our brain?  At what point does our brain recognize the difference between fact and fiction?  When do we stop believing in Santa and what role does the brain play in this process of development? 

What role does mental time travel, Pavlov’s drooling dogs, cocaine, and neurons have to do with explaining our Christmas brain?!

Check out this recent article posted in The New York Times, Santa on the Brain, by Dr. Kelly Lambert for a more in depth description of how the brain changes as we grow and how that alters our perspective on the magic of Christmas.


image source

Coffee: The Antagonist

Giant Cup of Coffee


I love a good cup of Joe as much as the next person.  There is no better way to start the day, right? I agree!  Since we’re in the heart of midterms and finals are right around the corner (insert freak-out here), I have noticed that more and more of my students are bringing their coffee with them to class.  Today let’s talk about how coffee interacts with the chemicals in our brains.  Did you know that coffee is an antagonistic drug? Much like in literature, coffee, specifically the caffeine in coffee, makes it difficult for some chemicals to interact as they normally would.  While caffeine is a stimulant, it does so by inhibiting (or antagonizing) other receptors in the wakeful regions of the brain.  Throughout the day, your body produces a neuronal chemical, adenosine, which will accumulate.  As the day ends, with the accumulation of adenosine, you will begin to feel sleepy.  However, when you consume caffeine, it temporarily blocks the adenosine receptors; meaning that the chemical that has accumulated and been circulating throughout the day will have to wait to bind to its receptors to make you sleepy.  Therefore, you are left with a stimulant as a result of inhibition.

Interesting, right? Try thinking about that, the next time you sip your yummy antagonist in class 🙂

For more “free time” reading on the impacts of coffee on the brain check out here and here.

Brain Lady

By Darby Hawley


Among my family, friends, and colleagues I am known as The Brain Lady.  This nick name does not bother me at all; in fact, I find it quite honorable, yet humbling.  I remember the day I fell in love with the amazing brain; I was completely captivated.  The brain is a remarkable structure that God has given us that continually has me in awe; it is such a powerful mystery.  At the content-specific level in both of my graduate and undergraduate Physiological Psychology courses, I want my students to understand the bigger picture of psychology–that science does not just reside in the classroom or in the laboratory.  I want my scientific work and passion for the brain to enhance people’s daily experiences and I want my students to see how salient (personal) science really is.  When science becomes personal, students develop a sense of belonging to the scientific community, thereby making course work more interesting and enjoyable.  Through the lens of psychology, contextualizing material about the brain in such ways leads to greater actual integration and recollection.  By demonstrating how relevant science is to our daily lives, it is my hope to motivate my students to develop an appreciation for the strength and power that the brain has over the entire body while making complex subjects understandable.  So if this gives me the title of Brain Lady, I will gladly take it 🙂

Last spring in my graduate physiological course, each student dissected a sheep brain.  The dissection was a great opportunity for students to see all of the structures we learned about throughout the semester.  Students were able to identify and locate where structures were within the brain and in relation to each other.  Not only did this dissection challenge help students to have a hands-on experience in the classroom that would facilitate learning for assessment, but it also helped to make science tangible and personal.

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Romans 12-2

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