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STAYING WARM: A flock of seagulls huddles together for warmth atop the frozen ice surface of the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh (GENE J. PUSKAR/AP)
STAYING WARM: A flock of seagulls huddles together for warmth atop the frozen ice surface of the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh (GENE J. PUSKAR/AP)

Talking Points: Seagulls seek warmth, brain biology, and daily routines Add to ...

BOOK BREAK

It only takes one book to change the biology of your brain. As reported in The Washington Post, new research indicates that reading a novel initiates changes that linger in the brain, if only for a few days. Neurobiological researchers at Emory University focused their efforts on 21 undergrads who were asked to read the 2003 novel Pompeii by Robert Harris. Subsequent MRI testing revealed increased connectivity in each student’s left temporal cortex, the brain area associated with receptivity for language. “Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity,” said study author Gregory Berns. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.”

SLEEP ROUTINE

If you’re not getting quality sleep these days, consider a Day-Timer. Medical Daily reports on a recent study making the connection between the timing of daily routines and how well we sleep. The University of Alabama study involved 50 young adults who kept a two-week diary detailing their activities and sleeping patterns. Researchers discovered that the timing of daily routines predicted sleep but that the results varied with the type of activities and age group. When activities such as starting work or eating dinner took place at shifting times of the day, older adults said they fell asleep faster and slept for a longer period. “We found that completing activities at a regular time better predicted sleep outcomes than the actual time of day that activities were completed,” said study author Natalie Dautovich.

NUTS TO YOU

Although some ancient hunter-gatherers were able to subsist on nearly an all-nut diet, they paid the price with gum disease, tooth decay and terrible breath. Wired.-co.uk reports on recent research from Liverpool John Moores University that examined adult remains from Morocco estimated to be 15,000 years old. Scientists discovered that most of the specimens maintained a steady diet of pine nuts, juniper berries, pistachios and acorns, which has researchers believing nut-gathering and storage in ancient society began much earlier than previously believed. The research team also noted the specimens had teeth riddled with cavities. “The majority of the people’s mouths were affected by both cavities in the teeth and abscesses,” study co-author Isabelle DeGroote said. “They would have suffered from frequent toothaches and bad breath.”

THOUGHT DU JOUR

Most people believe that if any shot goes unanswered, it must be true.

Chris Matthews, political commentator

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