Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flocks, Herds and.....

This afternoon I attended a presentation on brain research that focuses on how our brain function changes throughout the aging process. It was pretty interesting. The guy who was presenting gave several tips for keeping the grey matter spry in later years....among them doing exercises like MemAerobics - things that challenge memory.

In the beginning of the presentation he told us the words that refer to all manner of different congregations of animals and then toward the end quizzed the audience to see if we could still remember them.

Do you know that a gathering of owls is called a "Parliament", a group of squirrels is a "scurry", a collection of Rhinoceros is a "Crash" and a collection of Giraffes is a "stand"?
Apparently there were a bunch of English noblemen in the 1400's who had not much better to do so they went around naming things. Kind of makes you wonder why they called a gathering of crows a "murder" and rattlesnakes a "Rhumba".
All that aside, it was interesting to hear things like how before age 50 most functions occur on one or the other side of the brain but after age 50 (approx) people start using both sides of their brain to do the same sorts of tasks formerly confined to either the right or left.
In the past people believed we had a finite number of brain cells, and once they were gone, they were gone for good. Now it is recognized that the brain DOES generate new neurons, and perhaps even more importantly can build new network connections to compensate for lost functions due to illness or injury.
Apparently Oregon has the second highest (next to California) amount of brain research going on so we head about all sorts of intriguing stuff about things we now know due to breakthroughs in imaging science with things like PET scans and FMRI.
Thanks to Paul Allen's BRAIN ATLAS cutting edge information about the brain is more readily accessible than ever before, making it possible for researchers all over the world to collaborate or benefit from even the most obscure break throughs.
I've long been fascinated with how we learn, remember, imagine, dream. What is it that makes one person's brain be "smart" and another's "average" or "dull"? How much of that is due to the three pounds of squiggly, squishy grey matter trapped inside our skull and how much of it is from the innate spirit we were created with and how much is social training?
Is there any way to ever know? I doubt it. Still, it is amazing how stimulating various segments of the brain can trigger the sensations of smells, colors, lights.
Yep, brains are cool stuff. I've seriously considered donating my brain to science when I get done with it.


Fraochán said...

Hmmm - I would donate my brain for science but they would probably laugh at how little of it actually works. ;)

I am a organ donor though....if that counts for something. *winks*

neubrain said...

There are higher resolution brain atlases for all sorts of animals, including humans and other primates, at

Belladonna said...

Welcome to first timer, Neubrain.

How am I supposed to get any work done now that I've found your blog? There's some AMAZING stuff there! Also - thanks for the great links...I am seriously interested in this sort of stuff so you can bet I'll be exploring further.

Lei said...

How neat! How did you find the opportunity to attend that? It's fascinating stuff, I agree!

Belladonna said...


In answer to your question - it was a presentation to a group of retired school teachers, trying to recruit some of them to go into assisted living facilities and train seniors in some key brain strengthening activities to stimulate function. I have a dear friend who I partner with in technology trainings who is a retired school teacher that invited me a lot.

I agree, it was a great opportunity!

Ruth D~ said...

I've got to get a copy of that book. I love brain stuff. Soooo interesting. Oh, look at neubrain. I've got to check that blog out. Thanks for sharing this info on your post.

Scribbit said...

The one I don't get is a "crash" of rhinos. Where did that come from?

Tristi Pinkston said...

Rattlesnakes are a rhumba? Okay, I think I can figure that one out.

The rattlesnakes decided that they were getting a bad rap, so they hired a PR agent to help them out. That agent figured that if people thought the snakes were fun, then they wouldn't be so scared. And what is more fun than a sexy Latin dance? (A whole season of Mario Lopez on Dancing with the Stars doesn't lie) Therefore, a group of rattlesnakes is now known as a rhumba, as a wild and crazy mind-trick to be played on all of us snake-hating-Mario-Lopez-loving persons, who really thought that tango should have won but instead it went to the football player. Go figure.

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