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  • HAND AND PEN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN

    A Project Encephalon & The Science Paradox Collaboration article Abstract Handwriting is a skill we have learned to master in school and has been practiced by people since time immemorial. As all of us are slowly shifting to the digital age, handwriting is rarely being witnessed, with typing being the frontrunner for a simple leave application or even assignments of some 20 pages or so. Many of us have started feeling that handwriting is time-consuming and monotonous, which might be true. However, it is still considered the most crucial means for children and adults to learn a new language or retain information in a better way. Handwriting has proven to be a good mental exercise and necessary for proper brain development. Our hands and pens are undoubtedly the perfect matches for our brains! From time immemorial, humans have conveyed their thoughts not just by vocal expression but also by putting them in words and figures. The ancient man started by engraving pictures on stones of caves. Later there was a drift from graphical presentation to scriptwriting. Our ancient literature was also penned down in different scripts. This indicates that handwriting has been a very integral part of our culture and tradition. With modernization, the use of electronic gadgets has become an integral part of our daily lives. Handwriting is slowly fading away as typing is gradually coming into the scene. The current generation considers writing by hand outdated and sees typing as a faster, environment friendly and more feasible method. So it is not a surprise that people are gradually shifting from writing to typing. But does this have any implications on the human body? Yes! From learning to synchronizing sensory and motor activities, writing individual letters, to complex literature, every event demands an integrated functioning of different brain areas. Our brain’s frontal and parietal lobes are jointly responsible for writing. In response to stimuli from her environment, a toddler starts with random scribbles using crayons or chalks, smears of paint, and shapes that don’t necessarily make sense. With improvement in visual and motor skills, she learns to make meaningful shapes and patterns. According to neurophysiologist Luria (1973), a person learns to write by first memorizing the graphical representation of every letter. There occurs a chain of independent motor impulses that are responsible for the outcome of only one element of the graphic structure (like the horizontal line of the letter 'A'). With time and proper writing practice, an amalgamation of each element and character converts discrete learning to writing as a "single kinetic melody.” Many have experienced that handwriting helps retain more information, like taking notes in a class. Scientists have proved this by studying the brain activity of children and adults. Van der Meer and Van der Weel (2017) employed electroencephalography (EEG) which detects electrical activity of the brain, to determine the effect of handwriting and typing on brain functioning. Adults and children who were made to write by hand showed increased neuronal activity in the central and parietal regions of the brain in the theta wave range, which is crucial for memory and processing novel data. Klimesch et al. (1994) also suggested enhanced hippocampus activity during handwriting, which is the organ associated with memory and learning. The activity of writing demands to activate the reticular activating system (RAS) of our brain. This is the region that is responsible for wakefulness, alertness and filtering of stimuli. In other words RAS essentially helps us to focus on what is useful. So handwriting, by activating RAS, indirectly tends to zero down our attention to constructive things. James and Engelhardt (2012) conducted research on pre-literate children taking baby steps to learn letters and words. They were made to write, trace and type a group of letters while being subjected to functional MRI scanning. fMRI examines activity inside the brain by determining the blood flow to different regions. Results depict that writing and tracing activates the brain more as compared to typing. Handwriting requires several controlled movements, from holding the pen/pencil properly, to creating the correct stroke to develop that character. These activities enhance more neuronal networks and thus, help in better understanding and learning. When a child tries to write a particular letter, she creates diverse versions of it. For instance, she may write ‘A’ a bit wobbly on the first try, perfect the lines the second time, or may also distort the position of the middle line. Scientists say that when children create different versions of letters like these by writing, they are able to perceive and remember that letter properly, which may also aid in its identification when they encounter that type of letter again. Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) conducted research amongst students at Princeton University and University of California, showing that those who deployed writing by hand to make notes could answer questions better than those who resorted to typing. As handwriting can be slower compared to typing, it leads us to expansively think about what we should jot down in our notes, aiding in better comprehension and learning. In this era, typing skills are considered paramount. Typing helps us write down essays and letters quicker, saving heaps of time. We can produce documents that can be edited easily and are legible to everyone. However, we cannot overlook what science and research have got to present. Handwriting develops fine motor skills, enhances reading ability and also boosts retention of facts and memory retrieval. If we are keen to learn a new language, handwriting is the means to do it with better understanding. Handwriting is a skill people have been using for ages to communicate. It is a form of communication that helps develop the brain and makes us understand the meaning of every letter, word, and sentence we come across. REFERENCES 1. Chemin, A. (2018, February 14). Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/16/cognitive-benefits-handwriting-decline-typing 2. How Does Writing Affect Your Brain? (2014, February 15). NeuroRelay. http://neurorelay.com/2013/08/07/how-does-writing-affect-your-brain/ 3. Hwang, L. S. (2020, November 9). Handwriting beats typing when it comes to taking class notes. Science News for Students. https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/handwriting-better-for-notes-memory-typing 4. James, K. H., & Engelhardt, L. (2012). The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 1(1), 32–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tine.2012.08.001 5. Ose Askvik, E., van der Weel, F. R. R., & van der Meer, A. L. H. (2020). The Importance of Cursive Handwriting Over Typewriting for Learning in the Classroom: A High-Density EEG Study of 12-Year-Old Children and Young Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01810 6. Phelps, J. (1987, January 1). Handwriting: Evolution and evaluation. Annals of Dyslexia. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02648069? error=cookies_not_supported&code=bf05967a-f4da-4783-b51f-474bd1a7cfd0#citeas 7. Umejima, K., Ibaraki, T., Yamazaki, T., & Sakai, K. L. (2021). Paper Notebooks vs. Mobile Devices: Brain Activation Differences During Memory Retrieval. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2021.634158 Writers: Sreelakshmi S Kumar (TSP) and Bhagyajyoti Priyadarshini (PE) Illustrators: Jaykrishnan Nair (TSP) and Harshini Anand (PE) Editors: Luminaa Anandh (TSP) and Shreyas Gadge (PE)

  • The Battle of Procrastination

    Abstract Procrastination is a trait that causes individuals to delay tasks indefinitely, either when feeling overwhelmed or when a more pleasurable task is at their disposal. There are several different kinds of procrastinators: active, passive, arousal and avoidant, to name a few. A battle between the Limbic System and the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) regulates the procrastination trait. The PFC is a negative regulator, and the Limbic System is a positive regulator for the same. Thus, it is hypothesized and proven that failure of the cognitive control system leads to the generation of the procrastination trait. Additionally, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have uncovered another region of the brain, the Default Mode Network, which is also found to be a positive regulator of procrastination. Therefore, procrastination does not simply equate to being lazy; it is a tightly regulated process with several neural substrates. Source: BBC Science Focus Magazine Do you remember the last time you put off submitting an assignment till the end moment or decided to watch TV instead of completing some important work? We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. When bombarded with several tasks simultaneously, some people tend to hold off tasks till the last moment and sometimes way past deadlines, intentionally. In psychology, that is what procrastination entails. Procrastination is a phenomenon that is not considered a mental health disorder but rather a habit. It can be scientifically defined as- voluntarily delaying an intended course of action despite being worse off because of the delay (Steel et al., 2007). There are different types of procrastinators; passive procrastinators tend to put off work due to indecisiveness and inability to take prompt decisions, and active procrastinators who delay their work until the last moment, as they work well under pressure. Additionally, you also have the arousal procrastinator who delays tasks to attain stimulation and the avoidant procrastinator who blames his inability to complete a task on insufficient time rather than their own incompetence [1]. A common trigger for procrastination is a person’s personality trait, where extroverts attribute their procrastination to their need to socialize, and introverts explain their procrastination by choosing to seek solitude [2]. The neuroscience of procrastination involves a battle between two regions of the brain, The Limbic System and The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC). The Limbic System is the region of the brain that controls emotions and behavioural responses. The two major structures involved are the Hippocampus and the Amygdala [3]. The Hippocampus controls the association between memories and our senses and is also vital for spatial orientation. The Amygdala regulates our emotional responses, including pleasure, fear, anxiety and anger. The Limbic System is also known as the affective processing system, responds to internally generated information. The PFC controls the planning of complex cognitive behaviour, determination of personality traits, decision-making, and moderation of social behaviour. In short, it helps in the planning and execution of goals that have been set; thus, it has been described to carry out an executive function. It is also known as the cognitive control system and carries out executive functions to regulate goal-directed behaviours. When the brain is faced with a task, the will to perform it or put it off is determined by the winner of the battle between the Limbic System and the PFC [4]. Evidence from previous research has demonstrated that procrastination occurs due to the failure of the cognitive control system, that is, the PFC. Suggesting that the activation of the PFC is negatively correlated to procrastination, and the activation of the Limbic System is positively correlated to procrastination behaviour. This occurs as the PFC needs to be continuously engaged for its effects to be prominent and long-lasting in terms of making decisions. On the other hand, the Limbic System is automatic and is always ready to strike as soon as one starts to feel disconnected from the task at hand [5]. How? Here’s an example: When a student who dislikes Mathematics is asked to solve a math equation, it will be perceived as an unpleasant task by the brain. This will stimulate the limbic system to initiate an “immediate mood repair”. It will direct the individual to take up a more pleasant task, such as watching television, leading to the release of Dopamine. Dopamine controls the reward and pleasure centres of the brain, thus giving a sense of being rewarded for putting off a ‘boring’ task. Various scales have measured the procrastination trait over the years; in the recent past, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI) has been used to uncover the neural correlates of procrastination. These studies stressed on another region of the brain the DMN (Default Mode Network), whose activity was found to be prioritized over the inhibitory control exerted by the PFC, or in another case where the anterior PFC control on the DMN was absent. The DMN was found to regulate the procrastination trait6 positively. These studies suggest that procrastination does not simply correlate to being lazy. There is an intricate network within the brain that tightly regulates the procrastination trait, a part of this network follows the motto “Why do it today when you can just do it tomorrow?” REFERENCES 1.Steel, P. (2010). Arousal, avoidant and decisional procrastinators: Do they exist? Personality And Individual Differences, 48(8), 926-934. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.02.025 2.Johnson, R., & Stewart, D. (2002). The International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences: A Review. Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian, 21(2), 73–83. https://doi.org/10.1300/J103v21n02_06 3.The limbic system. Qbi.uq.edu.au. (2021). Retrieved 7 June 2021, from https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/limbic-system. 4.Why Do We Procrastinate? Science ABC. (2021). Retrieved 7 June 2021, from https://www.scienceabc.com/humans/shocking-origin-procrastination-biological-point- view.html. 5.The Science Behind Procrastination. Arc UNSW Student Life. (2021). Retrieved 7 June 2021, from https://www.arc.unsw.edu.au/blitz/read/The-Science-Behind-Procrastination. 6.Zhang, W., Wang, X., & Feng, T. (2016). Identifying the Neural Substrates of Procrastination: A Resting-State fMRI Study. Scientific Reports, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep33203 Author Angarika Balakrishnan Credentials: Master’s student at Sunandan Divatia School of Science (2020-22), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences Bio: Interested in determining the link between Neuroscience and the Arts, an amalgamation of two of her favorite fields. Social Media handles: 1. Instagram: @angarikaaa 2. LinkedIn: Angarika Balakrishnan

  • Shriya Palchaudhuri

    I don’t believe in plans. I believe in trying the hardest and making the best out of situations. I didn’t stumble into science; I was guided slowly to it, and left surrounded by it, with the freedom to explore. Throughout my school years, I remember my brother loaning me old copies of the Nature magazine from the British Council Library and encouraging me to skim, but not read through them. “It’s okay if you don’t understand”, he’d say, “that’s the feeling that’ll stay with you through most of life. But see if you want to ask the questions ‘why’ and ‘how’”. And that’s how, unconsciously, but gradually, science creeped into my being. Through my years in Bachelors at Presidency College (now University), Kolkata, and then Masters at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi I became more and more fascinated about neuroscience. As I read more, the incredible experiments by early neuroscientists - all of the Sherrington experiments in particular, where they disabled parts of brains (mostly in cats) and observed behavioural deficits or changes, blew my mind. And then came Hodgkin and Huxley, recording these minute currents in such simple preparations of nerve cells and studying them in as detail as single ions! The brain rules every bit of us, and yet it is the most unresolved part of our physiology. Is it even a feasible endeavour to solve ‘the human’? And where will that take us? These questions baffled me, as I navigated through my academic life and inched forward into neuroscience. Leaving the realm of books, I entered into my actual practice during my years at the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), Manesar and then at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore. There was no looking back after that. I’m currently pursuing my PhD in Neuroscience at the Brain Mind Institute at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland in the lab of Prof. Ralf Schneggenburger. I’m studying how initially neutral experiences can turn unpleasant, if they occur often with unhappy or painful circumstances. I’ll pick an extreme example to demonstrate this, but this happens every day in our lives. Let’s say you’ve lived through the atrocities of war, but very long ago. Years later, a car backfires in your neighbourhood, but to you, it sounds like a gunshot, and you run for cover, because you associate this noise to your past experience of wartime. The brain, and especially a structure called the amygdala, helps you predict these things and the next time you notice a small feature of that horrible past experience, you’re already on alert that something might go wrong. This is crucial to help us learn from the past. I’m trying to understand which circuits in the brain help guide you to that behaviour, what steps in this process are essential and how the brain itself changes in the process. I use in-vivo optogenetics, live calcium imaging in freely moving mice, and combine them with ex-vivo electrophysiology to dissect these brain circuits involved in learning and memory. My tryst with the mysteries of neuroscience has been a seven-year-long affair already, but the fascination hasn’t abandoned me. Every day is not easy. Grad school is definitely not, but I wouldn’t trade lives with anyone. I think the mantra for surviving grad school is to be able to deal with defeat. To anyone starting out, this would be my only advice: if you believe that after a crushing defeat, you can wake up the next day and convince yourself that it’s a new day with new possibilities, then grad school is for you. It’s a way of life, it’s about not taking things personally. We’re here to solve a problem; most often, problems that we know little of. Be prepared to be baffled, and that bafflement must spark inquisition. That’s all there is to it! I don’t believe in plans. I believe in trying the hardest and making the best out of situations. I’d like to remain in academia, but my biggest driving passion is to make science available and approachable for all. I’m currently doing this in my small capacity as much as I can. I’ve written an article for Resonance, a journal dedicated to providing material for graduate and undergraduate teaching, and I want to write more. I’m associated with an organization called the Pint of Science, through which, every year in 400 cities worldwide, on the same 3 days, we bring science researchers into the local cafes and pubs and enable a general audience to listen to and interact with them. Recently, a few of us grad students and postdocs spread over the world, have recently formed a platform called Biologically Speaking, where we host scientists bi-monthly to give free and engaging talks to an audience spread across the globe, academic journeys, age groups and fields. I’m also proud to note that we also celebrated the long-standing contributions of women in academia through a 2-day long conference called “Herstory of Science”, because ‘history’ sounds like it leaves half the population behind! My absolute dream is to make science the predominant conversation of our generation---it’ll help resolve many of the issues that plague the world right now. About Shriya is a PhD candidate in Neuroscience at the Brain Mind Institute at the EPFL, Switzerland in the lab of Prof. Ralf Schneggenburger.

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  • PEBAW | Project Encephalon

    Register now! About the event The Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Project Encephalon's Brain Awareness Week (PEBAW) will explore various aspects of neuroscience to learn about how awesome the brain is! There will be talks, competitions, and career mentorship sessions to increase the awareness of neuroscience in everyday life. Join us in September (18th,19th, 25th, 26th) to learn more about the brain together! ​ *Registrations are free of cost Register now! Register now! Please fill up the registration form by clicking on the button below and registering for Project Encephalon Brain Awareness Week. This is to make sure you receive invites and updates for our events in time. Register here > Nominate a School Please fill this form to nominate a school for us to invite them to our Brain Awareness Week celebrations. A lot of schools don't have neuroscience in their curriculum, so we are trying to bring neuroscience to their schools! Nominate school > Become a mentor Mentors are the most important people in one's life. They inspire, educate and help us dream. Sign up to be a Mentor for the attendees of Project Encephalon Brain Awareness Week. Anyone who has done research or outreach, or worked in the industry - related to neuroscience is eligible to apply. Become a Mentor > *Mentor applications have been closed Become a Volunteer Join the team of volunteers organising Brain Awareness Week at Project Encephalon, to spread the love for neuroscience! We have limited positions on the teams, so we encourage you to fill the form at the earliest. Become a Volunteer > *Volunteer applications have been closed SPEAKERS Out of gallery SCHEDULE Competitions Got questions? PRIZES Cool Brain-themed tshirts!! Got Questions? Go through our FAQ! or Contact us at pebaw2021@gmail.com

  • Activities | Project Encephalon

    Activities Journal Club Paper Club ask sac NeuroRants Neuropiction Blog PEBAW neuronovember cajal week It is free for all members to participate. Learn More Which activity will you enjoy the most? Journal Club ​ Formal talk series by experts ​ Academically oriented Loved by intermediate learners NeuroNotes ​ Blog series ​ Blend of creativity and academics Loved by all Paper Club ​ Discussion-based on a publication ​ Academically oriented Loved by beginners in neuroscience NeuroRants ​ Informal discussion based on themes ​ Academically oriented Loved by beginners in neuroscience NeuroPiciton ​ Showcase of neuroscience illustrations ​ Creativity oriented Loved by all Ask SAC ​ Resolution of academic queries ​ Academically oriented Loved by all Calendar of Events Also available on World Wide Neuro. → Coming soon! More Introducing NeuroRants. Attend all sessions from here More Cajal Week 1 May 2021 - 07 May 2021 A week-long celebration of Cajal's 169th birthday. More NeuroNovember Convention 21, 22, 28, 29 November 2020 A two weekend-long international conference. More Watch Now Watch Now

  • Project Encephalon | Home

    About Us Project Encephalon (PE) is an international, trainee-led non-profit organization for neuroscience enthusiasts and conducts various academic and non-academic neuroscience-related activities while accounting for the interdisciplinary needs of the field. Read More Project Encephalon Brain Awareness Week Quest Episode 1 NeuroPiction Series Project Encephalon Brain Awareness Week 1/7 Members 1000+ members from 30+ countries. Initiatives 8 initiatives and counting. Year 1 year of Project Encephalon and counting. Volunteers 60+ volunteers in 9 departments. News 17 August 2021 . PE officially announces Brain Awareness Week to be organised in September 2021. More 28 August 2021 . The Quest: Ask SAC session was recorded in the form of a podcast. The podcast is now available. More 31 August 2021 . A new edition of the newsletter was published by the editorial department of Project Encephalon. More More Events Latest Blog Aug 28 5 min HAND AND PEN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN Read #Everyoneiswelcome Project Encephalon Discord Community Join us Launching Podcast The Quest Series 'AskSAC' Listen

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