Brain and cognitive health

Write your anxieties away

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Research into people who struggle with anxiety suggests that free-form writing specifically about their concerns may help the brain use its resources to better focus on challenging tasks.

Why you can’t get a song out of your head and what to do about it

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

The experience of having an “earworm”—a song that’s stuck in your head—is extremely common. But why do they happen? And how do you get rid of one?

Can getting quality sleep help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Sleep gives the brain the opportunity to rid itself of proteins believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and now research is showing an association between poor sleep and the accumulation of those proteins.

Yoga could complement traditional treatment for depression

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

New research suggests that yoga may help with depression when used alongside traditional treatment. Evidence does not recommend any specific styles of yoga, so you can see which style fits best with you and your preferences. Yoga has also been shown to help those with mild depression, but more research is needed to be certain.

For people with MS, can exercise change the brain?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Researchers are investigating the possibility that exercise can benefit people with multiple sclerosis. MRI tests on study participants show brain changes that suggest exercise may slow the progression of the disease.

Right brain/left brain, right?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The long-held belief that people fall into right-brain and left-brain classifications is based in behaviors or personality traits, but medical evidence does not necessarily support this concept.

Your brain on chocolate

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

When research finds a connection between consumption of high-flavanol dark chocolate and improved brain function, it’s tempting to interpret it as permission to eat a lot of chocolate, but the truth isn’t quite so simple.

Keeping your smartphone nearby may not be so smart

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

As many as 75% of adults in the US own a smartphone. While these devices may make life more efficient, experiments with groups of college students suggest that keeping your smartphone out of sight can make it easier to focus on demanding mental tasks.

Does drinking diet soda raise the risk of a stroke?

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

While a study suggests that people who drink a diet soda or more per day may be at higher risk for stroke, there are other factors that could account for these results. Regardless, it’s wise to limit any food with artificial sweetener.

Can probiotics help treat depression and anxiety?

Athos Bousvaros, MD
Athos Bousvaros, MD, Contributor

Research is exploring the connection between the brain and intestine and how they affect each other, and whether the use of probiotics can help treat depression or anxiety.