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Science & Spirit: Pink Noise, Testosterone Boosts, Super Short Exercise

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This week, discover pink noise for better sleep. Also, find out why testosterone supplements probably aren’t the best idea; and how just a bit of exercise is enough to boost brain power. Ready? Let’s do this.

What’s Pink Noise?

You’ve heard of white noise, such as the sound of a whirring fan, which helps many people sleep better. New research out of Northwestern suggests that pink noise may help stave off mild cognitive impairment. Pink noise has a similar whoosh to white noise but the lower frequencies are louder, and have more power. (To my ear, it comes across as an appealing blend of falling rain and ocean surf mixed together.) The Northwestern scientists played pink noise while their study subjects were in a state of deep sleep, and found that the next day, they had better word recall. Deep sleep is the time when the brain consolidates memories, so if pink noise helps promote that phase of rest, it may explain why it could ward off future dementia. Want to hear what pink noise sounds like? Check out this clip.

Do these things work? The Testosterone Edition

After about age 30, men’s testosterone levels gradually start to decline. Some men try using supplements that claim to boost testosterone, but according to the researchers at the University of Southern California, many supplements that claim to “boost low T” are not, in fact, effective. The scientists bought 150 supplement products and tested them, and discovered that less than 25 percent had any data that supported their claims of “building lean body mass” or “increasing sex drive.” A better bet, if you’re concerned about low testosterone, is to talk with your doctor or a nutritionist. (Read “Hungry for More: What to Eat for Sexual Vitality.”)

Bursts of Exercise Boost the Brain

Most of us struggle to find enough time to exercise, so good news: Researchers have found that short bits of exercise are enough to prep the brain for learning. Neuroscientists at Oregon Health & Science University were working with mice, and have discovered that a quick hit of exercise increases connections between neurons in the hippocampus—the part of the brain that is associated with learning and memory. Just a quick game of pick-up basketball or a 4,000-step-a-day exercise plan should help the brain, say the researchers.