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4 Driving Lessons From Self Driving Cars

4 Driving Lessons From Self Driving Cars

As Google leads the initiative on the development of self driving cars, we have a lot of opportunities to learn about what it takes to teach a computer how to drive. According to a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, self-driving cars have so far done a better job staying out of car crashes and minimizing their consequences compared to human-driven cars.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re free of accidents. Google realized during its self-driving car experiment that the biggest danger to a self-driving car would be the unpredictable and sometimes neglectful nature of human drivers.

The company’s experiment has given it the chance to learn some valuable lessons in how to drive safely, including some that humans could benefit from too. Here are four driving lessons we can learn from self-driving cars.

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  1. Look beyond the car in front of you

Google’s car uses sensors to identify and anticipate objects in the distance in order to take them into account. This enables it to avoid hitting obstacles that could catch it by surprise.

Human drivers lack  some of the sensors Google’s self-driving car boasts, but we can instead rely on vigilance to maintain awareness of where others are as they move around you, even if they’re not immediately in front of you.

It’s also critical to look left and right, not just follow the directives right in front of you, before driving. For example, rather than merely using a red or green light to identify if you should go, be sure to also consider whether any pedestrians look like they’re planning on crossing. They often have right of way and you don’t want to break suddenly to avoid hitting someone that you neglected to take into account because it wasn’t a car in front of you.

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  1. Anticipate the actions of other drivers

It is obviously impossible to perfectly guess what drivers around you are planning on doing, but an educated guess is often helpful on the road.

For example, if a car in front of you is slowing down and you know an intersection or street is coming up, consider the possibility that they are going to turn, and move out of the away or slow down yourself to avoid rear-ending them.

It’s also important to consider what other drives may not realize. A car may be indicating that they’ll turn with a turn signal, but if they’ve had the signal on for a long minute without moving they may have forgotten it was turned on at all.

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Other drivers won’t follow the rules perfectly, and it’s important to try to accommodate for human intention and human error.

  1. Learn the roads around you

Your usual route to work may be familiar, but it turns out that familiarity may encourage you to tune out and put yourself and other drivers at risk.

Rather than sticking to your same routine every single day, consider alternate routes that are available to you. You can check a map of local accident hotspots to find areas to avoid. These give you the option of varying your travel, but it also allows you to adjust your route in anticipation of events such as traffic jams or rush hours.

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Learning alternative routes allows you to calculate for yourself new options on the go and helps you get out of ruts, bumper to bumper traffic and other stressful situations that can lead to an accident.

  1. Don’t take risks on the road

Google’s self-driving cars have garnered some complaints that they drive too carefully, making it slow and overly cautious. However, the car’s decreased accident statistics indicate that it probably know best how to minimize the impact of a car accident, making it an excellent driver for others to model themselves after.

That means that taking extra precautions, anticipating the actions of others, avoiding sudden turns, speeding up or slowing down quickly and using non-aggressive drying is objectively the best choice for drivers to protect themselves. Although it won’t take you where you need to go as quickly, it will get you there safely, which is infinitely more important.

Self driving cars are likely the future of cars, but in the meantime, humans will continue to be behind the wheel, and while we remain in the driver’s seat, we would do well to learn from our future drivers how to keep ourselves safe.

Featured photo credit: Gordon Tarpley via flic.kr

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Last Updated on June 5, 2020

How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

There are a whole bunch of alleged memory vitamins and supplements to help you concentrate and boost your brain function. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation, dodgy studies, and things we just don’t know when it comes to which vitamins actually help with memory and concentration.

This article will dig into the current research to pick four of the best vitamins and supplements to boost your memory and overall brain function.

Vitamins Vs Supplements

First, let’s talk about the difference between a vitamin and a supplement. Vitamins are simply organic compounds that are necessary in small quantities to sustain life[1]. We’re talking the vitamin A, B, and Cs here. Vitamins are in the unprocessed, healthy foods you eat every day and are also available as daily supplements in pill form or as chewy, edible cartoon characters.

Supplements are just extra pills, liquids, or cartoon characters that you consume in addition to the actual food you eat. Supplements can include but are not limited to vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, hormone building blocks, and other compounds that are synthesized or extracted from natural sources.

What Research Says About Vitamins and Supplements

Now, we need to talk about the current state of the research on memory vitamins and brain supplements.

The only real consensus seems to be that much more research needs to be done to truly answer which vitamins and supplements are best for your memory.

Supplements are big business. In 2015, Americans spent 643 million dollars on supplements, and a quarter of Americans over 50 take them regularly[2]. That’s a lot of money spent on an extremely unregulated and under-researched industry.

Here’s what we do know:

The brain needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. We also have some studies on rats and in small samples of humans that show preliminary glimmers of hope[3] that certain memory vitamins and brain supplements may also have positive effects on our brains.

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How Do Memory Vitamins and Supplements Work?

Vitamins and supplements work in many different ways to improve memory and brain function. So, let’s break down how some of the major vitamins and supplements work.

Nootropics

Any vitamin or supplement that aids memory falls into a category called nootropics. Nooptropic is now a term that refers to any natural or synthetic substance that has a positive impact on memory.[4]

Each type of nootropic works differently in the body to affect memory.

Antioxidants

Some nootropics are antioxidants. Vitamins such as vitamin E fall into this category.

Antioxidants help memory by protecting cells from free radicals. When free radicals build up in the body (a natural by-product of metabolism, aging, and exposure to environmental toxins), they cause cellular damage, so antioxidants help memory by preventing and reversing some of this damage.

Regeneration

Some nootropics help memory by going a step further than antioxidants. Some, like Lion’s Mane mushrooms, may help stimulate new cell growth. This regeneration would help memory by stimulating new neural growth.

Memory relies on strong neural pathways, so nootropics that stimulate cell growth might be especially effective supplements.

Stimulants

In order to remember, we have to be awake and alert. The first part of memory is perception, so nootropics such as caffeine help us wake up enough to perceive in the first place. These sensory perceptions can then be turned into memories.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are believed to regulate your adrenal glands, which helps your body deal with stress. More research is needed, but some think that adaptogens help control hormone levels, which helps your immune system, energy levels, and brain functioning[5].

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Inflammation Reduction

Another way some nootropics help memory is by reducing inflammation in the brain. Memory relies on strong neural connections, and inflammation hurts these connections. So, nootropics that relieve this inflammation may be helpful for people to improve their cognitive functioning and memory.

Improving Sleep

Research is starting to show that sleep may also be critical for memory. Studies show that memory may require an active forgetting process during REM sleep[6].

While we sleep, we are actually clearing out less important memory pathways. This helps strengthen the memories that do matter, so sleep is a critical component in memory. Any nootropic that improves our sleep may also be helping to strengthen our memory and brain functioning.

So, which four memory vitamins and brain supplements top the list?

The Best Brain Supplements

If you’re looking to boost your memory, try any one of these supplements.

1. Vitamin E

If we’re just talking about vitamins, I’d put my money on vitamin E to boost memory.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it protects cells from free radicals. When there are too many free radicals in the body, they cause cellular damage. So, vitamin E helps slow the aging process (cellular damage), including the onset of Alzheimer’s-related dementia.

Studies have shown that people with adequate levels of vitamin E performed better on cognitive and memory tests and significantly delayed Alzheimer’s-related dementia. To boost vitamin E’s effects even more, some studies have also shown that it performs better with adequate levels of vitamin C[7].

2. Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane mushroom has been around in Chinese medicine for thousands of years but may not be on your radar just yet. Some preliminary studies on rats have shown that it may improve memory and protect the brain.

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Lion’s Mane has anti-oxidizing effects in the body, fighting off those free radicals, but it may also stimulate Nerve Growth Factor. As Dr. Mary Sabo L.Ac DACM explains:

“These proteins stimulate the production of new brain cells and support the health of existing ones. They also support myelin and brain plasticity.”[8]

Myelin is the fatty substance around nerve cell axons. Axons are like the wires between cells, so when we’re talking about memory, protecting the axon coverings is like protecting the plastic covering of electrical wires. When the covering is compromised, the wire itself is, too.

Like all the other nootropics, much more research needs to be done on Lion’s Mane, but the early studies seem encouraging. It may help stimulate neural growth, protect brain cells, and remove free radicals, which may help improve your memory.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A lot of research has been done on fish oil and how it affects overall brain health. Just like vitamin E, we should be getting the fatty acids in fish oil in our actual diet. But if you don’t, a supplement might be just what the doctor ordered (and again, please check with your doctor before taking any supplements).

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. The 3 in omega-3 refers to the 3 different fatty acids in omega-3: EPA, DPA, and DHA.

There still needs to be more studies to clarify which fatty acids have which effects on the brain, but preliminary studies show that omega-3, especially DHA, is the most important fatty acid for the memory of non-impaired adults[9].

Omega 3s are found in cell membranes, and studies have shown that consuming them may help protect cell health in the brain by helping build cell membranes throughout the body[10].

4. Rhodiola Rosacea

There’s an herb called Rhodiola Rosacea that may also help mental and physical fatigue. Rhodiola Rosacea is an adaptogen, which means it helps regulate the adrenal glands. This helps you deal with stress better.

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According to Dr. Sabo:

“One double-blind, placebo-controlled study on physicians working night shift showed it [Rhodiola Rosacea] was helpful in boosting cognitive cerebral functions when taken daily in supplement form.”

So if you’re looking for a supplement to help with your cognitive endurance, Rhodiola Rosacea may be the thing for you.

The Bottom Line

So, what should you keep in mind when considering memory vitamins and brain supplements?

There is still not enough research to definitively say which memory vitamins are best or which supplements will boost your brain the most. What most doctors agree on is that a healthy diet with natural, unprocessed foods, a physically active lifestyle, a good night’s rest, and strong social relationships are actually the best things we can do for our memories and our brains more generally.

However, if you’re making those positive changes with your diet, exercise, sleep, and relationships, you may also still be considering supplements. Consult your doctor first because memory problems may be a sign of something much more serious. As Dr. Sabo explains:

“Problems with memory and concentration can be symptoms of other conditions such as hypothyroid, anxiety, depression, or insomnia. It can also be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia in the elderly. While some supplements can help with these symptoms, getting the right diagnosis and medical care from an MD and targeted support from a holistic practitioner can be the best path for ongoing care.”

So seek an expert’s opinion and ask informed questions about nootropics, adaptogens, and antioxidants to land on your own decision for which memory vitamins and brain boosters are best for you.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Sweet via unsplash.com

Reference

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