Monthly Archives: April 2009

Is it Alzheimer’s or just normal aging?

I am frequently asked what the difference is between memory changes associated with normal aging and that related to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). First, the memory changes associated with normal aging are not a disease. The typical pattern of memory change with advanced age is a deficit in retrieval. A healthy older brain can encode information because the hippocampus is relatively healthy. This permits new information to be encoded. The older adult has some difficulty retrieving that new information, but with cues and prompts they retrieve the information as well as those in their thirties.

In contrast, a brain with AD has a damaged hippocampus that prevents new information from being encoded. This means that new learning does not take place and that cures and prompts do not help because the information is not there to be prompted.

In general, a healthy older adult encodes new information, but needs some help in retrieving what has been encoded. A brain with AD does not encode new information and therefore cues and prompts will not help with retrieval.

Fore more information about Alzheimer’s Disease

I keep forgetting names!

It is very common to be introduced to a new person, to hear their name, and to rapidly forget the person’s name. The question is why?

Is this experience a reflection of you having a poor memory? It actually might represent an attention problem. When we meet new people for the first time there is a tremendous amount of information being processed, outside factors that may be distracting, and each person is generally concerned about him or herself.

Word finding difficulty or the inability to derive a name that was just presented to you is not a sign of disease, but a probable indication that you can benefit from specific tips to remember the names.

As an example, when someone introduces himself or herself to you recite the name aloud and repeat it in every sentence you communicate to the person. This will facilitate a deeper encoding of the name initially which helps to store the information more permanently.

To learn more about Brain Health

Diabetes and Dementia

A recent study in Journal of the American Medical Association provides further support for a relationship between the risk factors of type II diabetes and dementia. This particular study focused on episodes of hypoglycemia and its influence on risk for dementia.

With diabetes there exist a number of health related factors such as obesity, imbalance of glucose, high blood pressure, stroke, abnormal cerebrovascular flow, and heart and other major system dysfunction. Either these factors combined or with a focus on glucose stabilization which can adversely affect the function of neurons, there appears to be a critical risk enhancement to development of dementia in later life.

The important point here is that diabetes with all of its risk factors are cumulative and have a proactive and lifelong effect. This underscores the need for a proactive and lifelong healthy lifestyle, including that for the brain. Nutrition and physical activity are two primary lifestyle behaviors critical for combating type II diabetes.

Eating brain healthy foods and remaining physically active to enhance blood flow to the brain are both necessary and fundamental to a healthy lifestyle and to combating the risk for type II diabetes.

I Cannot Sleep!

For nearly 30 million Americans and many more around the globe sleep disorder is an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs to get enough sleep to feel rested and energetic throughout the day. For most this means at least six hours a night and at least 8 or more for teenagers and children.

Sleep is a very important behavior that is supersensitive to many things that can disrupt it. Pain, rumination, anxiety, mood disorder, new surrounding, uncomfortable temperature, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and medication side effects can all disrupt a normal night sleep. Sleep disorders can also lead to depression, cognitive processing deficits and even more serious problems such as narcolepsy (sudden sleep) that can result in motor vehicle accidents.

Sleep disorders can be confronted and treated with the following approach:

1. Identify that you have a sleep disorder, particularly if you notice your sleep pattern has changed, you are exhausted throughout the day, or you are dozing off at inappropriate times during the day.

2. Get a sleep assessment done to rule out physiological causes the potential disorder.

3. If pain is the cause of the sleep disorder, consult with your M.D. to obtain a more effective means of coping with the pain.

4. For those who are anxious or ruminate while in the bed consider the following steps:

  • Set a strict time to go to bed and a strict time to arise.
  • Do not nap during the day and exercise daily.
  • No caffeine after lunch.
  • Refrain from T.V., reading, or other cognitive activity in bed.
  • Set the temperature in the room to cool.
  • Try to fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down.

If you do not fall asleep, get out of the bed and sit in a designated “worry chair” where you permit your brain to ruminate.

Once you believe you have ruminated enough try to return to the bed and fall asleep within 20 minutes. Repeat the same process if you do not fall asleep.

It is also a good idea to write down what you are thinking so you can view your anxiety rather than simply feeling it.

5. Drink a warm glass of milk prior to going to sleep.

6. Use white noise if it helps.

7. Eat healthier and lose some weight within reason.

8. Consult with your M.D. to assess the need for medication as a last resort.

Good Night.

Mental Aspects of Sport Performance

The common phrase “the game is 95% mental” is well known, but hardly respected at least as measured by the amount of time one works on the mental side of any sport. For those professional and amateur athletes who perform at the highest levels, the common thread to their excellence is the mastery of the mental part of their work or game.

I watched the Masters’ Golf Tournament and took away a deep appreciation again of the significance of the mental part of the game. Indeed, the mental part of the game can completely alter a highly proficient mechanical or physical part of the game. Consider the major leaguer who falls into a slump, a professional golfer who cannot hit a three foot putt, and the professional basketball player who cannot drain the fifteen foot foul shot. This is despite the fact that these professionals are the best on the planet and can achieve success at these tasks 98% of the time.

The Masters’ typically begins on Sunday and the last nine holes. This is the time when the mental aspect of the game really becomes paramount, though clearly the mental part of the golf game is always important. Perhaps it is the nearing of the end of the tournament, the amount of fame derived from winning this major tournament, or the fear of failure that cause the execution of the swing or putt to drift. Truly, the ability to put all of these and other mental distractions to the side and mentally focus on the execution of what the professional has done thousands of times represents the road to success and victory.

That the greatest athletes on the planet can be so affected, negatively and positively, by the mental energy and focus of the game is impressive. The human brain’s ability to harness and focus this energy, to not get distracted, to remain confident in the execution of the mechanics, and to see success will always be in the winner’s circle no matter what profession we are discussing.

Hit em straight!

…read more about brain health & fitness

BRAIN FITNESS GAMING SITE KEEPS MINDS FIT AND MOTIVATED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Brain games and tools at FitBrains.com stimulate the brain to maintain peak brain fitness
while having fun playing casual games

VANCOUVER, Canada – Research has shown that brain health begins to lag as early as age 25. However, the same research has shown that with regular brain fitness training, the brain can create new neural connections and pathways at any age.

In response to this research, Vancouver’s Vivity Labs has created FitBrains.com, a new online brain fitness platform that hosts fun, casual games developed by brain fitness experts, specifically designed to exercise the brain and improve the five major cognitive brain functions – memory, concentration, language, executive functions (logic and reasoning), and visual-spatial skills.

The team behind FitBrains.com – including award-winning Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Nussbaum from the University of Pittsburgh and a board of scientific advisors – has created individual brain fitness workouts for players of all ages. More than fifteen brain games can be played for free, with daily and weekly brain fitness leader boards, a Brain Health Blog with top brain fitness tips, and a 30-day brain fitness chart for players looking to track their brain games progress and develop a competitive edge. A premium section of the site offers additional features like in-depth brain tracking charts and the ability to play against family and friends.

“FitBrains.com is designed to provide something for everyone who’s looking to improve their brain fitness,” Dr. Nussbaum said. “Our online brain games and tools use scientific principles to maximize brain fitness impact while providing a fun way to spend time playing casual games online.”

Michael Cole, founder and CEO of FitBrains.com, said fun and motivation were key factors in the design of FitBrains.com.

“We want to tap into as many motivational drivers that get individuals of all ages to integrate brain fitness work-outs into their daily life as we can,” Cole said. “With FitBrains.com, we provide the highest quality brain fitness gaming experience on the web. The site fuses the right balance between science and entertainment, which is critical for mass adoption. ”

For more information about how brain games can help improve brain fitness, please visit www.fitbrains.com