Let me begin this blog with “I do not know” whether cell phone used causes brain cancer in the form of tumors or not. However, not knowing something means you do not know and hence caution is most likely in order, particularly when cancer is the point of discussion.
Let me try to ease the confusion and suggest some lifestyle steps to avoid unnecessary risk if it is present. A primary malignant brain tumor is one in which the cancer originates in the brain itself rather than traveling to the brain from another region of the body (metastases). There are over 20,000 new cases of primary brain malignancies each year. A specific form of brain tumor known as the glioblastoma multiforme has increased 30 to 70 percent from one decade to the next in some metropolitan areas of the United States. It is believed that ten times the number of metastatic brain tumors will also occur in the same time period.
Risks for cancer include pesticides, air pollution, chemicals found in meats, power lines, and plastics. Xrays are also on the list of risk factors including the microwave type radiation emitted from cell phones. This is why cell phone companies suggest we hold the phones away from out ear when using it. Further, there have been several studies indicating a relationship (not cause and effect) between cell phone use and risk of brain cancer, increased risk of acoustic neuroma, and glioblastomas. It is important to note that other studies that have not found any relationship between cell phone use and increased risk for brain cancer. We will most likely learn more about this relationship as we have more time to study the use and effects of cell phone use on a larger number of people over a greater period of time.
As cell phone use is a lifestyle issue, what can be done at this point? There certainly has been an increase in the number of users and the amount of time each user spends on their cell phone. Some homes do not even have land lines anymore. Children are using cell phones at unprecedented rates as well. Dr. Black, renowned neurosurgeon suggests that parents try to curtail cell phone usage in their children. Even adults are encouraged to use an earpiece (not a blue tooth) to avoid direct contact between the phone and the ear.
I have started to use an earpiece myself.
In addition to a good night sleep and plenty of rest to enable the brain to consolidate information learned during the day, the brain also benefits from quiet moments during the day.
A quiet moment does not involve any goal, task completion, or endpoint. It is about process and about being in the here and now. A quiet moment can occur anywhere at any time so long as you permit your brain to shut down and to turn inward.
Removing structure and demand from your existence enables your brain to freely roam and to explore ideas and feelings that get shut out with structure and task driven behavior. Your most creative moments will come from such experiences.
It is not easy to create quiet moments. You need to establish parts of your day when you remove all chores, all responsibilities, and all task demands. It is simply time to be, for you to exist. It might mean a walk, sitting on a bench or under a tree, or playing an instrument. There is no conscious deliberation, it is meditative and introspective.
Sounds easy, but it is not. Give it a try and perhaps you will get in touch with your creative side!
Benefits of a Brain Healthy Lifestyle
With the recent news of the loss of the oldest man who was 113 when he died, attention is being paid to the fact that more people are living to 100 than ever before. By the middle of this century there will be approximately 6 million persons who are 100 or older. Indeed, the median age in developed countries to 50 and re-defines “middle age”.
The baby boom generation is certainly more focused on personal health than prior generations, there is more attention to diet and exercise, doctors are treating older individuals aggressively with advanced interventions, and genetics all play a role with living longer.
Japan will have the most centenarians in 2050 with 627,000 or 1% of their total population. Greece, Italy, Monaco, and Singapore will also have high numbers of those living to 100. The United States centenarians will increase from 75,000 to more than 600,000 by 2050. These are persons currently described as baby boomers and there will certainly be increased health care costs related to this demographic shift.
This demographic shift will have enormous impact across all sectors of life and across the globe.
According to a new study veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia compared to those veterans without PTSD.
Scientists from the University of California-San Francisco reported the findings at the recent meeting of the International Conference on Alzheimer’s disease in Vienna. Their findings indicated veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD had a 10.6% rate of developing dementia over a seven year follow-up while those veterans without PTSD had a 6.6% rate.
The findings indicate that disorders such as PTSD, depression, and chronic anxiety may predispose the brain to vulnerability for dementia. Interestingly, PTSD has been related to dysfunction in the hippocampus, the critical region of disease for Alzheimer’s.
Sleep is actually a very important function of and for the brain. We need to generate enough sleep to feel rested, to have energy, to assist with mood, and to even help us think more clearly.
Sleep is divided into four stages. Deep sleep or stage IV sleep is critical to brain function. With advanced age we generate less deep IV sleep and it is probably not a coincidence that our cognitive abilities change as well.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is the part of sleep when we dream and we are actually paralyzed. REM occupies about 25% of our sleep and is critical for encoding information to a deeper level. Our brain processes millions of bits of information daily and during REM it is thought the brain selects those bits of information that are most critical.
Debate on how much sleep is necessary continues, but it is probably safe to say that young children need at least 8 hours of sleep a day while adults should get more than 6. Certainly, these numbers are not fixed and there are cases where some do fine with only a few hours while others do not. The bottom line is that our brains need sleep, deep sleep, and REM to function efficiently.
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that includes a wide array of symptoms. We do not know the cause of autism and we have no cure. Much has been learned and autism is certainly no longer viewed as a single disorder or entity. The emotional strain on a family can be substantial, particularly when resistance to an emotional or loving attachment occurs.
I have been reading more about the positive effects of surfing on some children with autism. As I am not an expert in this area I want to be careful and inform the public that autism is not my area of specialization. However, I have now read several accounts of how a child suffering from autism has a type of “awakening” after some time in the water learning how to surf.
Obviously, the surfing I am describing involves one to one work with a trained surfer who has a gift of working with children suffering autism. It is also true that by these accounts that the first part of the experience can be difficult as the child experiences a natural fear of the ocean and strangers. It might be most difficult for the parents who are watching with great doubt.
The reports indicate that after a short period of time the child with autism not only relaxes, but begins to awaken to life and the surroundings in a way not seen prior to the surfing experience. It is not known why or how this occurs, but perhaps the child’s brain is literally overwhelmed with stimulation which helps to soothe and foster interaction with others in the immediate environment. One parent even described his child as being able to speak and connect in ways he thought was impossible.
Perhaps Mother Nature provides us with some treatments in her own way. The majesty of an ocean whose water fills 80% of our planet might have some answers for the brain. Maybe it is the movement, the energy, the sound, the rhythm. Even if we do not fully understand why, the fact that we have anecdotal evidence for surfing bringing some children with Autism to a new awakening is reason enough to ask more questions.
Neuropathologists can confirm clinical diagnoses at death by doing an autopsy. Such work can reveal the presence of markers characteristic of particular diseases. This might include neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques indicating the presence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or stroke as examples.
The other interesting thing about autopsies of the brain is that the neuropathologist may uncover something peculiar about the person’s brain that can help to explain that person’s talent or brilliance in a particular activity. One example is Einstein’s brain that had a slightly different area of the parietal lobe relative to the rest of the population. This might help to explain his appreciation of space and numbers.
As I watched the recent funeral of Michael Jackson the most salient issue for me was the children. Like many, I hope and pray for their wellbeing and comfort. I have also noticed multiple articles in the media on determining cause of death in this case and the value of conducting an autopsy of the brain.
I understand the need to determine cause of death; however I am hopeful that any autopsy of the brain also sheds light on the brilliance and creative spirit of Michael. I wonder if the neuropathologist might discover some ideas within the folds and grooves of the brain that help all of us understand not only the brilliance of Michael, but of the human brain and our potential to create.
For many years neurons have been considered the main act within the cerebral cortex, responsible for our thoughts, emotions, and movements. Of interest is the fact that neurons only account for about 10% of human brain cells. Glial cells that account for the other 90% of brain cells have typically been thought to carry a supportive role to the neurons.
An article in Forbes Magazine (July 13, 2009), however, suggests glial cells may be even more important than neurons for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke. Recent understanding of the brain now indicates glial cells with neurons play a critical role in brain development and brain function.
Medications on the market today do not work on glial cells. Ben Barnes, Chairman of the Neurobiology Department at Stanford University Medical School posits that one type of glial cells, the astrocytes, trigger the initial steps of destruction in brain diseases. As such, Dr. Barnes believes that by creating treatments that of the astrocytes can in turn save dying neurons.
If glial cells do indeed maintain a more critical role in the formation, function, and elimination of synaptic activity, plasticity, and creation of myelin sheath around the neuron, an entirely new approach to behavioral neuroscience will be born and with it, an entirely new treatment approach.
The human brain has what is known as a dominant side and a non-dominant side. Dominance is determined by where language is processed and for the vast majority of humans we believe the dominant side is the left side or left hemisphere. Interestingly, we are not sure why the left side evolved to be dominant, but perhaps it had something to do with cave men and women using their right hands more often.
As language is processed primarily by most in the left hemisphere it is important to note that words are best processed when spoken into the right ear. The right ear processes information primarily using the left hemisphere while the left ear uses the right hemisphere.
A recent study found that words were more deeply processed when spoken into the person’s right ear. Therefore, if you want me to remember something for you please speak to me on my right side.
A typical and yet interesting reality is that most women enjoy shopping and most men do not. As one interested in human behavior this is a fascinating finding worthy of some curiosity. The explanation of the differences between the two genders regarding shopping might be found in a basic understanding of the human brain.
Shopping for a male brain is defined as going into a store or mall, selecting the item to be purchased, and getting out of the store as fast as possible. This behavior is task-based, something to be confronted and completed. The male brain operates primarily within the dominant hemisphere, a side of the brain that is task based.
Shopping for a female brain is both task based and process based. For example, a female can do the same thing a male does while shopping by getting the item and getting out. However, upon entering the doors of the mall, the female brain hears music in the background, smells cinnamon rolls baking in the distance, and appreciates the wonderful different colors and textures of the products throughout the store. This is the non-dominant side of the female brain functioning, something that is foreign to the male brain within the shopping mall.
It can be fun to watch the female and male brain try to work together as “shopping” behavior occurs together. Have you ever seen an otherwise happy couple get frustrated with each other in the mall? Perhaps a little understanding of the how and why behind the gender differences can help to make the next shopping trip a good one.