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.
Canada and the United States have celebrated their nation’s birthdays and freedom. The cost of such freedom has been and continues to be paid with significant sacrifice and loss of life. Freedom is a great gift and certainly one deserving the rich celebration every year.
I wonder about the brain and freedom and believe the natural existence for our brain is to be free. Our brain is at its best when it is creative and free to imagine, dream, and innovate. Structure and imposed limitation on the brain’s ability to think and to speak is both unnatural and unhealthy.
Surveys have documented the number one value for an older adult is independence. Freedom to move, live, make decisions, and act as one wishes is what independence is about. Dependence on others is the antithesis of freedom and a state of being that most of us fear.
We can enjoy the fact that we in Canada and the United States live in freedom, that we have independence, and that our brains have every opportunity today to create a great innovation that will change the course of mankind!
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.
- To reduce unhealthy stress levels, take up yoga, meditate, laugh, exercise, or care for a pet.
- The easiest way to challenge your brain is to choose a “word of the day” and then work the word into a conversation. Improving vocabulary is a great way to challenge your brain daily.
- Ten minutes of focusing on the positive and visualizing the future each day can change the way you look at life, opening your mind to new possibilities.
- Take advantage of your natural learning booster by believing something is important. If we try to learn without feeling interested, very little of that information will be saved in our memories. When we tell ourselves that what we’re learning is important, our brains join in, triggering our learning circuits.
- Try making a list of ten things you are thankful for – just doing this daily can make a big difference in your everyday attitude and help manage stress. There is a definite connection between healthy living and having a positive outlook on life.
Click here for more tips to encourage a Healthy Brain Lifestyle…
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.
We eat for many different reasons some of which are not healthy. Food is necessary for humans to survive though consumption of food in advanced nations is really not based on survival. Early in our development we hunted and remained vigilant most of the day to gather and consume food for survival. Today, food is so available in many different forms that this primal instinct to eat for survival is gone.
Today, food is consumed to satisfy hunger, maintain a routine of three meals a day, and to cope with emotions of guilt, anxiety, sadness, boredom, low self esteem, anger, and loneliness. Emotional eating is probably never healthy and leads to other problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These problems in turn lead to increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and even dementia.
The only way to identify why you are eating is to remain conscious of your thoughts and feelings when you desire food. This will help you understand what is driving you to eat. Clearly we need to consume food for energy and function. However, most people over consume and do so on a subconscious basis. This unhealthy regimen can be addressed and transitioned to a healthy regimen of eating behavior only by becoming conscious of one’s thoughts prior to eating
Here are some activities to promote and stabalize emotional balance
Perhaps the most fundamental and critical behavior of your brain is language. The ability to communicate is necessary to our species and survival. Language is predominantly a left-hemisphere and verbal function. However, language also entails prosody or pitch and tone without words, letters, or numbers. Language involves spontaneity, content, tempo, volume, and comprehension. Language is symbolic, spoken, written, perceived and comprehended.
Read more about Language Skills…
The human brain is very complex and responsible for all behavior, and we are continually learning new information about how it operates. Behavioral and cognitive functions can be organized into five distinct domains to include : Memory, Attention & Concentration, Language Skills, Visual & Spatial and Executive Functions (Logic & Reasoning).
Memory and new learning is a necessary and important function of the human brain. Our ability to live independently and to function normally is a direct result of a normal memory system. Our life story is built by encoding and retaining our daily experiences. Our personal identity is framed by our memory and ability to learn from these memories.
Memory and new learning begins with the Hippocampus, a critical structure in the middle temporal lobes of both hemispheres of the brain. This is the structure that enables learning and transition of new learning into a permanent storage site in the Cortex. The Hippocampus has the ability to generate new brain cells with stimulating environments, can be damaged with chronic stress, and is hit early by Alzheimer’s disease. Damage to the Hippocampus results in memory deficits.
Read more about Memory…