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As most of us get into middle age we might take special notice of our body’s ability to keep a few extra pounds around the waist. Most of us understand the importance of eating healthy and the disease risk associated with extra weight around the belly.
We know that a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important for maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity. However, genetics also plays a role in which an important neurochemical, Dopamine, may play a critical role. Dopamine is the primary neurochemical that regulates our pleasure sensation.
Eating temporarily boosts dopamine levels, but obesity may be associated with fewer Dopamine receptors which lead to less sensation of pleasure with eating. Research now suggests that the brain regions important to Dopamine expression when eating treats such as a milkshake does not get activated in those who are obese.
Interestingly, Dopamine has been studied as a primary mechanism for addiction and impulsive behavior including eating. Attempts are underway to try and understand how Dopamine might be triggered even in obesity to reduce impulsive eating so as to reduce gaining more weight. To read more about Dopamine, click here
Brain health begins with your learning the basics of your brain and how environment influences the structure and function of your brain. It is important to understand that you have the ability to promote healthy development of your brain that can not only influence the health of your brain, but also affect aspects of your life in a positive way.
Consider the following examples of how a proactive brain health lifestyle that includes (1) physical activity, (2) mental stimulation, (3) nutrition, (4) socialization, and (5) spirituality can make a positive difference:
1. Increased communication skills with your partner and peers at work. We incur divorce and financial loss at work because of communication problems.
2. Control over the inner voice that sabotages nearly every diet plan. This is an issue of inhibition, discipline, and reward that results from thoughts and action.
3. Leadership through enhancement of empathy and accurate perception of the emotions of others. Presidents get elected with such skills and our best leaders likely have this skill.
4. Relationship building and limiting unnecessary tensions. This is a big one for family dynamics.
5. Achieving success in life by setting concrete goals and developing the mental path to meet these goals. Thoughts are electrical, chemical, and perhaps magnetic with influence over behavior and outcome.
6. Creation of a better sense of self.
7. Gaining control over inner tension, stress, and our psychophysiology that can alter our longevity and quality of life.
8. Slowing time and developing an appreciation for the here and now.
9. Understanding the enormous power and consequences of our words and messages to others, particularly children.
10. Promoting neuronal development through learning and exposure of our brains to the novel and complex such as Fit Brains www.fitbrains.com
No worry, this is not a list of leadership skills or how to become the best CEO in the world! Rather, you may not even realize you have your own “Executive System” that sits in the region of your brain known as the frontal lobe. The largest and youngest member of your cortex, the frontal lobe is a very interesting part of you. It facilitates many important and distinct skills that are used everyday. Examples of such skills include planning, organization, analytic, sequencing, multi-tasking, inhibition, creativity, attention and discrimination, fluency, emotional expression and perception, ethics and social grace, and judgment. Even your personality is the product of frontal lobe function!
We refer to the frontal lobe as the “executive system” because it serves the role of executing the multiple intentions that arrive from other parts of the brain. It is the CEO of the brain or the grand Maestro of the behavioral and cognitive symphony of the brain. Clearly, the frontal lobe—executive system is critical to your neuronal health.
Some practical tips to stimulate and exercise your executive system include the following:
1. Organize your day, organize your room (good one for the teenagers in the house!), and help to organize an event or even your child’s schedule.
2. Participate in planning a vacation, trip, or some future event.
3. Practice expressing different emotions and then perceiving emotions on the faces of others.
4. Practice stating aloud the alphabet, but alternate between letters and numbers in a logical order. Any time you can alternate between two distinct categories is a workout for your executive system.
5. Give yourself some free time to imagine and create.
6. Pay attention to ethics and decision making that involves good or poor judgment.
7. Watch how typical personality traits can change with stress, mood, and alcohol. These chemical triggers alter the frontal lobe and can also alter one’s personality for a temporary period of time.
8. Express as many words as you can in 60 seconds that begin with different letters.
9. Draw 30 small circles on the page and write words of different colors under each circle. Then color the circles with a color that is different than the word you wrote under the particular circle. Now, state aloud the color of the circle, not the written word for each of the 30 circles as fast as you can. See how many you can correctly state in 30 seconds.
10. Go to www.Fitbrains.com and play the following games to exercise your executive system:
Good luck with your workout!
During our Christmas and holiday season one can get easily overwhelmed by all the sales, regardless of the status of the economy. Humans hurry and sometimes bully their way to purchase the latest and greatest gift all in the name of love.
I am always impressed by the latest technological gadgets, most of which our children understand much better than we parents. The latest computer, cell phone, iPod, iPhone, plasma or LCD television, home entertainment system are a few examples of our prized possessions. Most seem to be in a bit of amazement at “how far we have come” or “how impressive the new toy or tool is.” The same worship can also be seen when the military displays its latest laser weapons system, medicine unveils its newest and most sophisticated imaging device, or our government tells us about their recent security screening kit that has biometrics.
Lost in all the gawking and loss of breath is the simple realization of who or more accurately what actually conceptualized, designed, and built these gadgets? The simple answer is the human brain!
As we push further into the information age and hopefully benefit from advanced technologies. As our children’s DNA changes from their persistent use of cell phones to text as a primary means of communication, and as we develop a whole new understanding of who we are from medical advances it is important that we pause and recognize the miracle that is the human brain.
Within the folds of this single greatest and most complicated system ever designed in the history of the universe lies the cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, answers for world peace, and elevation of the human condition. The brain most likely has the ability to fix the body’s maladies and to communicate with other brains without opening the mouth. I suggest the human race begin to look inward to this most precious gift, to research how we can unleash the power of the brain via electrical, chemical, and magnetic energy, and to significantly forward the technological advancement of our species.
I wonder what the sale price of the human brain would be this holiday season!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Dr. Paul Nussbaum