Of Mice and Fries

A new study found mice that consumed junk food for nine months demonstrated signs of the abnormal brain tangles typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Indeed, a diet rich in fat, sugar, and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia.

The study published by the Karolinska Institute’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center found a chemical change in the brains that were fed the unhealthy diet, not unlike that found in the AD brain.

The researchers suggest a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic predisposition can adversely affect several brain substances that may contribute to onset of AD.

The combination of the gene type APOE-4, found in 15 to 20 percent of people and a known risk factor for AD, and the diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol led to the abnormal build up of the protein Tau and tangles. Interestingly, the animals also demonstrated reduced levels of another protein called Arc involved in memory storage.

The results offer another hint that AD may be attacked by lifestyle (diet) prior to its onset and progressive damage.

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Tips For Improving Memory

Tips for Improving Memory

Our memory helps to shape and define who we are, provide us with comfort, and guide us in our daily lives. While there are many different types of memory we tend to rely primarily on a type of memory that enables us to recall information presented to us either recently or sometime in the distant past.

Memory can be affected by many factors including level of stress, rest, nutrition, medical status, medications, alcohol, exercise, sensory function, hormones, and information processing ability. Common types of memory difficulties include inability to remember names, forgetting directions, forgetting where the car or other object is, and forgetting to complete a task in a specified order.

While it is true that our memory ability tends to decline as we age, a healthy older adult can recall quite well, particularly when given cues and prompts. Memory in late life should not be confused with disease such as Alzheimer’s that can impair memory. Here are some strategies and tips to assist you with your recall on a daily basis regardless of age:

1. Recognize what types of information and situations increase forgetfulness for  you. You may be able to identify particular factors that lead to your memory  problems and a change of these factors might help your recall.

2. Make sure your brain is well rested. You might be surprised to learn that a  fatigued brain will not process as deeply or as efficiently as a well rested brain.

3. Eat brain healthy foods such as fish, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

4. Information that you need to encode will be recalled better if you repeat the  information to yourself several times.

5. If you have problems remembering names of people you meet continue to use  their names in every sentence when speaking to them. This is a type of normal  repetition that is polite and helpful to your processing.

6. Do not be ashamed to admit to someone that you have forgotten their name and  need to hear it again. Simply tell the person you are bad with names, but you are  trying  and can benefit if they provide his or her name again. At that point, refer  back to point # 5.

7. Lists are fine or small pocket book with cues and prompts can be very useful to  assist your recall.

8. Develop routines and fixed places for placement of items such as car keys. Your  brain will develop a subconscious process to place and retrieve objects with such  routine. This will then free up the conscious part of your brain to learn new

9. Engage in memory exercises such as learning an increasingly larger list of words,  faces on cards, facts such as state capitals, and names of neighborhood family  members.

10. Learn how to relax and remove stress from your life. Memory is directly affected  by chronic stress and you will make mistakes when your brain is stressed.

11. Engage in a regular physical exercise routine as cardiovascular health can  increase learning and memory ability.

FitBrains has several mental exercise games that can assist your memory if you engage in a daily or regular brain fitness routine. Consider the following games by FitBrains for your memory workout:

Good luck and do not forget these memory tips!

Food and our Health

With regard to the human brain we can provide general advice about how to promote brain health across the lifespan. When we were cavemen and cavewomen we ate one good fat for every bad fat. Today, we eat about 15 bad fats for every good fat. This is important because our brains are composed of about 60% fat and the lipid substance helps to facilitate information processing.

Thinking live a cave person might be a good exercise when thinking about what to eat. We should try and eat plants/vegetables, nuts, beans, fruit, fish, and lean game such as chicken. We should try to reduce processed foods, red meat, trans fatty acids, soda and foods high in sugar. We should strive to eat less than more and use utensils more often as it might help to less consumption of food and a healthier consumption of foods.

It is also important to realize that foods are supposed to be pleasurable and that an occasional piece of cake, pie, ice cream, etc will not cause major damage to the system. This is particularly true when one follows some of the general advice above.

I personally have begun a study of my own diet with increased intake of fruits and vegetables, reduction in processed fats, removal of soda from the diet, and increased fish and lean chicken. It is not uncommon for me to now have fruit in the am and day with a salad (olive oil and vinegar are good for the brain), and a piece of fish or chicken at night. I have been relatively consistent though I fail now and then. I am observing change in body mass and in psychology including energy and mental alertness.

Stay tuned and I will provide you an update in the near future!

The Male/Female Brain

genders.jpgTalk to the most happily married couples or to the best of friends and they will tell you that sometimes they do not “understand each other,” “he does not listen to me,” or “I just do not understand her.”

If this sounds familiar do not fret as it is to be expected and even normal. The female and male brain is different and the two brains process information differently. The good news is that with some conscious effort communication can be enhanced between the brains and frustrations lowered.

In general, female brains tend to employ both sides of their brain to process information while male brains tend to rely primarily on their dominant or language side to process. As the dominant hemisphere tends to be analytic, problem solving, task oriented, detailed, and verbal this helps to explain male behavior. A female brain can also process in this manner, but the non-dominant hemisphere that can process emotion, meaning without words, empathy, tone, and disposition is also engaged by the female.

Perhaps this helps to explain why females enjoy shopping while most men view it as a chore, women vote differently than males, men and women struggle communicating with each other, and men do not understand psychotherapy. Men tend to be more isolative, less talkative, and focused on solution. Women tend to be more group oriented, more talkative, and focused on the means and not necessarily the ends. This gets played out in the U.S. at this time as women and men tend to view the same debate between candidates differently (men tend to focus on content and women both content and style).

A great question from a male brain to a female brain is “what do you mean” or Am I correct in hearing this…” Female brains can enhance communication from and to the male brain by being explicit in language as male brains may have some difficulty “reading between the lines” or appreciating emotion if it is not declared explicitly.

Once again the good news is that each brain can benefit from the other if we try!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Better than Calculator

books.jpgI have the wonderful opportunity of traveling the nation and internationally to speak about the wonderful miracle of the human brain. During my public presentations I always describe the brain as the most complicated, integrated, and miraculous system ever designed in the history of the Universe! I then scream from the mountaintops that we need to understand that our greatest moments of innovation, creativity, cures for illness, and ability to communicate in ways we only dream about now will be accomplished by learning how to tap into the greatness of our brain!

It is from this context that I read my local newspaper to find the following headline “Brains beat buttons for learning mathematics.” New research finds that third graders learn multiplication better when they use their brains before they use a calculator. The results of this study can be found in the next issue of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and the article is published in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Sept 4, 2008).

We have known for some time that learning is enhanced when the person doing the learning “does it on his or her own.” This is another way of saying “uses his or her brain.” We also know that the more one is exposed to a particular stimulus the more deeply they will remember or encode it. This again reflects the ability and efficiency of the human brain. The calculator is an external device that appears to have a secondary and reinforcing purpose to what the brain has already learned.

From a brain health perspective, we as a society will be better off when we use our brains first and rely on technological devices (invented by the human brain) in secondary roles. The former involves stimulation of the cortex that will develop brain reserve. A reliance on technologies such as a calculator will cause the brain to use the subcortex which is more rote, passive and procedural in its processing.

By using our cortex in complex pursuits we will always be on a path to brain health (brain fitness, brain games). Reliance on passive behaviors such as using a calculator will put us on a path to rote processing with less health benefit.

So… tonight I will remind my sons to use their brain first to solve the math homework as I have a personal interest in their learning and in their brain health!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.