Thursday, May 29, 2014

Alzheimer's and Vitamin E, Part 1

Estimates are that as many as 5.1 million Americans are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Difficulties with activities of daily living (e.g., shopping, preparing meals, planning, and traveling) often negatively impact these individuals. An article published in Journal of the American Medical Association in January of 2014 reported that alpha tocepherol (fat-soluble Vitamin E and antioxidant), may slow functional decline in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease and decrease caregiver burden. According to Mary Sano, PhD, trial co-investigator, and professor in the department of psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and director of research at the James J. Peters Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, Bronx, New York: “This trial showed that vitamin E delays progression of functional decline by 19% per year, which translates into 6.2 months benefit over placebo.” Vitamin E use did not show delay of cognitive or memory deterioration in the research.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sound and Radio Station Songs

Sound is reportedly the first sense to begin developing in the human brain during gestation. It is also reportedly the last sense to go when the brain and body die. When you listen to the radio, do you prefer to hear familiar tunes over those that are less familiar? Recently, “The Daily Stat” (Harvard Business Review) reported that improved monitoring of consumers’ radio habits revealed that listeners pay attention only when they hear songs they know. Because of this, it appears that Top 40 radio stations are playing fewer songs with greater frequency. According to the Wall Street Journal, the top 10 songs were played almost twice as often in 2013 as the top 10 songs were played in 2003. Hmmm. Makes one wonder how new composers will (or will not) get radio exposure for their songs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Conflicting Mind Compartments

An article in “Scientific American” suggests that the mind is composed of compartments or modules that can conflict with one another. According to author Michael Shermer, “The module that leads us to crave sweet and fatty foods in the short term is in conflict with the module that monitors our body image and health in the long term.” The same is likely true for modules related to cooperation versus competition, or lying versus honesty, and play versus homework. Similarly, there may be compartments in the brain for beliefs. Researchers at Northwestern University found that when closely held beliefs of study participants were shaken, the subjects were even more enthusiastically persistent about those beliefs. That reminds one of stories about Galileo, who ran up against commonly held (and theological) beliefs. Reportedly, when he proposed that the earth moved around the sun, it got him house arrest for the remainder of his life. (There's also a common myth--one I was taught growing up--that Galileo was censured for saying the world was round.) Although the telescope had already been invented, Galileo apparently was responsible for some refinements or enhancements that assisted him in discovering several heavenly bodies and built his own telescope in 1608. It sure would be great if there was a historic library of DVDs so one could go back in time and "see" what really happened ...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Back from Australia

Happy Memorial Day! Today I am remembering many people, as no doubt you are. I am looking at pictures taken recently on my sixth lecture tour to Australia and remembering that country and it wonderful people, too. In Coff's Harbor, Susan Magaitis showed me "The Big Banana" and then arranged to have me kissed by a seal and a dolphin (I'm working on getting those pictures posted somewhere soon.) In Brisbane, Rob and Susanne Belosev toured me though the "gold coast." In Cooranbong, Linnie Pohan took me out in the bush to see wild kangaroos (some of them are HUGE), and Dr. Robyn Priestly and I had a lovely lunch and a visit to some very colorful gardens, even if it was in their fall season. (Actually, it felt a bit strange to come home to spring.) Bob and Angie Kalif took Rina, Kym, and me out for a special lunch at "Noah's By the Sea." And I could go on and on . . . Dr. Wayne French and his wife Marie drove me to the Sydney airport to catch my flight home. On the way we stopped at a studio to record a short interview for TV. Here's the link in case you'd like to check it out:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Obesity and ...5

Prevention is so much easier than cure when it comes to obesity. Yes, people can lose weight and it takes mindset, intention, new habits, willpower, and persistence. Based on emerging research, what is one of the most significant steps parents could take for themselves and for their children? Drop most energy drinks, sports drinks, sodas, and diet sodas. Drink pure clear water. If you make your beverage water only, in a matter of about 21 days your taste-buds and brain will be well on their way to adjusting to the change. And when maintained, body weight adjusts, as well. Tips for success:

·         Toss out sodas or other drinks made with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweetener. If you prefer bottled water to tap, keep a supply on hand. It's easier to grab on the go.
·         Focus your thoughts on what you are doing (drinking water) and stop thinking about what you are not doing. Use your willpower to follow through on your new plan rather than wallowing in a sense of deprivation.

·         Buddy up with family members and friends who are on the same journey. Social support can be amazing in helping you stay on your path together. Exercise and drink water together. Weigh once a week and enjoy the progress you are making together.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Obesity and ...4

In an effort to manage their weight, many have switched to diet drinks. This may actually be even worse. Diet sodas may be free of calories but they are not free of health-related consequences. One study followed more than 400 diet soda drinkers for ten years. Results showed that their waist sizes increased seventy percent more than non-consumers. Those who consumed two or more diet sodas per day increased their waist sizes five times more than those who avoided diet drinks entirely. As waist sizes grow, so do health risks for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. San Diego researchers, using brain imaging, showed diminishing activation of a brain area known as the caudate head as consumption of diet sodas increased. This brain area is associated with the food motivation and reward systems. Decreased activation of this brain region has been linked with elevated risk of obesity. Confusing the brain with artificial sweeteners may result in weight increases. A 2010 controlled study in rats found that those fed saccharin-sweetened yogurt ate more rat chow, gained more weight, and had more body fat than those who got the same amount of yogurt with a natural sugar (glucose), instead.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Obesity and ...3

According to Heath Herrera, M.Ed., CSCS, and owner of Fitness Revolution in San Marcos the home of HH Fitness Boot Camps, beverages loaded with sugar, such as soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks, will contribute directly to weight gain. Period. That’s no surprise since it is fairly common knowledge that the consumption of too much sugar leads directly to weight gain. A 20-ounce glass of cola can contain the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar, which is nearly three times the maximum daily sugar intake recommended by the American Heart Association. And if the sugar is in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), more of it may be stored as fat. Estimates are that eating 120 calories of glucose results in approximately one calorie being stored as fat. On the other hand, eating 120 calories of HFCS (which can be half glucose and half fructose), can result in 40 calories being stored as fat. That’s because fructose is processed in the liver, and unlike glucose, most of it gets shuttled into fat storage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Obesity and ... 2

Estimates are that over two-thirds of Americans are above their optimum weight and more than a third are obese. Many healthcare personnel believe this is less an accident and more the result of careful marketing. Data published by the Euromonitor from the Global Market Information Database (2002) estimated that Americans consume close to 50 billion liters of soda per year, which equates to about 216 liters or 57 gallons per person. (And that data is a decade old. Imagine what it might be now). It appears that sodas have beaten out white bread as the number one source of calories, thus contributing to this weight gain. Recently I was told about a video interview with Diane Sawyer in which it was said that soda drinks could potentially add a pound per week to a person’s waist line. That may be one reason water has been touted as the beverage of kings, the gold standard of beverages—it contains no calories but neither does it contain artificial sweeteners that can confuse the brain. More on that in another blog.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Obesity and ...1

Studies at Northwestern University showed that those who attend religious services frequently are significantly more likely to become obese by the time they reach middle age. Director of Baylor University's Program on Religion and Population Health, Jeff Levin, hypothesized that people who attend services along with activities such as Bible study and prayer groups may be "sitting around passively instead of being outside engaging in physical activity." Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, found in his clinics that brain health is highly linked to physical healthy. When a person's weight went up, the function in the prefrontal cortex, the most human, thoughtful part of the brain went down. In an effort to help church attendees be healthier, Amen teamed up with the pastors at Saddleback Church to institute “The Daniel Plan,” named after the Old Testament writer who refused to eat the Babylonian king's food. Reportedly, this plan utilizes such health tools as keeping a food journal, drinking water throughout the day, getting proper sleep, ingesting high quality calories, and regular exercise. Reports are that 15,000 people became involved in this 52-week plan to get the church healthier and that collectively the participants have lost a 250 thousand pounds . . .

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ponzo Illusions and Your Brain

My brain is fascinated by illusions. Even when it knows that it is somehow being tricked, it’s still interesting. Take Ponzo illusions, for example. This phenomenon was reportedly first demonstrated by Mario Ponzo, an Italian psychologist, early in the last century. It was his opinion that the human mind judges the size of an object based on its background. He demonstrated this by drawing two identical lines across a pair of converging lines. The explanation typically given is that the upper line looks longer because the mind interprets the converging sides according to linear perspective. In this context, it interprets the upper line as though it were farther away. Naturally, most people perceive the upper line as longer because a farther object would have to be longer than the nearer object in order for both to produce retinal images of the same size. Intellectually I know that the two parallel lines are the same length. Because they are pictured against vertical receding lines, however, at first glance the two parallel lines often appear to be of differing lengths. If you haven’t looked at examples of Ponzo illusions for a while, check out this website and pay attention to what your brain perceives.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dealing with Autism - 4

1 More strategies that parents have reported as being helpful in dealing with children along the Autism spectrum (depending, of course, on symptoms the child exhibits).
  6. Provide unconditional love and acceptance even as you help them learn appropriate behaviors and they can learn.  Explain that every brain has some challenges, including yours and theirs, and that you are working with them to address and manage those challenges and will teach them those strategies.

  7.  Laugh a lot and play with the child. Help the child ENJOY life and have fun. Learning is enhanced when negativity is replaced with positivity, when there is laughter and acceptance. Boys especially connect through humor and jokes. Learn to tell simple jokes appropriate for their age and encourage them to tell you jokes. Choose to laugh at them and reinforce their efforts to connect.

  8.The child will be sensitive to your mindset, mood, and electromagnetic energy and will   this regardless of the words you use. If you are upset, avoid touching the child as he/she will feel your negative energy. Choose to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and that will result in positive electromagnetic energy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dealing with Autism - 3

More  examples of strategies that parents have reported as being helpful (depending, of course, on symptoms the child exhibits).

13.  Their skin may be very sensitive to touch. Clothing, bath towels, bed sheets, and other materials may feel either soothing or distracting against their skin. Ask them what types of fabric feel best against their skin and do your best to provide those.

24. The child may learn best when moving. This can be especially true for little boys. Provide them with an environment in which they can move around while learning. When they must sit quietly, give them a soft, quiet, toy to squeeze so there is some muscle movement. Teach in short bursts of information with frequent breaks.

   5. Always provide direction using short, positive phrases and sentences. If the child’s behaviour needs to change, say “stop,” and then tell the child what to want to have happen. Avoid telling them what NOT to do and tell them what to do.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dealing with Autism - 2

Early interventions can help teach strategies for success to children with autism. Following are examples of strategies that parents have reported as being helpful (depending, of course, on symptoms the child exhibits).

1   1. Fluorescent lights may bother these children. They are often very sensitive to sounds and the hum the lights make can be distracting if not outright painful. In addition, the flickering light can make it seem as if objects in the environment are actually moving. Use incandescent lights or the new natural-light tubes.

2.    2. Voice sounds may be difficult for these children to handle. Ask them which voice volume feels better to their brain. Give them several examples of voice decibel levels and endeavour to use the one that works best for them. If music, radio, or TV sounds are too loud, try providing soft earplugs, which dampen decibel levels but still permit hearing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dealing with Autism - 1

 Autism is a developmental disorder that is usually detected early in life. In America it is believed to affect about 1% of the population, although some believe the incidence is increasing. This may be due to increased awareness and earlier diagnosis. Autism may share some genetic components with several other disorders including ADHD, Bi-polar, Depression, and Schizophrenia. If you have a child with symptoms the fall along the autism spectrum, remember that you did not choose your parents or your genetics so this is not your fault. It is a complex neurobiological condition that impacts communication, behaviors, and social relationships. It is characterized by altered nerve cells that impact cognitive (thinking skills) although the reason this happens is not yet clearly understood. Children on this spectrum often have difficulty with completing basic everyday tasks, exhibit hampered social development, and may struggle with inattention as well as altered sensory perception. Early intervention can help teach the child strategies for success. More tomorrow.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Asperger Syndrome - 5

Difficulty with social imagination: People with Asperger syndrome can be imaginative in the conventional use of the word. Many are accomplished musicians, artist, and writers. However, they tend to have difficulty guessing what other people are thinking or even what and how much they know. This can include difficulty:

  • Predicting what might happen next in a given situation or imagining alternative outcomes to situations 
  • Understanding or interpreting other people's feelings or actions, missing the subtle messages that are transmitted by facial expression and body language

  •  Imagining how something can be changed or playing “let’s pretend” games or doing things spontaneously
 When possible, provide routines in everyday activities while also offering something new and different to experience—in small doses. With encouragement, interests and skills can be developed so that people with Asperger syndrome can study or work in their favourite subjects.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Asperger Syndrome - 4

Difficulty with social interaction: Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome would like to be sociable. They tend to have trouble initiating and sustaining social relationships, however, which can create anxiety. This can trigger downshifting of the brain and compound the problem. Because they have difficulty picking up social cues they also may have difficulty knowing what to do when they misunderstand or misinterpret social interactions. Many people with Asperger syndrome want to be sociable but have difficulty with initiating and sustaining social relationships, which can make them very anxious as they struggle to make and maintain friendships. They may:

  • Fail to understand unwritten social rules and codes of conduct for specific types of events, information that most people absorb without thinking (e.g., may stand too close to a person they want to talk with or begin the conversation with an inappropriate topic)

  •  Perceive other individuals as confusing, inconsistent, or unpredictable, especially if telling jokes or teasing others 
  • Withdraw because of anxiety or fear, appearing somewhat aloof when they really want to make friends, thus behaving in a way that may appear inappropriate for the situation
 You may be able to assist by helping the individual with Asperger Syndrome to create several short, concise lists of basic social rules for specific types of social gatherings, including topics that it would be best to avoid. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Asperger Syndrome - 3

Difficulty with Social Communication: For individuals with Asperger Syndrome, understanding human conversation has been described as attempting to understand a foreign language. Not only is it difficult to decode human conversation, they may find it difficult to express themselves socially and emotionally. For example:

  • They may have difficulty interpreting gestures, facial expressions, or tone of voice (sarcasm). The person may become confused when someone says “That’s cool,” meaning that something is good or “That’s hot,” meaning that something is quite desirable.

  • They may not know when to start or end a conversation and finding it challenging to select appropriate topics to discuss.

  • They may not grasp or fully understand the meanings of complex words and phrases that are used in the conversation, responding inappropriately

  • Because they process information quite literally, they may have difficulty with perceiving and understanding jokes and metaphor, and may become upset when they are teased

If you discover that a person has Asperger Syndrome, be clear and concise, avoid colloquial expressions in favor of simple words, and keep your sentences short. This can help the person to better understand you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Asperger Syndrome - 2

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is sometimes described as a 'hidden disability' because you cannot really tell that a person has AS from outward appearance. It is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than by a single symptom. As part of the Autism Spectrum, there are similarities with autism. However, people with Asperger Syndrome tend to have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average or above average intelligence. Although they do not usually have the type of learning difficulties typically associated with autism, they may have specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, or seizure disorder. With the right support and encouragement, people with Asperger syndrome can lead full and independent lives. Common challenges experienced by individuals with Asperger Syndrome can be described in three main areas of difficulty: social communication, social interaction, and social imagination. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Asperger Syndrome - 1

Human beings generally learn to watch people and figure out things about them. They observe their facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, and other body language, which helps them guess whether the observed individuals are happy, angry, fearful, sad, and so on. This allows human beings to respond accordingly to others. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS), however, find it much more difficult to figure out these signals, clues that you likely take for granted. Because of this, they find it more difficult to interact with others and communicate effectively with them. Naturally, this can lead to high levels of confusion and anxiety and stress. Asperger Syndrome or AS, is now being called a high form of functioning that falls within the Autism spectrum. More tomorrow.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sensory Processing Disorder - 2

Preliminary research suggests that SPD is often inherited. If so, the causes of SPD are coded into the child's genetic material. Prenatal and birth complications have also been implicated, and environmental factors may be involve. In the end, causes are likely to be both genetic and environmental. SPD may impact only one or multiple sensory systems. It may impact just touch, just sight, or just movement—or more than one sense. One child may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. Some have impaired sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints so their posture and motor skills can be affected. Still others exhibit a craving for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. If environmental sounds are irritating, try giving the child comfortable earplugs to wear to help dampen the decibel level, while still allowing them to hear speech sounds and other important sounds. Avoid using florescent lights as the hum can bother theses children and the flickering lights can even make objects in the environment appear to be moving.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sensory Processing Disorder – 1

Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD (formerly known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction) is a condition that exists when sensory signals fail to become organized into appropriate responses. Metaphorically, think of this as a neurological traffic jam that prevents the brain from receiving and/or decoding sensory information appropriately. Unaddressed, SPD can trigger symptoms that across a continuum (e.g., anxiety, depression, learning failures, behavioral problems, motor clumsiness, and inattention) and that impact aspects of everyday life and activities. Estimates of incidence range from one in six to one in twenty children (including many that fall along the Austism spectrum). Seek early consultation and treatment if your child exhibits behaviors consistent with SPD. Be aware, however, that because symptoms are often rather nonspecific, these children may be misdiagnosed and inappropriately medicated for ADHD. Sometimes an accurate diagnosis requires consultation with more than one healthcare professional.