Friday, November 29, 2019

Dangling Participles V – a grammatical faux pas 
  •       Spitting out hot lava, the ranger took pictures as the volcano exploded.
  •        When in third grade, my aunt went back to college.
  •        Starting out over the ocean, the hurricane force winds were terrifying.
  •        She saw a puppy and a kitchen on the way to the store.
  •        She wore a purple sunhat on her head, which was clearly too large.
  •        The policeman was riding a motorcycle with a broken leg.
  •        Please use caution when hunting pedestrians on walking trails.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thankgiving

Quite frankly, I cannot think of much to be thankful about today. The world is in a mess, to say nothing of the US, and Australia and California due to all the fires. Just saying!

Well, “Just saying,” I have many things for which to be thankful. I have outlived my parents and am in good health. I am privileged to write and speak, sharing brain function with other brains that can make their lives better—if they practically apply it. I have a wonderful family of choice, and although we cannot all be together on Thanksgiving, I know they are thinking of me and I am definitely thinking of them. My home was not destroyed in the California earthquake or the many fires—although I had to evacuate several times. Everywhere I look there are those less fortunate than I am and on this day I am doing what I can to brighten their day. Are you looking down and back or up and forward? It’s your choice.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Parkinson's and Essential Tremor, 2

Is there a difference between Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor? If so, can they explained in language that a lay person can understand?

Good question. There have been multiple studies and many descriptions of these two conditions. Essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease are both neurological conditions. It so happens that tremors are a characteristic feature of both. One description pointed out that Essential Tremor has an autosomal dominant trait (e.g., a pattern of inheritance in which an affected individual has one copy of a mutant gene and one normal gene on a pair of autosomal chromosomes). Parkinson’s disease appears not to have this pattern of inheritance and is related to dopamine. The characteristic clinical feature of Essential Tremor is bilateral, low amplitude tremor, prominently in the upper limbs. Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that can eventually include cognitive impairments as well—especially in the late stages.  The reference below is written in easy-to-understand language.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Parkinson's and Essential Tremor

Is there anything new about treating these tremors? The medication is killing me and doing little good and my hand shakes so badly I need someone to hold my arm steady just so I can put a pill into my mouth!

Essentially tremor is a challenge that most people have no idea about when they neither have it or know someone with Parkinson’s. Late last year, the FDA reportedly approved a new noninvasive treatment for both types of tremors. Known as Noninvasive Exablate Neuro, it utilizes MRI to guide ultrasound waves directly to the areas of the brain that are most affective. It destroys misfiring brain cells without requiring the opening of the skull or the implanting of electrodes, both of which require opening the skull. You might want to discuss this with your Neurologist and see if you are a candidate for this relatively new procedure.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Brain and Music Recognition

Brain and Music Recognition

Does anything different happen in the brain when it hears familiar versus unfamiliar music?

Good question. A study showed a couple of things show that the brain has recognized a piece of familiar music. According to the abstract, researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) and pupillometry to reveal the temporal signatures of the brain processes that allow differentiation between a familiar, well liked, and an unfamiliar piece of music. Professor Chait pointed out that the eye pupil dilated within 100-300 milliseconds after the start of a song if the subject recognized a familiar song; and a burst of electrical activity in the brain occurred around 500-800 milliseconds after the start of the song. These effects do not occur when the brain does not recognize familiar music. So, yes, something different does happen in the brain when it recognizes familiar music--especially when it likes the music!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Brain Creativity and Sleep

Someone told me that creative people have sleep disorders. Is that really true?

Studies at the University of Haifa found that people who are more creative tend to go to sleep later, get up later, and have worse sleep overall. They studied both visually and auditorily creative subjects. Both reported sleep disturbances during the night. Higher visual creativity was associated with higher sleep disturbance, daytime dysfunction, and lower overall sleep quality. Higher verbal creativity was associated with longer sleep duration and later sleep midpoint. No one knows the reason for this. Conjecture by the study’s authors theorized that a ‘surplus’ of visual creativity might make the individual more alert, and this could lead to sleep disturbances. For the verbally creative individuals, protracted sleep might facilitate processes that support the creative process while they are awake.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Iclandic Horses and Genetics

Are “Genetics” the reason Iceland carefully manages their Icelandic Horses differently from other countries?

I do not breed horses so am unfamiliar with policies of different countries. When in Iceland however, I was told that the Icelandic horse breed was developed in Iceland. The horses are not huge, sometimes the size of a pony, but they are beautiful with long manes. They have two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. These horses are said to be long-lived and hardy. In Iceland these Icelandic horses are plagued with very few diseases. I also learned that Iceland has a law that prevents horses from being imported into the country. In addition, if someone exports an Icelandic horse to another country, the animal is not permitted to return to Iceland. The only breed of horse in Iceland, these horses are also popular internationally. Apparently, sizable populations exist in Europe and North America. The breed is still used for traditional sheepherding work in Iceland, as well as for leisure, showing, and racing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Genes Impacts

I read that in Iceland two people must have permission from the government in order to marry. What are we coming to?

When I was speaking in Icelandwonderful country, and I have loved my visits there!I was told was told that because it is a relatively small and isolated country, and there have been relatively few intermarriages with people from other countries, a couple does need to notify the Government of their wish to marry. Iceland will then trace their genealogy and tell them if they are “too closely related” to have a wise marriage. If individuals have a similar genome that contains mutations, one gene might not cause any disease or malformations. However, when combined with another similar gene, the risk does increase. If individuals were guaranteed protection from procreation, it wouldn’t matter who they married and what genes they carried. The issue comes when no one knows for sure how combining genes from two individuals will impact their offspring.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Birth Order and Laughter

Some studies have shown that only or eldest children tend to laugh less than others. No doubt that is related, at least in part, to the fact that parents tend to practice on only or eldest children; and tend to lighten up on succeeding children if there is more than one. In multiple sibling families, it tends to be the youngest child who laughs the most, and the oldest who laughs the least. Some studies have shown that if there are five or more years between children, each will carry some characteristics of an eldest or only child—in addition to characteristics related to a middle child or the youngest child. Think back to your childhood. Who laughed in your family? Was laughter encouraged? In one of my presentations and elderly gentleman spoke up and said he had absolutely nothing to laugh about. I admittedly took a risk when I suggested he go home, take all his clothes off, and try to identify which body part needed to be ironed first. People started laughing just at the thought and soon the whole room followed suit. Fortunately, so did he. “I just might try that,” he said between guffaws. Do whatever it takes. Choose to laugh. It matters.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Choose to Laugh

You rarely laugh because there is nothing to laugh about? Laughter is a choice. I hear people say, "Oh, my, that was really funny wasn't it!" but they aren't choosing to laugh about it and the benefits to brain and body come more with laughter than simply the recognition that something was funny. I find humor in almost everything. Perhaps you might want to take a laugh class or evaluate the level to which you have developed your sense of humor. If you can laugh at yourself and the vagaries of life, you carry with you an unending supply of triggers for laughter. When I was working as Compliance Officer and Risk Manager for a large healthcare system, if I needed a chuckle all I had to do was stop and read a chart or two. For example, one entry read: “Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.” I burst out laughing thinking, what that a large brown stool on which people can sit or was it a large brown stool that was related to GI evacuation? A few moments of belly laughter can change one’s neurochemistry for several hours.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Response to Positives

Researchers used a fMRI scanner to measure responses to various types of sounds in the brains of study participants. They played positive sounds such as laughter or triumphant shouting; they played negative sounds like screaming or throwing up or groaning. All the sounds triggered a response in the premotor cortical region of the brain. This part of the brain prepares facial muscles to respond to sounds. The response to positive sounds, especially laughter, was greater than the response to negative sounds, suggesting that the positive sounds were more contagious than negative ones. This may be one reason humans tend to respond to laughter or cheering or even smiles with an involuntary smile. It also may be the science behind using “laugh tracks” with sitcoms or other programs.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Smiles vs Frowns

have shown that it requires 15 different facial muscles contracting in a specific pattern to laugh. However, it takes 26 muscles to arrange the face in a frown—nearly twice as many muscles. Muscles use energy to do what they do. It’s difficult for me to understand the reason someone would choose to go to the extra work of frowning, when the energy could be used for something more beneficial. Dr. Norman Cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness pointed out that laugher can promote  more comfortable sleep. In his case, ten minutes of belly laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep, something that even morphine had failed to do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Laughter Contagion

 Laughter does seem to be contagious. There may be several contributors. Research from Finland's Aalto University and Turku PET Centre research published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences found that strong emotions synchronize the brain activity of different individuals. Mirthful laughter, part of the emotion of joy, can be very strong. Seeing smiles and laughter in someone else often triggers a corresponding emotional response in the watcher. Studies have identified mirror neurons behind the forehead that fire or activate when they see behaviors in others and respond as if you were doing the same thing. The ancient proverb appears to be cored: Laugh and the world laughs with you. More tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Brain and Laughter

I do not understand why people say laughter is contagious. I rarely laugh; there’s nothing to laugh about. What other people think is funny I think is just silly. So?

So, what? You have not honed your sense of humor and chosen to laugh? Other people are just silly? You rarely laugh? There is a burgeoning body of research on the myriad benefits of laughter. People who are judged to be very happy and who tend to be long-lived laugh a lot—from 100-400 times a day. There does seem to be a correlation between health, longevity, and laughter. You do have company, however. Studies have shown that adults need a minimum of 30 laughs per day. Unfortunately, adults in the US average only 15-20. Pitiful. Is laughter contagious? More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Brain & Probiotics vs Prebiotics, 2

Probiotics are helpful and very essential live bacteria found in foods such as yogurt, miso, jicama, kombucha, leeks, sauerkraut, dandelion greens, and so on, that help keep the gut bacterial population at an appropriate level. They are believed to be sensitive to both heat and stomach acid. There are probiotic supplements available. However, choosing one can be a challenge as there are concerns about the types of strains of bacteria available and their viability in a bottle of capsules that may sit on a shelf for a long time. Like most everything else, probiotics need appropriate food. Bottom line, probiotics eat prebiotics. More tomorrow.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Microorganisms to Cells

Emerging evidence is linking brain health to the virome and microbiome, especially those located in the GI tract or gut. The numbers if microorganisms in the human body are, of course, uncountable. It used to be estimated that there were ten microorganisms in the average human body to every one cell. However, that number may well fall into the category of an urban legend. Research reported in the National Geographic Magazine (Weizmann Institute of Science) indicated the average human male is composed of about 30 trillion cells. His body also contains about 40 trillion bacteria, most of which reside in his digestive tract. “Regardless of the exact numbers, the microbiome remains a vital, underrated contributor to human health … It’s really easy to forget that we live in a microbial world. They’re emperors of our planet.”

Friday, November 1, 2019


Virome:  The human virome  (also referred to as the viral metagenome) is the total collection of all type of viruses in and on the human body. Studies have shown a distinct viral profile in each person in the research. Viruses can attack human cells. They may also infect other organisms in the human body including bacteria. Some viruses are capable of causing diseases, while others help in a variety of body processes and are very. Viral infections of humans include chronic infections that may be asymptomatic or that may be associated with serious, even fatal diseases such as AIDS. Many disease, the causes of which have not be definitely identified, may be of viral origin. Greater than 8% of the human genome are believed to be endogenous retroviruses. There is some evidence of their association with diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Whether or not they are definitely causal, however, or just linked with them, is still uncertain.