Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Older Adults and Cognitive or “Thinking” Functions

My family has its share of “older adults” ranging from late 50’s to early 90’s. There were 13 siblings in my father’s family and 12 in my mother’s. There are 25 different levels of cognitive function. Any ideas on what makes the difference, especially by members in the same family?

First, research has shown that siblings are no more alike in personality than two unrelated individuals in the general population. Studies attribute this to the fact that each sibling really grows up in a “different environment.” You may want to refresh your memory on this topic starting with the March 8, 2021 blog. Second, studies have shown that epigenetics (everything that is not genetics) is responsible for about 70 percent of how well and how long a person lives; genetics contributing only about 30 percent. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Unpredictable Stress & Depression

Stress does appear to be a risk factor for depression. However, studies at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University have discovered evidence that short-term stress such as a series of tough college exams or preparing one’s tax return is not the type of stress that seems to be linked with depression. Instead. is “chronic, unpredictable stress like that which erupts in our personal and professional lives.” For example, working in an environment where the “boss” or “supervisor’ periodically flies into a rage. Or living in an environment where a partner flies into a rage periodically. The kicker is that the brain does not know when this unpredictable stress may occur, which induces changes in the function of these AgRP neurons. “Walking on eggs,” wondering when the next shoe will drop, et cetera, creates a type of unpredictable chronic stress that is now being linked with an increased risk for depression.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Stress & Depression


So, what’s this I hear about stress linked with depression? I find that contradictory. Just living creates stress, so how come everyone isn’t depressed if stress is linked with depression?

Good question. Yes, “stress is living.” Every time you ask your brain and body to "change," to do something different or in a new way, there is some stress involved. However, there is “stress” and there is “stress.” Eustress is positive stress; distress is negative stress; and misstress involves situations and events that can be stressful but are often overlooked. There also is predictable and unpredictable stress. Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University have been studying this. They have reported that a tiny group of neurons found exclusively in the bottom portion of the hypothalamus called the arcuate nucleus, or ARC, and are known to be important to energy homeostasis in the body as well prompting us to pick up a fork when we are hungry and see food. Known as AgRP neurons, they are susceptible to stress, which can contribute to depression. It is, however, more complicated than that. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Reading and Verbal Ability, 2

Sandra Martin-Chang, professor of education in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and PhD student Stephanie Kozak (Concordia University)found that people who enjoyed reading fiction for leisure and who identified as a reader scored higher on language tests, whereas those who read to access specific information scored more poorly on the same tests. Studies have shown the benefits of reading. Besides having better verbal abilities, lifelong readers are known to be more understanding of others, more empathetic, less prejudiced, to attain higher socioeconomic status and even to live longer, healthier lives than non-readers. Set aside 30 minutes every evening with an interesting, fun book (fiction or nonfiction—because fiction is just a story about life) and take turns reading. As time goes by, you may be very glad you became a “reading family.”

What’s your pleasure? exploring the predictors of leisure reading for fiction and nonfiction” by Sandra Martin-Chang, Stephanie Kozak, Kyle C. Levesque, Navona Calarco & Raymond A. Mar. Reading and Writing

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Reading and Verbal Ability

I saw a news headline that said reading for fun impacts verbal ability. What does that mean? I let my kids watch educational TV, but we are not a reading family. Do you have any comments or recommendations?

 I regret to hear that you are not a “reading family.” One of the excellent things my mother did for me was to read aloud for 30 minutes every day after she found she was pregnant with me. I believe I was born loving stories and anxious to read. Indeed, I started “reading” simple books by the time I turned age three. In addition, I love writing—in the process of co-authoring a 12-part Legends of the Wild series—nonfiction as well as animal allegories that likely fall into the category of fiction. They are a great way to help people learn new information about the brain, relationships, and EQ. Study results published in the journal Reading and Writing showed that the more people read any kind of fiction—even mass market stuff derided as pulp—the better their language skills are likely to be. More tomorrow

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Neurobiology Research

I heard there is a study that said Neurobiology Research is shedding light on the differences between heterosexual brain and non-heterosexual brains. Do you know about it and what does it mean?

 The reference is below as reported via Karolinska Institute. The study was done in collaboration with the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and King’s College London, UK. What does it mean? According to the researchers, “patterns important for classifying between males and females were less pronounced in nonheterosexuals . . . These findings support a neurobiological basis to the differences in human sexuality.”

Crosssex shifts in two brain imaging phenotypes and their relation to polygenic scores for samesex sexual behavior: A study of 18,645 individuals from the UK Biobank” by Christoph Abé, Alexander Lebedev, Ruyue Zhang, Lina Jonsson, Sarah E. Bergen, Martin Ingvar, Mikael Landén, Qazi Rahman. Human Brain Mapping 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Stress Linked with Depression, 2

There are two nuclei accumbens, one located near each hippocampus in each hemisphere of the brain. Part of the Brain Reward System, these two little structures release serotonin, the “feel better” chemical. Ten percent of the serotonin is believed to be in the brain, with the remaining ninety percent distributed throughout the Gastrointestinal system. Some say that the strongest known risk-factor for depression is said to be a lifelong history of stress. According to researchers, early-life stress—depending on its intensity, timing, and other specific features—triggers a threefold increased risk of adult depression. Stress early in life has also been shown to increase a person’s “behavioral susceptibility” to stress later in life—increasing stress vulnerability. Therefore, it would stand to reason that if you had a stressful childhood—especially early childhood—it could be helpful to get serious about developing stress-management strategies and implementing them consistently. Researchers believe this information may lead to more effective therapies for depression.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Stress Linked with Depression

My mother and her siblings experienced high levels of abusive-type stress growing up. They all suffer from depression. She has little observable stress now, but she is still depressed. What’s the deal?The “deal” may be that studies at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have shown that stress early in life increases one’s susceptibility to additional stress in adulthood. Stress, is of course, an epigenetic factor involving lifestyle—as opposed to genetics involving genes and chromosomes. The epigenetic modification, triggered by early-life stress, apparently impacts an important part of the Brain Reward System known as the nucleus accumbens, an essential component of the brain's reward system. It appears a specific enzyme associated with medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens bidirectionally controls stress susceptibility. More enzyme equates with increased stress susceptibility. Less enzyme is linked with decreased stress susceptibility. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Siblngs: How different are they, 10


Here are a few caveats.

Remember, you forgive others for your health. Failure to forgive yourself and others is harmful to your health.

2.    One or both parents might not realize how their comments made parts of your childhood difficult. They may have done the best they knew to do—which does not alter the fact of how they behaviors impacted you.

3.    Once you speak aloud to their picture, then let the anger, resentment, bitterness, sadness—whatever—go. Imagine they are rose pedals in the palm of your hand and gently blow them away.

4.    Forgive yourself for believing the things they said to and about you—for such a long time. It was only their brain’s opinion, and you are the only person who really knows who you are innately.

5.    Enjoy becoming the best “authentic you” possible. You can do it!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Siblings: How different are they, 9

Both my parents had favorites—the kids who were more like them. I resembled my mother’s older sister. They did not get along so you can imagine how I fared! I would like to dump the stress of unforgiveness. What to do? They are both deceased.  End Quote:

 You may want to do what many have done. Look at a picture of your parent and say aloud what you would say at this stage in your life were they still alive. For example:

 “Mother, growing up I felt different from the rest of the family. Felt like I did not fit in. I forgive you for the way you treated me—likely out of ignorance and linked with your own issues. I have learned that most people do the best they can at the time with what they know. Thank you for the good things you did do for me. I am mindful and appreciative of them.”

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Siblings: How different are they, 8

Dr. Bita Yadidi has described forgiveness as being willing to let go of the conclusions and assumptions the person has made and simply look at what happened as an experience in my life. Some experiences are good, some not so good. It is what we do with those experiences and the weight or importance we give them that makes the difference over time. When I looked at sibling differences in my family-of-origin as simply an experience in my life—one of many—it was quite simple to forgave family members for their comments. It was just their brain’s opinion—largely based on ignorance and their own issues. I also forgave myself for believing what they said hook line and sinker—for such a long time. “What were you thinking?” I asked myself and had to laugh. If I could learn to do that, I bet you could, too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Siblings: How different are they, 7

Forgiveness is choice to resist an unforgiving stance and to let go of bitterness, grudges, resentment, and revenge. It is not always easy, but it is relatively simple. The emotion of anger generates energy to take action. Forgiving is an action. Dr. Bita Yadidi has pointed out that the act of forgiving allows that trapped anger energy (e.g., muscle tension) to be discharged and released from cells in the brain and body. She has also pointed out that people make decisions about what happened to them, why it happened, and who is to blame. It’s human nature. People also come to conclusions, that may be accurate or inaccurate—and often act on them—sometimes with very unfortunately consequences.

More tomorrow. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Siblings: How different are they, 5


I have read that forgiveness is important for health and longevity but I do not feel like forgiving my family for punishing me because I was not like my siblings. Did you forgive your family?

 Absolutely. True, it took me a while to figure out who I am innately and stop trying to be who I am not. However, I cannot afford to be unforgiving because I am aiming to live to be a supercentenarian with good mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual (the spirit with which I live life) health. Research by internationally renowned cardiologist, Herbert Benson, MD, coined the phrase:  Physiology of ForgivenessÒ. His research has shown that an inability to forgive other people’s faults (or your own) is harmful to your health. We each only know what we know, and that includes other family members. In my case, painful though it was, I doubt it had anything to do with “malice aforethought.” Rather it stemmed from a lack of knowledge and puzzlement. Knowledge has power—one reason for continuing to gain knowledge. As we know better, we can do better. For me, that includes forgiving ignorance—for my health and longevity.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Siblings: How different are they, 4

I have always felt “less than” because of family comments such as: “Don’t know where that one came from . . .nothing like the rest of the family. Just saying!” Thank you so much!

 You are so welcome. My own experience was somewhat similar. In my case it was: “If she didn’t look so much like her father, I would think they had sent the wrong baby home with me from the hospital.” I went away to college at age 17 and never returned home to live—partly because I felt so “different.” Initially—and unfortunately—I put that down to likely having a lower IQ than the rest of the family members (again from comments about my ideas being “dumb.”) this vantage point I can recognize how who I am must have been a big puzzle for my family—I can laugh about it now. We each only know what we know. Knowledge has power—one reason for continuing to gain knowledge. As we know better, we can live better. Congratulations on owning your own uniqueness.

The findings were published online by Cambridge University Press, Behavioral and Brain Sciences. According to the abstract, the authors hope the information “draws attention to the far-reaching implications of finding that psychologically relevant environmental influences make children in a family different from, not similar to, one another.” 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Siblings: How different Are They, 3

Your blogs on Sibling Differences have helped to explain my experience growing up. Is there anything else you can share about this research?

Studies have identified the importance of environmental influences on personality, cognition, and psychopathology among siblings. Research also converges on the remarkable conclusion that these environmental influences—rather than genetic inheritance—make two children in the same family as different from one another as are pairs of children selected randomly from the population. This helps to explain how one child may end up an axe murderer, while all the other siblings have no tendency toward any type of similar behavior and are horrified (and sometimes vilified) when such information is released. The findings were published online by Cambridge University Press. According to the abstract, they hope the information draws “attention to the far-reaching implications of finding that psychologically relevant environmental influences make children in a family different from, not similar to, one another.” More tomorrow 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Siblings: How different Are They, 2

 Each child in a family experiences a different environment growing up. For example, each has a different relationship with:

Their parents and extended family members (e.g., some elderly relatives may have died before the youngest child was born)

Parenting style (e.g., often most strict with the eldest child and much more relaxed with subsequent children)

Other siblings (e.g., eldest, middle child(ren), youngest child)

Pets (e.g., a puppy versus a senior dog, or no pets at all

Different classmates and teachers - sometimes a different school

Perhaps a difference in financial security

Different health issues, especially with older family members

There may be many more examples

More tomorrow

Monday, March 8, 2021

Siblings: How different Are They, 1

There are five kids in our family. Each one of us is so different from the others that we might as well be from a different planet. Some of us look a bit similar, but we are nothing alike! How can that be? As far as I know we have the same two biological parents.

Studies (Plomin and Daniels) have concluded that siblings have no more in common in their personalities than two completely unrelated strangers.
Your observations appear to be correct—even if 50 percent of your genetic code is the same—for your family. The five siblings will be different. Researchers have found that the differences do not lie in the genetic code, but in the environment in which siblings grow up. “But we all live together in the same house,” you say. That may be true in the sense that you reside in the same living quarters. The answer to this conundrum appears to be that each child actually grows up in a different environment. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Parenting, 2

There seems to be a link with intense mothering, personal mindset and specific beliefs, and lowered life satisfaction. For example, researchers studied 181 mothers who had children under the age of 5. Study conclusions were that the mothers who believed strongly that females were better parents than males, were more likely to be depressed and experience lower satisfaction with life. The mothers who felt strongly that children were “sacred”, had similar outcomes. Bottom line: Helicopter or Intense Mothering tends to leave little to no time for the mother to fill her own cup and live a healthy life. Caring begins at home! The mother needs to not only take care of herself but also role-model balance. To achieve—even when a mother can stay at home to do full-time parenting—requires choice and personal discipline. By all means, mothers need to be a caring parent. However, mothers also need to take care of their own physical and mental health.

Thursday, March 4, 2021


Recently I read two different articles that said two different things: one said that children fill one’s life with joy and meaning and that parents tend to be happier than non-parents. The other said that a mother’s parenting style could contribute to the woman being more depressed and finding less satisfaction in life. How can that be?

It likely comes down to mothering styles. Some hover over their children almost constantly, micromanaging them, keeping them busy every waking moment, and at times almost acting as 24/7 “servant,” or even living vicariously through their offspring. Some well-meaning mothers want to give their child(ren) the best of everything, including everything the mother felt she missed growing up. They fill their child’s time with so many lessons and events and activities that the kids themselves can feel overwhelmed, become exhausted, lose their zest for living, and become depressed. More tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Brain-body & Exercise

I read an article that said too much sitting has negative effects on the Brain & Body. Does that apply to kids too?

The human body and brain both need adequate amounts of exercise on a regular basis in order to function well. Going on a 3-hour-bike ride over a weekend does not compensate for 12 hours per day of sitting. The consequences can be increased weight gain for children as well as adults, lowered brain function (as vigorous exercise helps sweep the brain of waste products and replenish nutrients), and so on. Richard Restak, MD, has been quoted as saying: “Physical exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function.” A study of 11-year-old children shed some light on this. . Moderate to vigorous exercise was linked with improved academic performance in Science, Math, and English. The improvement was also seen in exams scores of tests taken when the study participants were 16 years old. Of particular interest, science improvement among girls benefited the most from extra exercise. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Thoughts & Behaviors

I do not understand what you mean by “every thought you think, every decision you make, and every action you take is health-relevant behavior.”

A positive, empowering, affirming mindset contributes to positive results—in the brain as well as the body. Conversely, a negative, disempowering mindset contributes to negative results. Every thought you think, every decision you make, and every action you take is a health-relevant behavior because it affects every cell in your brain and body and moves you toward illness or toward wellness. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States of America, was reported as saying, “No prescription is more valuable than knowledge.” I would agree and add this: when practically applied daily, it can help you stay healthier and younger for longer.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Brain-Body Connection

What I think about cannot possibly impact my body. Right?

Brain and body can communicate with each other via chemical messengers—and tend to do so constantly. What happens in the brain affects the body—and vice versa. You can choose to think a specific thought or replace it with a different thought. You can choose to act based on the thought or refrain from acting. Peter McWilliams, author of You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought, wrote that a negative mindset is the precursor of all life-threatening illnesses. Negative thinking (e.g., unresolved anger, fear, sadness) appears to be a key contributor to lowered levels of health and wellness. You have the power to choose the thoughts you hang on to and ponder.