How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 6)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Brains by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Chapter 3 – Identifying Personality and Mood Changes

Personality and mood changes represent early warning signs of pre-MCI and MCI (mild cognitive impairment). Early signs include:

  • Feeling off
  • Feeling not like yourself
  • Anxiety
  • Followed by other mental health problems
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Inability to get things done
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Overall confusion
  • Mental slowness
  • Irritable
  • Restless
  • Forgetful

 

These signs reflect unstable dopamine levels. Researchers “at the University of Minho in Portugal found that chronically stressed rats lost their cunning and instead resorted to familiar routines and rote responses, like compulsively pressing a bar for food pellets even though they weren’t hungry.” “..the dopamine regions associated (of the brain) with executive function  — had shriveled, while GABA sectors linked to habit formation had expanded. The chronically stressed rats were no longer producing more dopamine; in fact, they were producing less. …they had cognitively conditioned themselves to ‘go through the motions’ of life, repeatedly doing the same tasks over and over instead of trying something new.” P. 33

 Dr. Daniel Amen states that “long-term exposure to stress hormones like cortisol has been found to kill cells in the hippocampus involved with memory, learning, and emotion. In fact, people who are chronically stressed have smaller hippocampal regions, which may result in an ability to continue learning as they age.” (Highlighted box p. 34)

Having stabilized amounts of GABA keeps the brain in balance. Individuals with a GABA imbalance may:

  • Develop chronic pain or a feeling of being sick
  • Have difficulty with concentrate
  • Have global memory problems
  • Be impulsive
  • Have difficulty thinking clearly
  • Have inconsistent attention problems
  • Be irritable and / or hostile
  • Have poor memory
  • Be restless p. 34

Glutamate-GABA Relationship –they balance each other:

“Glutamate excites cells to higher states of activity so that they can receive and process information… Every time we learn something new, glutamate is released. And every time glutamate is released, GABA must be there to funnel it in the right direction.” P. 25 When GABA is unbalance, too much glutamate is released and the opposite happens – neurons are killed.

Ways to Reduce Stress

  • Laugh
  • Get out in the sun
  • Reminisce
  • Clean-up (declutter) p.37

Next time we will discuss the important Sleep Factor.

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