How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 9)

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

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

The Four Types of Memory

Many divide memory differently, but take a look at Braverman’s memory. From his perspective there are four with each one ruled by one of the four brain chemicals.

  1. Verbal (auditory) memory –
    1. Needed for: decoding sounds, words, sentences, and stories.
    2. The ability to absorb and retain auditory input.
    3. Found in the temporal lobes.
    4. GABA found here.
  2. Visual memory –
    1. The ability to absorb and retain visual input.
    2. Includes – faces, shapes, designs, surroundings, pictures and symbols
    3. Found in the occipital lobes.
  3. Immediate memory –
    1. Short term – only 30 seconds
    2. Visual and verbal
    3. Can’t remember recent, but still can remember remote past.
    4. Found in the parietal lobes.
    5. Ruled by acetylcholine.
  4. Working memory-
    1. Most important form
    2. Ability to absorb, retain and associate with previously learned information.
    3. Generally found high in intuitive and introverted people.

Long Term Memory Correlates with Working Memory

  • Absorbing and retaining information leads to storing long term
  • Working memory also critical for executive function
  • Executive function – central organization function of brain
  • Frontal lobes regulated by dopamine, handle motor control, concentration, problem-solving skills, planning, retention, — functions of working memory.
  • Working memory puts past, present, and future together p. 53-54

Next time we will continue to address Memory, including Vision and Daily Living Activities.

 

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How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 8)

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

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Chapter 4 – Identifying Memory Problems

Memory is:

  • Central to the entire function of the brain
  • Memory problems occur (typically) when there is a loss in processing speed
  • Related to the loss of Acetylcholine
  • Acetylcholine regulates the processing of sensory input
  • Acetylcholine regulates the ability to access stored information p. 48

People with high Acetylcholine are:

  • Creative
  • Keenly aware of surroundings
  • Able to keep lifelong friends
  • Intelligent
  • Understand other people and their motivations
  • Excellent students
  • Witty
  • Enjoyable to be with p.48

Having too much acetylcholine the brain speed is so fast that you are burning it up. Having too little a person slows physically, mentally and emotionally. We naturally lose this important brain chemical as we age. P. 48

It begins with a general absentmindedness and proceeds with:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Apathy
  • Attention difficulties
  • Difficulty driving
  • Disorientation
  • Easy frustration
  • Excessive and inappropriate flirtation
  • Explosive spells of anger
  • Falling
  • Fearfulness
  • Impulsivity
  • Inconsistency
  • Insomnia
  • Irrational decision making
  • Neglect of household chores
  • Neglect of self-care
  • Restlessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suspiciousness
  • Trouble understanding the spoken and written language
  • Wandering p. 50

“When you think faster, you can react more effectively to everyday situations.” P. 51

What are the four types of memory?  You may be surprised how Braverman defines these four types.  Next time.

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 7)

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

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

The Sleep Factor

As we age, our sleep often is less restful due to a lowering of serotonin levels. “When your serotonin levels begin to wane, your brain cannot modulate the energy created by the dopamine system. So instead of being active during the day and rested at night, your brain goes into overdrive all day long just to keep you functional and motivated. Meanwhile, your production of sleep-inducing delta waves increases, blocking alertness (dopamine), creativity (acetylcholine), and playfulness (GABA), and leading to feelings of depression.” P. 38

Those who have high levels of GABA work tirelessly to help others and are disappointed when their efforts are not reciprocated. Those with low levels of GABA are too tired to even take care of themselves, much less help others. (Highlighted text box p. 38)

“Disrupted sleep hinders your ability to achieve the proper amount of REM (rapid eye movement), which is the deepest, most restorative sleep phase. A lack of this type of sleep is one of the great age accelerators, further aging your brain and affecting your thinking.” P. 38

Lack of proper sleep leads to:

  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Slowing down of thought
  • Slowing down of speech
  • Reduction of physical movements
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Mood change
  • Faltering memory

Sleep Apnea

“During sleep apnea, the person momentarily stops breathing. When the brain realizes that it isn’t getting enough oxygen, it forces the person to wake up and take a breath, creating multiple sleep interruptions. Unfortunately, the brain’s constant vigilance means that it never gets enough downtime – again insufficient sleep does not allow you to achieve enough REM phase sleep.” P. 40

Sleep Creates Memory Consolidation

“According to Robert Stickgold, professor at Harvard University, your brain needs to be fully rested to take in the maximum amount of information. Memory circuits can get fatigued along with the rest of your body, and when this happens, you don’t learn as well.” P. 40

Depression and Cognitive Loss

“Both dementia and depression are associated with atrophy of the hippocampus. A loss of brain cells in this area causes gradual damage, which in turns leads to memory loss and, eventually, dementia. Depression can be viewed as the natural consequence of dying brain cells combined with a loss of voltage, or brain power. Without reversing this brain cell loss and brain electrical loss, you will experience significant changes to your thinking as well as your temperament.” P. 42,43

“Mood changes are among the easiest brain reversals that  you can make, because they appear during the mildest brain chemical deficits.” P. 46

Next time we will begin looking at Memory Problems.

 

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.

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 5)

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

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

 

Chapter 2: The Causes of Cognitive Decline

“The difference between a resourceful mind and senility is only 100 milliseconds of brain speed. We react to light in 50 milliseconds, recognize sound in 100 milliseconds, and think in 300 milliseconds. By the time we slow down to 400 milliseconds, we can no longer process logical thought.” p. 23

We lose 7-10 milliseconds each decade just due to age.  It happens so slowly and gradually, that we seldom notice it.

“While we can’t recognize a change in brain speed, many people know that something has changed with their thinking.” p. 24  Many of us describe it as “brain fog.”

Three Kinds of MCI (illustration p. 24)

Amestic – memory loss, increased forgetfulness

Non-amestic – single domain – loss of one aspect of cognitive functioning, without forgetfulness


Non-amestic – multiple domain– loss of many aspects of cognitive functioning, without forgetfulness

Beyond loss of memory there is a separation between thinking and doing. All of this unbalances the brain.

Causes of MCI (p. 25-31)

  • Aging — number 1 cause
  • Addiction (related to dopamine and can include alcohol, drugs, overeating, gambling)
  • Prescription medicines (may cause brain fog, blur vision, increase fatigue, affect depth perception)
  • Over-the-Counter medicines (allergy and cold; heartburn)
  • Parasites, bacteria and viral infections (HIV, TB, Epstein- Barr, Lyme, CMV)
  • Degenerative disorders (MS, ALS, Huntington’s,etc.)
  • Physical trauma – (repeated injuries, 20-30 year old injuries)
  • Psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, panic attacks)
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia, others)
  • Toxic exposure (aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury)
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (B1, B3, B6, B12, nicotinic acid, zinc)

According to researchers at University of California, San Diego, Medical Center….”The rate at which the sense of smell is lost may predict how rapidly cognitive functioning is lost.” (boxed text p. 29)

Next we will discuss changes in mood and personality.

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 4)

A Book Review: Younger Brain, Sharper Mind

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

 

Dementia and Alzheimer’s: The End of the Line

“…the degree of cognitive impairment at baseline seems to dictate the severity of dementia later in life. This means that the longer you wait to reverse your cognitive decline, the more difficult it will become, and the more likely you will suffer from debilitating dementia.” p. 18-19

Symptoms of Declining Attention Are Linked to Declining Brain Chemicals (illustration p. 18)

  • Inconsistent attention, losing items – dopamine
  • Carelessness, lack of attention – Acetylcholine
  • Impulsivity – GABA
  • Inability to grasp concepts quickly – Serotonin

“Not all people who experience pre-MCI and MCI will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia; however, everyone with Alzheimer’s begins with the two earlier stages.” p. 19

Alzheimer’s damages and kills brain, virtually ending neurogenesis.  Secondly, brain fibers tangle and finally, there is a decrease in blood flow in the brain. P. 19-20

Symptoms of Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease: p. 20

  • Verbal memory loss (telling the same story, asking the same question..
  • Unfamiliarity with daily tasks (dressing, preparing a simple meal)
  • Dysphasia – (can’t think of right word)
  • Confusing “where” and “when” – not knowing where you are; not knowing the date
  • Confusing locations of familiar places (getting lost)
  • Compromised judgement (making bad decisions)
  • Decreased awareness of personal hygiene
  • Difficulty with abstract thinking (distinguishing objects of similar sizes)
  • Placing objects in unsuitable places (purse in garbage, shoes in fridge)
  • Extreme mood changes (joy to sadness; extreme anger for no reason)
  • Personality adjustments
  • Lack of interest: avoidance behavior; increased thoughts of death, loss of spontaneity

Next time we will explore the causes of Cognitive Decline….

 

 

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 3)

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

The Life Cycle of Memory – p. 12-13

  1. “Spark of Life” – fetus – brain voltage – 4-5 times that of an adult; but speed is slower – can’t retain all.
  2. “Infantile Amnesia” – birth to four years old – “Infants and toddlers can’t organize their thoughts or recall information.” p. 12
  3. “Memory Retention” – ages 5-12 and 13-20 – blasts off during adolescence
  4. “Consolidation of Adulthood” – ages 20-40 “The brain organizes itself to function more effectively, and we are at our peak performance. This is the time when people tend to establish their careers, start families, and generally settle down.”
  5. Slow, but steady decline – Women beginning as early as age 40; Men usually have another 10 years before this decline begins.

“Each decade thereafter, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) begins as brain speed and voltage are lost.” p. 13

The Continuum of Alzheimer’s Disease – as cognitive function declines and as years go by:  preclinical, MCI and then Alzheimer’s Disease (Illustration on p. 15)

Warning Signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment:(p. 15-16)

  • Remembers past, but not recent events
  • Emotional – agitation, anger, anxiety, depression, fear of being alone, frustration, jealousy, loss of normal emotional response, mood swings, paranoia, tension…
  • Changes in attention and concentration
  • Commission errors (eg. jumping the gun)
  • Omission errors (eg. missed stop signs)
  • Complex attention errors (eg. can’t pull it together)
  • Declining spatial perception
  • Decreased creativity
  • Difficulty learning new tasks
  • Difficulty retaining new information
  • Difficulty with making decisions
  • Failure to recognize people
  • Forgetfulness
  • Hoarding
  • Inability to complete a task
  • Inability to manage finances
  • Memory loss
  • Poor abstract thinking
  • Poor judgement
  • Self neglect
  • Slow response time
  • Stunted intellectual growth
  • Unusual sleep patterns, or general lack of sleep

Watch for changes in personality, temperament,  memory, attention and focus.

If you are like me, you are anxious to get to the part of the book that provides solutions, but we must be patient and get the preliminary information first. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 2)

 

By Maggie Dail, MA, Learning Specialist

Braverman’s introduction to how the brain works continues:

The Electrochemical Brain – “Each cell on the neuronal highway is programmed to produce, send and receive a specific chemical, whose job is to activate brain cells to fire messages at each other by moving to various receptor sites with the brain’s synapses.” p 5

Braverman explains the four major chemical systems in this first chapter. Then, he talks of the Anatomy of the Brain (p. 8-12):

  1. Cerebrum – made up of lobes:
  • Frontal Lobes – personality, emotions, problem solving, reasoning, motor
  • Parietal Lobes – sensory, sound, smell, taste, visiospatial processing
  • Temporal Lobes – story memory and language, speech, hearing
  • Occipital Lobes – vision
  1. Corpus Callosum – “The corpus callosum is like the Internet of the brain: It’s the place where every brain cell has to connect so that the brain can work as a whole. This band of neuronal fibers is the electrical network between the right and left hemispheres, allowing the two sides of the brain to coordinate their tasks.”
  2. The Brain Stem – the place where electricity connects the brain and the body.
  3. The Cerebellum – balance and coordinated movements (legs and arms)
  4. Cerebrospinal Fluid – “A healthy brain and spinal cord float in and drink from cerebrospinal fluid – what I call the ocean of life.” p. 12

 

Brain Image from Younger Brains...

Even for those of us who have studied the brain’s anatomy before, review impacts our understanding.

 

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 1)

By Maggie Dail, MA, Learning Specialist

 

As a part of my ongoing journey to understand how our brain works and how we learn, I began reading Younger Brain, Sharper Mind by Eric P. Braverman, MD during a quick get-away / Spring Break.

 

In the introduction, Braverman explains the problem behind our “senior moments” – it’s biology.  However, he gives hope that it does not have to be this way. xii – xiv

 

“Neurogenesis is the answer….Neurogenesis teaches us that we can repair, recover or even improve the aging brain.”  xiv – xv

 

“Cognitive energy = voltage (number of neurons) x processing speed (the speed at which they’re fired) xvi

 

  • Part 1 – Explains how the brain works.

 

  • Part 2 – Explains the “6-Step Plan”

 

  • Part 3 – “Your Brain, Your Body”

 

In addition to his own research, Braverman uses extensive other sources listed in the References section at the end.

 

  • (Part 1: A Balanced Brain —Chapter 1 – Brain Basics)

 

“The brain is the most remarkable organ in the body: It not only controls how you think, feel and perceive, it manages all aspects of your health.

 

Some say that the brain is like a supercomputer, but I imagine it more like the circuit box in your home.” p. 3

 

To further use the circuit box analogy:

 

Voltage – measures brain power and output

 

Speed – determines the speed of the processing

 

Balance – “The Balanced brain creates and receives electricity in a smooth rhythmic flow.” p. 4

 

Synchrony – “The brain’s electricity moves as waves.” (beta – 12-16 cycles – active; alpha – 8-12 cycles – creative; theta – 4-8 – drowsy; delta – 1-4 cycles – sleep) p. 5

 

“True synchrony occurs when all four brain waves are coordinated throughout the day and night. When these brain waves get out of sync at night, you will not experience restful sleep; during the day you’ll find that your mind is wandering and your concentration is affected.” p. 5

 

Certainly many of us of all ages experience times when our mind wanders and we lack concentration.  I look forward to continuing to read what Braverman has to say. Join me in this journey.

 

How Research Leads to Solutions for Struggling Learners

Have you or a loved one received a diagnosis of “developmental dyslexia” or “dyslexia”? Have you or a loved one struggled with learning to read – no matter what methods and curricula have been used? Research leads us to more answers to our questions and more solutions for those who struggle.

Image result for images of books and reading

How would you feel knowing your student would have more tools to succeed in life? What would it be like for him to learn fascinating information on his own? What would it be like to be carried off to a faraway time and place by reading a great story?

While many have considered dyslexia to be a combination of two deficits, the more current view, based on new research, providers believe that multiple deficits contribute to a diagnosis of “developmental dyslexia” will prove more helpful in helping those who struggle with reading.  Belief that “weaknesses in either the visual (rapid automatized naming -RAN) or the auditory (phonological awareness-PA) can cause dyslexia has led teachers to address these two areas.  Those with both deficits experienced severe difficulties in reading. (Wolf in Journal of Educational Psychology, 1999)

Now, more and more look to these areas and some additional areas: genetics, environmental, and perceptive/cognitive differences.  With the use of fMRIs we can see what is going on inside the human brain.  In a recent webinar, neuroscientist, Dr. Martha Burns, reported new research that confirms how these factors interact to present different kinds and degrees of learning challenges.

Image result for images - brain scans

Not surprisingly the research shows that reading and language share specific parts of the brain that includes both the visual and auditory areas. While searching for the cause and effect relationship within genetic factors, researchers learned that the brain of an infant show signs of genetic causes of learning challenges discovered later. In 2017, Gaab published findings that 50% of children with a sibling or parent with dyslexia were likely to also receive a diagnosis. This number rose to 68% in identical twins.

Finding the underlying cause leads us to specific strategies for the individual since all of these factors combine in different ways.  At Unlocking Learning Potential / Family Academy Online we address reading challenges using the neurodevelopmental approach ( www.unlockinglearningpotential.net) as well as with Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant. Dr. Martha Burns, of Scientific Learning, says that Scientific Learning programs paired with an effective curriculum provide the best outcome for our children.

My name is Z.C. I began working with the learning specialist at Unlocking Learning Potential in 2009. By 2011 I could see how I had grown tremendously with my education and learning.  With the neurodevelopmental evaluation, I found out that I was far below my grade level academically. At first, I thought the activities were silly, futile and would not work, but as I kept doing them I started noticing the big differences in every area of my learning. I could read faster, comprehend more, my vocabulary increased, and my memory improved.” Z.C. graduated from high school in 2011.

Watch this video to learn more about these scientifically based solutions to learning challenges. Plus, learn how you can unlock your child’s learning and reading abilities.

https://youtu.be/5BmNPJ9KdSo