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.

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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 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.

 

Unlocking Learning Potential Specializes in Learning

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Like, Structure of Intellect, we at Unlocking Learning Potential see the value in “patterning.” While we have recently added SOI to our toolbox, we have long recognized the work of Glenn Doman and Carl Delacato and use it with our clients.

Dr. Robert Meeker of Structure of Intellect wrote that there are three broad stages in human learning. This is what he said about the first, mostly ignored stage that prepares people for the other two:

Humans, unlike almost all other creatures, are slow in developing the capacity to learn appropriate to their environs.  Most creatures come into life pre-wired with almost all they need to survive and thrive — humans have a greater need, and a greater capacity to learn, but they are not completely pre-wired — they need to learn how to learn.

The first stage is so elementary that it was not even identified until the last half-century.  It is called “patterning”.  It occurs when babies first start to explore their environment by crawling and otherwise controlling their bodies in exploring the outside world.    This “motor learning” seems so natural, that it is commonly not considered “learning”, but for whatever reason, some children miss developing important aspects of this development, so they are restricted in benefiting from the more advanced aspects of learning capacity.

Once this problem was identified, Glenn Doman and Carl Delacato created a program of exercises to formally replace the “motor learning” that had been missed as infants.  It may seem strange for adolescents and adults to be coached in crawling and other infantile behaviors, but there is no other remedy for those who missed “patterning” naturally.”

(“IPP in the Panoply of Learning” by Dr. Robert Meeker)

Following a Brain Training Assessment (BTA) our Learning Specialist designs an Individualized Neurodevelopmental Plan (INP) for a client. As an individualized plan, this INP works to UNLOCK the LEARNING POTENTIAL of our client. One size does not fit all! We teach parents to do these activities with their children daily and support this process with two 30-minute sessions a week via video conferencing.

Reviewing Childhood Lessons – Memory and Rewards

Some Background

In third grade, I failed penmanship and arithmetic. Apparently the teacher told my mother that I had passed third grade by the skin of my teeth. Looking over my report cards reveals comments such as, “If Margaret would try she would get better grades.” In seventh grade at the DOD school in Madrid, Spain I was given the choice of moving to class D and get a “C” on my report card or stay in class C and get a “D”. Given my father’s value of high grades, I chose Class D. All of this was before 1975 when Special Education became a legislated part of the public school system. Since my perceptions of these memories indicate that I was trying, I likely would receive special education services if I were in school today.

At church, during high school I was encouraged to memorize Scriptures to improve academics. So, I began to memorize long passages of Scripture, reciting them at church and at church camps. Also, during high school, my dad offered me $1.00 per “A” I earned on my report card. By the time I was a senior, I was on the High Honor Roll with all “A’s”. My first year of college was a challenge, getting a “D” at mid-term in Psychology. However, by my senior year, I was again able to get all “A’s”. I believe I was still probably working harder for those “A’s” than other students, but I was achieving better grades. Decades later, I want to review these lessons in light of what I have learned about how we learn.

Lesson # 1: Memorizing Scriptures Develops Cognitive Skills

Yes, the old adage, “use it or lose it” applies here. When you exercise your brain it develops. Scientific Learning’s motto, “Fit Brains Work Better” reveals how this principle works.
According to the neurodevelopmental approach, “Duration, Frequency, and Intensity” present three important ideas. Short, frequent, focused review of whatever is to be learned, locks into one’s brain. Today, I tell my students to put spelling words, vocabulary words, math facts or formulas, memory verses on cards. If they go through these cards between subjects, several times a day, they will learn it. Some may need to review longer to get the desired results, but they will learn. Do all of my students follow my advice? No, I am afraid that it is a hard sell, but I am not going to quit telling them to do it. While this works with anything, when one memorizes Scripture you get an added benefit: Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

 

Lesson # 2 – External Rewards Encourage Learning

As a teacher, I would always prefer that students have internal motivation to learn – “for the love of learning.” It would be great for students to be diligent in their studies in order to please God. We can continue to pray and trust God for this. It happens sometimes, but often external rewards are necessary. It may be something as simple as, “Great job!” or a high five or a sticker on a chart. Twenty-first century students would normally not be motivated by $1.00 per “A” on a report card as I was in the 60s. While a monetary reward may not be the best, it certainly works on the job for adults.

After reviewing these childhood lessons, I see that I need to remember to apply these in my life even today as I continue to learn.

A Book Review: The World in Six Songs – How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature by Daniel J. Levitin

Dr. Daniel J. Levitin is uniquely suited to address the topic of the musical brain. His first career, record producer and professional musician, led into his becoming a research scientist. Levitin runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University. Besides this book, he also has authored, This is Your Brain on Music. He classifies music into six songs: Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion and Love. Going through each of these types of songs, Levitin explains how the brain works. I found that part interesting, however, I easily tried of his couching all of this within the frame work of evolutionary fiction. If you have read other reviews I have written, you know that I learn much from individuals even though their presuppositions are evolutionary.

Levitin illustrates each of his categories with the lyrics of different songs. First, Friendship, introduces us to the first kind of song. He explains how the rhythm of songs like “Smokin’ in the boys’ room” binds a group together. Further, he tells us of a small group of hunter-gatherers in the Brazilian Amazon, the Mekranoti. These people sing for hours a day, sometimes to warn of an attack by a rival tribe. Rowing crews and other work teams have used rhythmic songs to coordinate their task. Our emotions represent neurochemical reactions in our brains.

Second, Joy represents Levitin’s second category of songs. Dr. Levitin and Rodney Crowell of the band, The Police exchanged ideas about how music began. Crowell believes that the first song was a caveman’s versions of “You Are My Sunshine.” Other “joy” songs include: “God Bless America,” Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “Log Blues.” Our brain encourages us by providing rewards and punishments using certain neurotransmitters. Rewards include neurotransmitters like serotonin,  and norepinephrine. Punishments include cortisol, activated by stress. Music of different kinds activates these neurotransmitters.

Third, Comfort follows. When the author dropped out of college to join a rock band, he was looking for comfort. Six songs inspired him to become a musician: “Autobahn,” Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, “Revolver,” “Through My Sails,” “The Great Gig in the Sky,” and “Night and Day.” His father gave him the book, The X Factor which explains how people become experts in their own fields. George Plimpton the author of The X Factor believes that people who eventually are successful have had more failures than those who are unsuccessful.

Fourth, Knowledge. Levitin continues by explaining that he did not earn his B.A. until he was well into his thirties. Examples of this kind includes: “The A-B-C Song,“ “Patty Cake,” and jumping rope songs (“Down by the river..” and “Cinderella, dressed in yella…”). Levitan includes many other examples. From a neurodevelopmental viewpoint, we recognize that content is learned well with music, however, the problem is that music is also needed to recall that information because it is stored in the subdominant, rather than dominant hemisphere of the brain. Retrieval requires the use of the subdominant.

Fifth, Religion, reflects another unique feature of mankind. Different religions have their own songs. Levitin mentions Chinese music for the Chinese New Year, Jewish music for their celebrations and Christian songs like, Oh Happy Day” celebrating the day Jesus “washed away my sin.” Dr. Levitin believes that all religious ceremonies almost always include at least one of these ritualistic behavior: repetitive motor actions, bowing seven times, making the sign of the cross, folding and unfolding your hands in a certain way. As a believer in Christ, I belong to a church that practices the “regulative principle of worship” meaning that God has prescribed how we are to worship Him. What we include in our worship should be what the Bible teaches is to be part of worship. Most Christian churches practice the “normative principle of worship” which believes that if God has not prohibited a practice, it is appropriate. It behooves those who follow the “regulative principle” to frequently evaluate how we worship which I would think would eliminate or greatly reduce many or all of those features that Levitin cites.

Finally, in the sixth place, Love, Levitin illustrates this category of song with Elvis’s “Love Me Tender” and “Let me Be Your Teddy Bear,” plus “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” and “Sugar, Sugar.” Our author states, “The brain learns music and language because it is configured to acquire rules about how musical and linguistic elements are combined; its computational circuits (in the prefrontal cortex) ‘know’ rules about hierarchical organization and are primed to receive musical and linguistic input during the early years of development.”p.239

Like many of the books I have reviewed, much valuable information appeared in this one as well. However, I had to wade through much more that does not fit my worldview regarding the origin of God’s creation, specifically His special creation, man.