How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 20)

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

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Chapter 12: Step Six – Brain-Balancing Medications

We have finally arrived at Braverman’s sixth and final step for “preserving and improving memory and attention.” (cover)

Braverman spends this chapter listing medications that he uses with his patients when other things do not work by themselves. These medications enhance the brain chemicals mentioned in this book.

  • GABA medications lessen anxiety and increase confidence
  • Anti-depressants are common types of serotonin-enhancing medications
  • Aspirin may be good for your thinking
  • Other medicines restore memory
  • Dopamine medications help increase attention
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors may help improve Alzheimer symptoms
  • Leptin – enhancing medications help balance your brain chemistry
  • “Medical Marijuana Won’t Help Your Thinking” – while he has used the pill form with a small set of his patients, he still considers it a “neurotoxin”

This reviewer is not a medical doctor and for her, personally, prefers using all of the other possibilities before taking prescribed medications.

We are set to finish up with Part III – Your Brain, Your Body

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 18)

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

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Chapter 10: Step Four: Exercises That Boost Your Brain

Health Benefits of Physical Exercise Include:

  • Losing weight and keeping it off
  • Improving sexual function
  • Strengthening cardiovascular health
  • Maintaining bone density
  • Improving brain function

“If you constantly engage in mental and physical activities, particularly those that get more difficult as you progress, you can increase your cognitive reserve.” P. 178

  • Braverman Brain Workout –choose a domain or domains
  1. Enhancing Memory –Visual Memory
    1. Drawing maps from home to varying locations – farther and farther away
    2. Take 5 playing cards from a deck; look one at a time; memorize number and suit; turn cards over and write down what you saw and in the correct order; keep adding.
    3. Select a photo (album, Facebook etc.); Write down as many details as possible from memory
  2. Enhancing Memory– Verbal Memory
    1. Listen to the news for 2 minutes. Write everything you remember. Add more time as you go.
    2. Think of songs that contain the word blue in the title or lyrics. Keep adding; after 4 days go on to another word.
    3. Memorize a haiku, repeat from memory. Increase in complexity.
  3. Enhancing Memory -Improve your Immediate Memory
  4. At bed time make a list of everything you ate that day.
  5. Close eyes and describe what you are wearing; more challenging describe what others are wearing.
  6. List 5 people you spoke to during the day. Gradually increase the number.
  7. Enhancing Memory-Improve Your Working Memory
  8. Using an address book or e-mail contact list; remind yourself how each person looks and when you saw them last.
  9. Write down how much money you spent during each transaction.
  10. Chunking sorts large amounts of information into subgroups. For example: a grocery list can be remembered by what is in each aisle. P. 182-182
  11. Enhancing Attention
  12. Tapping a table as many times as possible in 30 seconds; increases by 15 seconds until you get to 2 minutes – faster all of the time.
  13. Practice reading with different kinds of background sound – music, news programs, etc. Increase by 5 minutes each time.
  14. Play: Game of Five Differences – looking at two images with 5 differences (apps available). Begin with 2 minutes and reduce gradually to 15 seconds.
  15. Take a walk – increase your speed as you progress.p. 183
  16. Enhancing IQ –
  17. Abstract IQread a newspaper from cover to cover.
  18. Creative IQ – Flexibility “What if…challenges.
  19. Emotional IQ – getting out of the house; listening to lectures or sermons
  20. Perceptive IQ – be a good role model and teacher p. 184

 

Braverman also includes activities for becoming more sensitive or intuitive; becoming more rational and how to break bad habits. P. 185-186

He suggests rotating through the types of activities on different days of the week.

  • Braverman Recommendations for Physical Activities
  • “The point is to get out of your comfort zone for as little as 15 minutes to see what sparks your interest.” P. 187
  • Addresses anxiety and depression
  • Increases serotonin and GABA
  • Aerobics increases blood flow p. 188
  • You need muscle mass for better thinking
  • Competitive sports make you think faster p. 189
  • Consistently increase expectation; but not to the point of pain.
  • Braverman cautions by asking a series of questions to determine whether you are ready to exercise (heart condition, pregnancy, dizziness, bone or joint – etc. ask doctor) p. 190
  • Mix it up – a routine should not be the same all the time for ever. p. 190
  • The PATH to Exercise – 5 Phase Program
  1. Stretching and warm-up – work up to walking 15 minutes daily
  2. Dynamic combinations of stretches that induce blood flow and heart pumping.p. 191
  3. Aerobic/cardiovascular training – rhythm and synchrony of whole body. P. 192
  4. Weight lifting/resistance training – for bones and muscles
  5. Cross-training – combines #3 and #4.

Braverman gives further advice that will maximize this process. P. 193-194

Next Braverman talks about Step Five: Natural Hormones Jump-Start Quick Thinking

Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina Rule # 8: Stressed brains don’t work the same way.

Image

According to researchers Jeansok Kim and David Diamond, stress requires three components:

  1. Aroused physiological response
  2. Stressor perceived as aversive
  3. Person does not feel in control p. 173-174

Adrenaline floods the system during the physiological response. Along with adrenaline, cortisol also is released. These hormones form the “elite strike force” against stressors. We would die without these hormones, but over time an overload can occur. Acute responses are necessary and beneficial, but chronic can lead to a break down in the immune system. Stress affects the brain in the same way.

“Specifically, stress hurts declarative memory (things you can declare) and executive function (the type of thinking that involves problem solving). Those, of course, are skills needed to excel in school and business.” P. 178

When too many of these stress hormones hang around too long, as in chronic stress, learning is negatively affected. Chronic stress can lead to depression. “Depression is a deregulation of thought processes, including memory, language, quantitative reasoning, fluid intelligence, and spatial perception.” P 180

A model described in the book “says that stress, left alone, is neither harmful nor toxic. Whether stress becomes damaging is the result of a complex interaction between the outside world and our physiological capacity to manage the stress.” P. 182

Stress can injure productivity on the job in the following ways:

  1. Natural improvisatory instincts
  2. Health care costs rise.
  3. Workers who burn out often lose their jobs.

Stress in a marriage can affect how the children function in school. Medina proposes parent training early in the lives of their children as well as free family counseling and day care. Questions to ask: Who is qualified to do this “parent training”? What criteria is used to conduct this parent training? Also, how do we define success?

We can certainly learn from this brain rule, but I would caution rushing to “free” services if these are provided by any government agency. However, we can support the family to develop a wholesome environment for children. Examples of private efforts: Care Net Pregnancy and Family Services provide free and confidential services including: providing support for those in unplanned pregnancies, teaching Smart Love and Smart Freedom to young people, parenting classes and more. www.carenetps.org Also, Family Academy / Academy Northwest support Family Directed Education. www.familyacademy.org and www.academynorthwest.org