Interesting Facts About the Human Brain

August 23, 2016

bulbThe average human brain weighs about 3.3 pounds and represents three percent of the body’s weight. The human brain is the largest brain of all vertebrates, more than three times as big as the brain of other mammals that are of similar body size.

The largest portion of the brain is the cerebrum, which is divided into two hemispheres and performs all of the higher cognitive functions. The outermost layer of the cerebrum is the cerebral cortex, which consists of four lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe and the occipital lobe.

Underneath the cerebrum lies the brainstem which is dedicated to involuntary functions such as breathing. Behind the brain stem is the cerebellum which controls motor functions such as coordination of movement and balance.

The brain contains about 100 billion microscopic cells called neurons—so many it would take over 3,000 years to count them all. While a single neuron generates only a tiny amount of electricity, all of the neurons together can generate enough electricity to power a low-wattage bulb.

The brain is protected by the skull (cranium), a protective casing made up of 22 bones that are joined together.

The brain uses 20 percent of the body’s energy, most of it to power the rapid firing of millions of neurons communicating with each other. Scientists believe that this firing and connecting of neurons is what gives rise to all of the brain’s higher functions. The rest of the energy is used to control other activities—both unconscious activities, such as heart rate, and conscious ones, such as driving a car.

Evidence shows that throughout the course of a day, we use 100 percent of our brains. All of the brain’s regions are not concurrently firing at any given moment, but most of them are continually active over a 24-hour period.

At Optiminds, we love to work with your brain. If you are looking for ways to keep your brain healthy, Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math, cognitive skills and memory of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Right Brain Versus Left Brain: Fact or Myth?

August 6, 2016

brainYou’ve probably heard of the popular theory that ascribes different functions to the left and right hemispheres of the human brain. It suggests that left-dominant thinkers tend to be problem-solvers with right-hand control are more analytical and logical, while right-dominant thinkers with left-hand control are artistic, creative and intuitive.

Well according to a number of studies, the evidence is just not there to support that individuals tend to have stronger left- or right-sided brain networks.

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that an injury to one side of the brain often caused a loss of specific abilities. For example, spatial abilities seemed to reside in the right side of the brain, with language in the left. In the 1960s, Roger W. Sperry, a Nobel laureate neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology and the renowned cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga discovered that the two halves of the brain act like independent entities, with contrasting processing styles. These findings were adapted by pop culture for books and quizzes and led to the thinking that different characteristics could be attributed to the two different hemispheres.

But recent brain scan technology has revealed that the hemispheres’ roles are not quite so cut-and-dried as once thought. The two hemispheres are in fact highly complementary. Humans actually use both hemispheres of the brain for all cognitive functions. For example, language processing, once believed to be left- hemisphere-only, is now understood to take place in both hemispheres: the left side processes grammar and pronunciation while the right processes intonation.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping people of all ages improve cognitive skills. Our customized brain fitness programs take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power and concentration. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Suggestions for Enhancing Brain Health

July 23, 2016

dementia1As baby boomers age, researchers around the world continue to search for keys to preventing and reducing the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and improving memory loss.

Doctors and scientists are finding that there’s no one explanation or answer to protect our brains as we age, and that the best we can do is to follow multiple steps to lower risk. Here are some basic recommendations:

  • Control blood pressure and cholesterol with diet, exercise and (if necessary) medication
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level
  • Lose or don’t gain excess weight
  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day
  • Follow a healthy diet, such as the DASH diet
  • Stay mentally and socially active
  • Get your hearing checked
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Get enough vitamin D

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is designed to lower blood pressure, which may in turn protect the brain’s blood vessels. The basic DASH diet recommends the following:

  • Vegetables and fruit (11 servings)
  • Grains (4)
  • Low-fat dairy (2)
  • Legumes and nuts (2)
  • Poultry, fish and lean meat (1)
  • Oils and fats (2)
  • Desserts and sweets (2)
  • Wild card—poultry, meat, fish or oils and fats or grains or desserts and sweets (1)

In addition to these recommendations, why not explore an Optiminds training program? Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math, cognitive skills and memory of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Reading Tips for Children with ADHD

July 22, 2016

ADHD3If your child has ADHD, paying attention for long periods of time can be a challenge. There are some things you can try to make reading a fun activity for you and your child.

  • Choose a quiet spot to sit down and read with your child–away from TV, radio, and video game noise.
  • Choose books that interest your child, such as books on animals or sports and let your child be part of choosing books to read.
  • If your child is already reading, encourage them to read with you and praise their efforts.
  • Read for short periods at a time. Start with just a few minutes and build up to longer periods. Put the book away if your child loses interest. Pick up the book later and read for another short time period.
  • Break up short periods of reading time with play time to give small children a chance to move around. If your child squirms, continue reading for a few minutes because your child may still be listening to the story even though he is moving around.
  • Reading time can help a highly energetic child gear down for naps and bedtime. Reading together for 10 minutes in the morning is a nice way to get the day started on a positive note.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math, cognitive skills and memory of students of all ages, including children with learning disorders. Give us a call today at (248) 496-0150 and learn more about us by visiting: optimindsct.com.

Practical Tips for College-bound Students

July 16, 2016

collegeYou’re starting college this Fall. It’s one of the most exciting times of life, but it can also be overwhelming with a totally new environment and a new routine, a load of classes and mountains of homework.

Having little or no time leads to stress and that will dramatically affect your ability to process what you learned in class. Unless you learn how to overcome these obstacles, you will have difficulty in college which only compounds your problem.

Right now is a good time to check out Optiminds’ Brain Fitness programs. Our proven techniques help students take brain performance to new levels, overcome learning struggles, reduce stress and retain valuable information which will help you be successful in your college career.

Optiminds is a skill-based program individually customized to your needs and designed to stimulate targeted areas of your brain. The typical program includes mental exercises, visualization techniques, computerized drills and recommendations on diet and physical exercise.

Optiminds training focuses on:

  • Study skills
  • Memory retention
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Stress management
  • Speed reading
  • Academic coaching

The benefits of Optiminds training include:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Feeling more in control of your schedule
  • Less negative self-talk
  • Feeling less distracted
  • Being better organized
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • Better memory skills

Here’s what some of our clients have to say about their Optiminds’ experience:

“My college grades improved, and I actually remember what I studied.”

“I was about to flunk out of law school, when I found Dr. Jane. I graduated and passed the bar exam. Thanks OPTIMINDS!”

“I’ve learned how to overcome stress and being overwhelmed. Now I have time to have fun with my friends!”

“I got a full ride to medical school after Optiminds helped me raise my MCAT score.”

Summer is a great time to get a head start on your college experience. Give Optiminds a call today at (248) 496-0150 and learn more about us by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Optiminds Bridge Camp For Kids of All Ages

July 6, 2016

youngbridge3The American pastime of playing bridge has declined since its peak in the 1930s and 1940s, but it is still played by millions of people today, including bridge fanatics Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

Optiminds is excited to offer our new Bridge Camp for kids of all ages! Why bridge? Studies are showing that playing bridge may yield cognitive benefits for people of all ages.

For older people, bridge offers intellectual and social stimulation on a routine basis. A study in 2000 at the University of California, Berkeley, found strong evidence that an area in the brain used in playing bridge stimulates the immune system. Researchers suggest that is because players must use memory, visualization and sequencing.

Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association shared the results of a large-scale clinical trial in Finland that demonstrated the benefits of combining cognitive training and social activity— two of bridge’s chief benefits—with other lifestyle elements. The idea is that multiple changes in lifestyle can improve memory and thinking in those at risk for cognitive decline.

Researcher Dr. Christopher Shaw has found that bridge playing benefits younger players as well. He found that students who learned to play bridge had a significant increase in their ITSB (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills) scores compared with their non-playing classmates

Results of an experiment conducted by biologist Marian Diamond show that contract bridge players have increased numbers of immune cells after a game of bridge, suggesting “strong evidence that an area of the brain involved in playing bridge stimulates the immune system, in particular the thymus gland that produces white blood cells called T cells, or T lymphocytes.”

Here are more of the benefits bridge playing offers:

  • Improves cognitive functions while enjoying playing a classic card game
  • Uses your brain power while having fun and socializing with others
  • Helps you think strategically
  • Helps you fine-tune critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Teaches you a skill you can use throughout your life
  • Provides an inexpensive form of entertainment

So sign up today for the Optiminds Bridge Camp. Lessons take place from 5:00 to 8:00 pm Monday through Thursday at our Southfield location. The fee for Optiminds bridge lessons is $100 for 10 lessons for four people. For more information, please call or email Jane Stewart, Ph.D. at (248) 496-0150 or jstewart@optimindsct.com. To learn about Optiminds, visit us at: optimindsct.com

Just think—you can be the first to start the next new trend. You can even start a team and compete against family members and friends!

Tips for Success As a Student Athlete

June 23, 2016

study3Student athletes are challenged with the twin demands of athletic competition and heightened academic expectations. Following are some tips for heading off issues and managing what at times can seem like an overwhelming schedule.

1. Learn how to effectively communicate with your teachers. Most teachers will be happy to provide help and support, but you need to effectively communicate with them to let them know when you might need to miss class to be at a game, how you will get the notes from class and when you will make up the work. Keep them posted in person, by email or through a letter from the athletic department.

2. Apply the same principles of preparation for your sport to your classes. Come ready to compete. Read, read, read. It will pay off in the end with heightened focus and broader knowledge that will help you stay fit in the classroom.

3. Be on time and be prepared, whether it’s for practice, class, or study hall. If you are perceived as responsible and reliable from the start, when you are late or you do make a mistake, people will be more likely to cut you some slack when it’s justified.

4. Stick to a daily routine to keep your work, practice and social life in order. To-do lists are a great way to keep all the things you have to do in order and so you can prioritize which things need to be accomplished first.

5. Make an effort to cultivate friends outside your small circle of teammates and coaches.

6. As a student athlete, you are the face of your school and your actions reflect on your institution and your sport, both positively and negatively. Make good decisions, especially when it comes to alcohol and drugs. It’s not just about you anymore; you are part of a greater whole.

7. Plan for life. Cultivate a network and resources of teachers and references you can draw on when it’s time to apply for employment. As an athlete, you have demonstrated that you are goal oriented, work well in teams, communicate, and are organized and disciplined.

8. Get to know your coaches. Part of their job is to mentor their athletes. Let them know if you are struggling with something. Draw on their experience about your sport and about what it’s like to be a student-athlete.

9. Establish good relationships with your teammates. If you love your teammates and encourage them everyday they will do the same for you. A team that loves and plays together wins.

10. Give it your all, every single day. Whether you had an awful day or not, when you step onto the field, you are there to play. After college most student-athletes will never play at the same competitive level again, so you have four years to give it your all, play with no regrets and be the best player you can be.

Optiminds’ college counseling division offers special programs for the dedicated student athlete to help them get into college, conquer their sport and be a success on the field and in the classroom. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

A Healthy Heart Could Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

June 16, 2016

alz4Experts agree that Alzheimer’s disease probably develops as a result of complex interactions among multiple factors such as age, genetics, environment, lifestyle and coexisting medical conditions.

We’ve known for a long time that high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. More recently, autopsy studies show that as many as 80 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease also have cardiovascular disease. The studies also suggest that plaques and tangles may be present in the brain without causing symptoms of cognitive decline unless the brain also shows evidence of vascular disease.

While we can’t do anything about our genes or to stop the aging process, we can adopt certain lifestyle choices, such as physical activity and diet, to help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s.

Research supports the idea that if you eat right, exercise and take care of your heart, you may also be doing good things for your brain—probably because a heart-healthy lifestyle promotes good blood flow to the brain and healthy arteries.

Neurology researchers at the University of Miami Medical School assessed memory, thinking and brain processing speed in more than 1,000 New York City residents 72 years old on average. Participants were evaluated for seven factors that can contribute to better heart health, including:

  • never smoking or being an ex-smoker
  • healthy body weight
  • 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise
  • a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish with little salt and sugar
  • cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar in the ideal ranges

The more heart-healthy traits participants had at the beginning of the study, the better they scored on brain processing speed, or the ability to quickly perform tasks that require focused attention. The association was strongest for being a non-smoker, having normal blood sugar and an ideal weight.

Current evidence suggests that heart-healthy eating may also help protect the brain. This means limiting the intake of sugar and saturated fats and making sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Two diets that are often recommended are the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet. The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils; and limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats.

If you are looking for ways to keep your brain healthy, Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math, cognitive skills and memory of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

A Busy Schedule May Be Better for Your Brain

June 6, 2016

busy3New research has found a strong correlation between busyness and cognitive function. Scientists tested 330 healthy individuals aged 50 to 89 and found that middle-aged and older Americans who keep themselves busy are also enhancing their cognitive functions. The study is part of the Dallas Lifespan Brain study, an ongoing, comprehensive study of age-related changes in brain function.

Study participants who tended to keep themselves busy tested better across a whole range of different cognitive functions—brain processing speeds, reasoning, vocabulary and especially episodic memory, the memory of specific events from the past.

The correlation was consistent across the age sample, and other research has shown similar correlations in all adult’s brains aged 20 up. Also, while we sometimes attribute stress to being too busy, the study did not bear this out. If busier members of the study were indeed more stressed, any negative impacts produced by that stress appear to have been outweighed by the benefits of busyness.

Some questions the study has yet to answer include:

  • Why is there is a connection between staying busy and cognition?
  • Do people with better cognitive functions simply tend to lead busier lives?
  • Does a busier lifestyle boost the brain’s cognitive powers by engaging people more frequently in the kinds of learning experiences that produce cognitive benefits?
  • Is there a mutual feedback loop in which each option reinforces the other?

One intriguing possibility is that new learning improves cognitive abilities, and that the busy among us may have more opportunities to learn new things because we more frequently engage in challenging tasks and situations that appear to help keep the brain sharp.

If you are interested in boosting your cognitive abilities, give us a call at (248) 496-0150. Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping people of all ages improve cognitive skills. Our customized brain fitness programs take brain performance, including critical thinking skills, to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power and concentration. Learn more about us by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Link Between the Inability to Focus and Memory Loss

May 23, 2016

park3Many memory problems have more to do with not being able to focus on the task at hand than with the actual ability to remember things. Unfortunately, focusing our attention, or concentration, gets more difficult as we get older.

We’ve all experienced not being able to remember where we parked our car at the mall. We were probably thinking about something else when we walked away from the car to the mall, leaving our brain with little opportunity to process any information that could be recalled later to help us find the car.

Here are some tips to improve a range of cognitive functions, including concentration and memory:

Practice meditation—Multiple studies have shown that meditation can be a good brain training tool to improve attention and concentration.

Be proactive—Ask questions when you are talking with someone. When you read something, ask yourself to summarize what you just read.

Don’t multitask—We pay a “transaction cost” for multitasking. Attention is limited to begin with, and multitasking just divides our attention, and our brain’s processing power, even more.

Personally relate to the information you are processing—Ask yourself if there is something in your life related to this new piece of information, how it makes you feel, etc.

Repeat new information—Come back to it more than one time. Repeated information is easier to recall, so come back to new information more than one time. “Spaced retrieval,” a method with which a person is cued to recall a piece of information at different intervals, is one of the rare methods that show results even with Alzheimer’s patients.

Elaborate on the information—Think about it, build on it, try to picture the information in your mind. Things that are concrete and have a clear meaning are easier to remember than abstract and vague ones.

If you are concerned that you are becoming more distracted and forgetful, Optiminds will customize a brain training program designed to stimulate targeted areas of your brain to improve memory and concentration. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.


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