Heading in Soccer May Damage the Brain

November 23, 2016

soccer3Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, with more than 265 million amateur and professional players. It is the only sport in which participants purposely use their head to hit the ball. The practice known as “heading” is considered as an offensive or defensive move in which the player’s unprotected head is used to deliberately impact the ball and direct it during play.

A soccer player can be subjected to an average of 6–12 incidents of heading the ball per competitive game, as well as in practice sessions. Soccer players are prone to traumatic brain injuries, 22 percent of which are concussions. But while there has been a lot of discussion about concussions in contact sports, only recently has the scientific community focused on heading as an additional cause of cumulative brain injury.

Thanks to a  new study from the United Kingdom, sporting bodies and members of the public can see clear evidence of the risks associated with repetitive impact caused by heading a soccer ball. The study is the first to show that routine heading of a soccer ball can cause damage to brain structure and function while being too minor to cause a concussion.

In the study, amateur players, ages 19 to 25 were asked to head machine-projected soccer balls at speeds modeling a typical practice. Each player was asked to perform a rotational header — redirecting the soccer ball — 20 consecutive times during 10-minute sessions.

Researchers observed changes in motor response and memory in the five women and 14 men participating in the study. They found that immediately following these sessions, subjects’ error scores on both short- and long-term memory tests were significantly higher than subjects’ baseline performances. Even after just a single session of heading, memory-test performance was reduced by as much as 67 percent, though the alterations appeared to clear within 24 hours. The researchers caution against taking this temporary disruption as a sign of no long-term damage.

Optiminds offers brain fitness programs for people of all ages. We also specialize in programs for dedicated student athletes to help them get into college, conquer their sport and be a success on the field and in the classroom. For more information about Optiminds’ athletic college prep counseling program, please call (248) 496-0150 and be sure to visit our website at: optiminds.com.

Brain Training May Help Seniors Drive Longer

November 16, 2016

seniordrive2A decade ago, Penn State University researchers tested some 2,000 people ages 65 and older to measure the effects of three different cognitive training programs―reasoning, memory and divided attention―on driving cessation in older adults.

All participants were drivers at the start of the program and were in good health. They were evaluated seven times over the course of 10 years.

Both the reasoning and the memory training used pencil and paper activities, while the divided-attention training used a computer program. The reasoning exercise included brain teasers and taught the participants problem-solving strategies, while the memory training involved categorizing lists of words to help with everyday life, such as a list of errands or a grocery list. A part of the sample did not participate in these exercises.

The divided-attention, or speed of processing, training used perceptual exercises where participants were shown several objects on a screen at once for a very brief period of time. They were then asked questions about what they had seen. This program was adaptive, becoming more difficult after the first five exercises were completed.

When researchers revisited the participants 10 years later, they reported the following:

  • participants who completed either the reasoning or divided-attention training were between 55 and 49 percent more likely to still be drivers 10 years after the study began than those who did not receive training
  • randomly selected participants who received additional divided-attention training were 70 percent more likely to report still driving after 10 years

Studies like this are important because the ability to drive has huge ramifications for seniors, resulting in loss of independence.

If you are looking for ways to keep your brain healthy, Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the 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.

Helping Your Kids with Organization and Time Management

November 8, 2016

time2Despite how important they are to success in school, time management and organization are skills we often don’t focus on enough for young students.

Eventually as students grow, they will become more independent managers of their possessions and time. But it is never too early to focus on helping your child learn the self-discipline to get their work done and completed on time.

Determine the learning method that best suits your child’s learning style. It might be mainly visual, auditory or kinaesthetic ((learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations), or a combination of all three. Be sure they have the appropriate tools to suit their learning style.

Create a study zone that promotes focus. Multi-tasking may seem like a good goal, but the fact is that we get more done by focusing on one task at a time. Experiment with different environments—complete silence, music in the background, etc. If your child isn’t able to complete their homework in the appropriate amount of time, adjust the environment until you find the optimal situation.

Help your child use a planner or calendar to get a sense of time and deadlines for school work. Calendars, clocks, watches and timers can also help to make time less abstract for young children. Help your child break down projects into pieces of work that can fit into 30- to 90-minute blocks of time, and schedule these in the calendar.

Teach self-discipline by giving your child the responsibility of managing assignments or parts of a project on their own. Discuss the benefits of focusing on their work rather than following distractions and let them experience the consequences of mismanaging their time. Role-modelling self-discipline also helps.

We all learn better when we are rested and comfortable. Provide your child with nutritious food and establish bedtimes that will help avoid lack of sleep. Make sure they get fresh air and adequate exercise every day. Taking physical breaks every 60 to 90 minutes can also help keep your child refreshed.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping people of all ages improve their learning skills. We’ll design a customized program for your child based on their unique requirements. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Improve Your Mindset About Studying

October 23, 2016

study4With so many things competing for a student’s attention, it’s not surprising that many students find it hard to concentrate on studying.

Here are some suggestions to make your studying more effective:

  • How you approach something matters almost as much as what you do. So try to look at studying as an opportunity to learn not as a necessary evil.
  • Think positively when you study and remind yourself of your skills and abilities. Don’t compare yourself to others. Replace self judgements like “I always mess things up” with the more positive “I didn’t do so well that time, what can I do to improve?”
  • Don’t “force” yourself to study if you are distracted by other issues; come back to your studies when you are feeling more focused.
  • Find a quiet place to study that isn’t distracting, preferably away from TV, phone, computer or friends. If you study best with your favorite music playing, make sure your iPod is with you. Study groups can be helpful for some students if they are kept small and include students of similar academic aptitude who are taking the same class.
  • Pay attention in class and focus as much on what the instructor is saying as you do on the written materials and textbooks.
  • Outline the information you are studying using words, concepts and structures that work for you. Connecting similar concepts together will make information easier to remember when the exam comes around.
  • Schedule your study time instead of just doing it when you get around to it. Commit to spending 30 or 60 minutes every day you have a class studying for that class before or after it. This will help you actually learn more of the material. And study regularly throughout the semester for as many classes as you can, rather than cramming just before exam time.
  • Chunk your studying into manageable components of time that work for you. Then reward yourself for meeting your goal with a small treat you enjoy, such as a favorite snack, game or music.
  • Strive for a balance between studying and the rest of your life. The more balanced your life is, the easier every component in your life becomes. Make friends, keep in touch with your family, and find interests outside of school that you can pursue and enjoy.
  • Make sure you understand what the expectations are for the class. Communicate with your instructor, especially if you think the course might be a difficult one for you.

You may not appreciate it now, but school is one of the great opportunities life has to offer. Studying is one of the ways you learn things, some of which you might actually care about. Try to find interesting things to take away from every experience.

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.

There’s Hope for the Middle-aged Mind

October 16, 2016

Contrary to popular opinion, research suggests that our brains don’t necessarily become slower and duller as we age.

Specifically, studies show that the middle-aged brain:

  • seems to be capable of rewiring itself well into middle age, incorporating decades of experiences and behaviors
  • is calmer, less neurotic and better able to sort through social situations
  • is better in terms of verbal abilities, spatial reasoning, simple math abilities and abstract reasoning skills than the young adult brain

Mental skills, such as vocabulary, character judgement and conflict resolution, improve with age. We are better at recognizing categories, sizing up situations and making financial decisions. As we get older, we tend to get better at regulating our emotions and finding meaning in our lives.

The Seattle Longitudinal Study, which has tracked the cognitive abilities of thousands of adults over the past 50 years, shows that middle-aged adults perform better on four out of six cognitive tests than those same individuals did as young adults.

Researchers have also found a difference in brain activity between younger and older people. Functional neuroimaging studies show that brain activity doesn’t actually slow down in the middle-aged brain; instead, older adults tend to use both brain hemispheres for tasks that only activate one hemisphere in younger adults.

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.

Should You Take Both the SAT and the ACT Tests?

October 6, 2016

satactIn 2016, Michigan began offering the SAT test free to high school juniors and seniors, transitioning from the ACT which was previously the test of choice for college admission. Most colleges accept both the SAT and/or ACT scores, but some colleges will only accept one or the other. Check the application process and materials and website for the colleges you are interested in to see what their preferences are.

Of course, you can always take both the SAT and the ACT, as a growing number of schools are encouraging students to do. In fact, a recent national survey of high school juniors and seniors found that 43 percent of college applicants take both the SAT and the ACT.  Here are some reasons why:

  • Many of the test taking skills, mathematics subjects, English and grammar questions, and reading comprehension overlap on the two tests.  Solid preparation for one will usually reflect well on the other.
  • In the admissions process, more information is always better. Submitting scores from both tests gives you an additional opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants.
  • The test taking experience itself is one of the best score enhancers; and prepping for one test can help a student score higher on the other.
  • Because you can retake both the SAT and ACT, you can submit just your highest scores from each.

If you will be taking the SAT and/or ACT exam as a senior in high school, try to take them as early as possible during your fall semester so you will have enough time to retake the exam in December or January if you decide you’d like to try to improve your score.

Optiminds can help you prepare for both your SAT and ACT with our customized and individualized program designed to help you reach your target score. We even offer support and coaching for parents so they can help you utilize our programs. Just give us a call at (248) 496-0150 or visit our website at optimindsct.com to learn more about us and our test preparation programs.

Signs That Your Child Might Have a Learning Disability

September 23, 2016

learn3A learning disability is a problem that affects how a person receives and processes information and has nothing to do with how smart a person is. Between 8 and 10 percent of children under age 18 in the U.S. may have some type of learning disability.

A person with a learning disability may see, hear, or understand things differently, which causes difficulty with things such as reading, writing, mathematics or understanding directions. It’s important to note that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders are not the same as learning disabilities.

Some typical learning disabilities include:

Dyslexia, probably the most well-known and common learning disability. Dyslexia affects how someone processes language, making reading and writing difficult, among other things

Dyspraxia, which affects a person’s motor skills

Dysgraphia, which can result in poor handwriting, trouble spelling and difficulty putting thoughts onto paper

Dyscalculia, which affects a person’s ability to do math including recognizing numbers, counting, solving math problems and memorizing multiplication tables

Auditory processing disorder which affects the ability to read, follow spoken directions and remember things a person has heard

Visual processing disorder, which makes it hard to read or tell the difference between two objects that look similar and is often accompanied by poor hand-eye coordination

What to look for if you suspect your child has a learning disability:

  • Lack of enthusiasm for reading or writing
  • Trouble memorizing things
  • Working at a slow pace
  • Trouble following directions
  • Trouble staying focused on a task
  • Difficulty understanding abstract ideas
  • Lack of attention to detail, or too much attention to detail
  • Poor social skills
  • Disruptiveness

If you think your child may have learning difficulties, start by talking to your pediatrician or teacher about having your child evaluated.

With the right tools, people with learning disabilities can overcome any challenge. Optiminds professionals can help you determine if your child has a learning disability. We’ll design a customized program to help improve your child’s cognitive skills for success in studying, reading, math and more. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Healthy Foods for Young Brains

September 16, 2016

brain1The human brain is hungry for more than just information. The brain is the first organ to absorb nutrient from the food we eat. So choose wisely what nutrients you are feeding your children if you want to boost their brain function, concentration and memory.

Following are some great choices for “brain foods” including the nutrients they contain for optimum brain performance:

Fatty fish, especially salmon—lean protein, high in omega-fatty acids DHA and EPA essential for brain growth and function

Eggs—good source of protein and also choline, which helps memory development

Peanut butter—contains vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes; and thiamin to help the brain and nervous system convert glucose to energy

Whole grains—they provide a constant supply of glucose thanks to the fiber they contain. They are also a good source for B-vitamins which nourish the nervous system.

Oats—This energy-packed “grain for the brain” contains vitamin E, B-vitamins, potassium and zinc

Berries—a great source for antioxidants, especially vitamin C

Beans—In addition to providing energy from protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, beans include lots of vitamins and minerals.

Colorful vegetables–Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach are packed with antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy.

Milk and yogurt—The protein and B-vitamins in dairy foods promote the growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes.

Lean beef (or a meat alternative)—Lean beef is one of the best absorbed sources of iron and also contains zinc, which helps with memory. For non-meat eaters, black bean and soy burgers are iron-rich alternatives, especially when accompanied by foods with vitamin C, which helps iron get absorbed.

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.

Age-related Memory Loss Is Quite Normal

September 6, 2016

forget5Memory is the ability to normally recall the facts and events of our lives.

Memory takes place in three stages:

  • Encoding—when we take in information
  • Consolidation—when the brain takes the information it encodes and processes it so that it gets stored in certain areas of the brain
  • Retrieval—when we recall information that has been stored in the brain

Time is the memory’s worst enemy. Shortly after we take in information, memory traces start to deteriorate, followed by different rates of forgetting depending on factors such as the nature of the material, how important it is for the person, their stress level, etc.

Other reasons for memory loss, most of which are reversible, include:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Metabolic diseases such as thyroid gland diseases, diabetes, and lung, liver, or kidney failure
  • Alcoholism
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Infections
  • Drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter

While memory loss can happen even before we hit our 50s, research shows that up to half of people over age 50 have mild forgetfulness linked to age-associated memory impairment. Signs of age-related forgetfulness include:

  • Forgetting parts of an experience
  • Forgetting where you park the car
  • Forgetting events from the distant past
  • Forgetting a person’s name, but remembering it later

If you are concerned that your memory loss is more than just age-related, here are some things to look for that might signal more serious memory conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Forgetting an experience
  • Forgetting how to drive a car or read a clock
  • Forgetting recent events
  • Forgetting ever having known a particular person
  • Loss of function, confusion, or decreasing alertness
  • Symptoms become more frequent or severe

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about memory loss. If you are looking for ways to keep your brain healthy, give us a call at Optiminds. We have earned a reputation for helping adults and baby boomers improve cognitive skills and memory. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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.

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