Archive for the ‘brain development expert’ Category

Get Moving to Strengthen Your Brain

April 14, 2014

As we age, our brains shrink a little, but they continue to create new neurons and fine-tune neural connections as long as we are alive. So if you want to increase the new growth, start exercising.

Aerobic exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which encourages the release of a chemical called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons near the hippocampus, which is the area involved in memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions. It also repairs cell damage and strengthens the synapses that connect brain cells.

In short, exercise reduces the level of brain loss, keeps us cognitively sharp and reduces our risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And regular exercise can pump up your brainpower regardless of your age. So if, for example, you are 55 years old and have never exercised, it’s not too late.

In a classic study, people aged 60 to 79 were asked to complete a six-month walking program. At the conclusion of the study, participants showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus, and levels of BDNF comparable to levels normally found in people almost two years younger.

Aim for about two and a half hours of brisk activity a week. Walking is great but if you have mobility issues, try walking in the pool, riding a stationary bike or practicing yoga or tai chi.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. Be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

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Give the Gift of an Optiminds Program

December 9, 2013

Optimindsnotag3With the holidays just around the corner, most of us are wracking our brains to come up with gift ideas for our loved ones. Speaking of brains, you might want to consider gifting your child, spouse or parent with some brain training sessions at Optiminds.

Optiminds is a professional brain training and tutoring service headed by Jane Stewart, PhD. A brain development expert, Dr. Stewart has spent over 40 years helping people of all ages improve their cognitive and learning skills as a means to achieving their goals and success in life.

Optiminds offers something for everyone on your list—adolescents and teens, college students, adults and senior citizens. We will customize a course for sharpening specific cognitive skills, from memory and math and reading improvement to ACT and SAT test preparation. You’ll find brain fitness classes for baby boomers, programs geared to helping students qualify for college scholarships, and even a Cognitive Summer Camp. We also offer  life strategy programs, programs to facilitate home schooling and parent coaching, not to mention ADHD assessment and tutoring and working with Alzheimer’s patients.

Optiminds classes are held at our facility at 29688 Telegraph Rd. in Southfield. For more information on how we can customize a program for that special someone on your gift list, call us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

The Restorative Powers of Sleep

November 9, 2013

soundsleep3We know that people who don’t get enough shut-eye have trouble learning and making decisions, and are slower to react. But despite decades of research, scientists have not been able to agree on the basic purpose of sleep, with explanations ranging from processing memory to saving energy to regulating the body.

But now, the long held assumption that sleep serves a vital function has gained new support with a recent study by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center suggesting that when we close our eyes, our brains go on a cleaning spree.

The research team had previously found a plumbing network in mouse brains that flushes out cellular waste. For the new study, the scientists injected the brains of mice with beta-amyloid, a substance that builds up in Alzheimer’s disease, and followed its movement. They determined that the potentially neurotoxic substance was removed faster from the brains of sleeping mice than awake mice.

The team also noticed that brain cells tend to shrink during sleep, which widens the space between the cells. This allows waste to pass through that space more easily.

Scientists say there is reason to think the same “housekeeping” process happens in humans. Among other things, the results may provide new clues to slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other mind disorders.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

The “BRAIN” Initiative

September 5, 2013

BRAIN3This past April, President Obama unveiled the “BRAIN” Initiative—a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

The BRAIN Initiative is short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. Extending beyond mere mapping of the brain, the BRAIN Initiative is aimed at producing an array of tools that are needed to establish an integrated theory of how a healthy brain functions over an organism’s life. This theory will provide a fundamental framework for interpreting new information on brain science and will change existing paradigms for explaining “who we are.”

It promises to accelerate the invention of new technologies that will help researchers produce real-time pictures of complex neural circuits and visualize the rapid-fire interactions of cells that occur at the speed of thought. Such cutting-edge capabilities will open new doors to understanding how brain function is linked to human behavior and learning, and the mechanisms of brain disease.

According to John Wingfield of the National Science Foundation—one of the key organizations leading the initiative: “When scientists do ultimately figure out how the brain works–however long it takes, this accomplishment will probably be considered the greatest scientific achievement in all of human history.”

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Optiminds’ programs are comprised of exercises, individually customized to your needs and designed to stimulate targeted areas of your brain. Learn more about Optiminds’ tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Brain Plasticity

October 8, 2012

You may have heard that the brain is “plastic.” Actually, brain plasticity or neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life. Our brains have the amazing ability to reorganize by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons).

Factors that play a role in plasticity include genetic factors, the environment in which we live and our actions.

Neuroplasticity occurs in instances such as: the beginning of life when the immature brain organizes itself; in the case of brain injury when the brain compensates for lost functions or to maximize remaining functions; and throughout adulthood when we learn and memorize new things.

One of the consequences of neuroplasticity is that the brain activity associated with a given function can move to a different location, such as when the functions of brain areas killed as the result of a stroke transfer themselves to a healthy region of the brain. The brain compensates for damage by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons, usually when the neurons are stimulated through activity.

Research shows that the brain never stops changing through learning. And when you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas in your brain that deal with this type of skill will grow. Examples: the left inferior parietal cortex is larger in people who are bilingual than in people who speak only one language; the cortex volume is larger in professional musicians compared to non-musicians.

It’s never too late to boost your brain’s plasticity. Dr. Stewart and staff help students of all ages improve their study, reading and cognitive skills—now at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.

Aerobics for Your Brain?

September 15, 2012

If researchers and neurologists are correct, doing certain types of mental exercises just might buy you a bit more time with a healthy brain.

Simple things, such as playing memory games on your mobile device or jotting down letters backwards, may help our gray matter maintain concentration, memory and visual and spatial skills over the years. Even tweaking every day routines can help—for example, brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand; or crossing your arms the opposite way you’re used to.  You might even try flipping pictures of your house upside down. The exercise forces your brain out of its familiar grooves because every time you look at the upside down image, your brain has to rotate it. This gets your brain out of its ruts and shakes things up.

The idea of mental workouts marks a dramatic shift in how we understand the brain these days. We used to think that we were stuck with what we were born with, but now we understand that the brain is a lot more plastic and flexible than we thought. Challenging the brain stimulates neural pathways and boosts the brain’s chemistry and connectivity, refueling the entire engine.

Research shows that people who engaged in mentally challenging games do, in fact, show improvement in cognitive functioning. They get faster at speed games and stronger in memory games, for example. What’s less clear is whether this improvement transfers to everyday tasks, like remembering where you parked the car or the name of your child’s teacher.

Like diet and exercise, mental maneuvers may boost brain health in ways science still doesn’t understand. Hopefully a mix of these factors just mix might stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases.

Dr. Jane Stewart specializes in helping people of all ages improve their study, reading and cognitive skills at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.


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