Archive for the ‘changing brain’ Category

Things You Can Do to Turbocharge Your Brain—Part Two

March 23, 2015

Based on her extensive research, Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D. and expert in brain science, has developed seven suggestions for improving brain performance that anyone can implement.

We posted Dr. Chapman’s first three suggestions in our March 3rd post. Here are her remaining four tips for turbocharging the brain:

Thinker3Think big—The brain is designed to shift between details and the big picture, so it gets overwhelmed by too much focus on details and minutiae. It’s more effective to take the time to think about a problem or idea from the 10,000-foot view. This shifts our perspective—and strengthens brain systems to generate high-level ideas and transformative solutions.

Calibrate mental effort—Mental energy, like physical energy, can be depleted. Prioritize your day by focusing effort on the most important tasks while your brain is at peak operating power, usually at the start of the day.

Innovate—Stepping outside your routine is important to brain health and performance. Our brains seek novelty and innovation, so challenge yourself to expand your knowledge and learn new skills.

Motivate—While it is important to learn new skills, the brain is happiest when exploring areas you are passionate about. Focusing on what motivates and matters to you actually increases your rate of learning.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping students of all ages improve study, reading, math and 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.

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Things You Can Do to Turbocharge Your Brain—Part One

March 16, 2015

The human brain is the most powerful and complex electro-biochemical machine ever created—housing 100 billion neurons in a small calcium shell, laced with organic pumps, channels, and switches.

Researchers are finding that rather than being static and unchangeable, this amazing organ is dynamic, adaptable, flexible and repairable. Based on her extensive research, Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D. and expert in brain science, has developed seven suggestions for improving brain performance that anyone can implement. Dr. Chapman is Founder and Chief Director of the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas

Here are Dr. Chapman’s first three suggestions (The remaining tips can be found in our March 16th post):

multitask3Start single tasking—Your brain is not built to perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, it must switch quickly from task to unrelated task. Multitasking actually tires the brain and activates stress hormones. So contrary to what multitaskers think, giving your full attention to the project at hand will increase accuracy, innovation, and speed.

Limit information—Thanks to our technology-driven and uber-connected world, the sheer volume of information we are exposed to every day is nearly 200 times more than we were exposed to 20 years ago! Research shows that this information overload comes at a price. High-performing minds are more efficient at knowing what to block out and what to keenly pay attention to. Limit what you take in to enhance your brain’s natural ability to block out what does not matter.

Detox distractions—On average, individuals work for three minutes at a time before being interrupted. Complicating matters, technology is actually rewiring our brains to be addicted to interruption, as we anxiously wait for the next ping signaling a new email, text or social media post. By silencing your phone and computer and closing your office door, you can actually accelerate your brain’s ability to complete tasks.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping students of all ages improve study, reading, math and 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.

Working Longer May Improve Cognitive Health

September 16, 2014

boomerworking1While some baby boomers may be finding it necessary to continue working beyond age 65, they may be benefiting their cognitive health as well as their financial health.

Researchers are finding that continuing to engage in intellectual activities and new experiences keeps the brain running efficiently. They have developed the theory of “scaffolding” which holds that in such situations the aging brain develops new circuits that help people respond to cognitive challenges.

The scaffolding theory suggests that the aging brain, when confronted with the joint challenge of declining neural resources and a cognitively demanding task, develops “scaffolds”—new circuitry that helps maintain task performance. Evidence for neural scaffolding emerges from functional imaging studies showing that older adults typically engage more brain tissue than young adults when performing a demanding cognitive task, and that this additional activity is in a region in the opposite hemisphere from an area active in young adults as well or in an area larger than that seen in the young adults. It is believed that this additional scaffolding is compensating for areas of the brain that are functioning somewhat less efficiently than in younger adults.

We have a long way to go in learning about the aging mind and how to preserve its vitality. New imaging tools are allowing us to take giant steps as we examine these questions further. One of the premier challenges of the 21st century lies in determining what behaviors will protect neural health and then developing public health initiatives to encourage these behaviors in our communities. Sound social policies that encourage older people to keep working could have direct benefits to our economic system. It could even result in later onset of dementing illnesses, an outcome that offers gains for society thanks to reduced caregiving and health care costs, as well as extended time with beloved family members.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Signs of Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease

July 9, 2014

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. While it has been known to develop between ages 30 and 40, it is more common to see someone in his or her 50s who has the disease. Of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, about 5 percent, or approximately 200,000 people, are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s have no known cause, but most cases are inherited, a type known as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD).

Getting an accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary.

Sometimes symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different health care professionals. It could start to show up as problems at work or home, or as lost relationships or jobs.

For most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the early symptoms will closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Forgetting important things, particularly newly learned information or important dates
  • Asking for the same information again and again
  • Difficulty solving basic problems, such as keeping track of bills or following a favorite recipe
  • Losing track of the date or time of year
  • Losing track of where you are and how you got there
  • Difficulty with depth perception or other vision problems
  • Difficulty joining conversations or finding the right word for something
  • Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps to find it
  • Increasingly poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work and social situations
  • Changes in mood and personality

Because there is no one test that confirms Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis is only made after a comprehensive medical evaluation.

To keep your brain in tip top shape, our Optiminds fitness programs can help you take your brain’s performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Care and Feeding of the Aging Brain

June 14, 2014

brainfoods1We are learning more about the human brain every day, but there is still much about it that remains a mystery. One thing we do know is that our brains can deteriorate if we don’t take care of them.

So here are some things you can try to keep your “gray matter” healthy:

Eat brain-healthy foods—Choose foods that are lower in fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of dark fruits and vegetables, fish and lean proteins. Instead of candy, snack on almonds and blueberries. Healthy snacks can lower blood sugar and improve cognition. Also, the Omega-3s in walnuts have been found to improve mood and calm inflammation that may lead to brain-cell death.

Read for half an hour a day— The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books (in addition to other cognitive activities) can lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia.

Exercise—Walking your dog or yourself for just 20 minutes a day can lower blood sugar and increase blood flow to the brain so you can think more clearly. Don’t forget about dancing. Learning new moves activates brain motor centers that form new neural connections.

Be a social animal—According to the Yale Medical Center, people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer.

Become a student again—Challenge your mind by taking courses at your local college, university, community college or adult education center. Many institutions offer discounts for senior students.

Learn a musical instrument—Recent studies show that after only four months of playing an instrument an hour a week, seniors experienced improvements in the areas of the brain that control hearing, memory and hand movement.

Improve your powers of observation—Stare straight ahead and see if you can make out what’s at the periphery. Walk down the street and scan to the left and right. These actions activate rarely used areas of the brain that can atrophy if not used enough.

Get out of your comfort zone—Try tasks that are opposite your natural skills. If you like numbers, learn to draw. If you love language, try logic puzzles.

Write it down—Research shows that handwriting helps stimulate the areas of the brain that deal with thinking, language and memory. Write stories or keep a daily journal for starters.

Sleep—Seven or eight hours of good sleep a night helps prevent memory loss and gives the brain to relax and process things you learned during the day.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Alzheimer’s Update

May 16, 2014

seniorcomputer1Every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease.

Alzheimer’s is especially hard on women. Of the 5 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.8 million are men. A woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for a man. Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive condition in the nation. In 2014, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Despite these staggering figures, Alzheimer’s will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) in 2050.

A lifestyle that focuses on physical activity and a healthy diet may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s. You may also want to take advantage of Optiminds’ customized brain training programs for seniors. A mix of mental/emotional exercises, visualization techniques and computerized drills, these programs are designed to increase mental capacity and help you process information better and more quickly.

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 us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And visit our website at optiminds.com to learn more about us.

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.

Einstein’s Brain

December 23, 2013

Einstein3An analysis of recently unearthed photos of Albert Einstein’s brain indicate that the father of the theory of relativity had a colossal corpus callosum. That’s the brawny bundle of white matter that carries electrical signals between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, making brain regions with different functions work together.

Scientists believe this fact is part of what made Einstein’s brain so creative. When the corpus callosum works well, the human brain is a marvel of social, spatial and verbal reasoning.

While Einstein’s corpus callosum at the time of his death at age 76 was much better connected than those of similarly aged men, it was not as strikingly more connected than those of healthy young men in a control group.

So what the findings suggest is that Einstein’s extraordinary cognition was related not only to his large corpus callosum but also to enhanced communication routes between some parts of his two brain hemispheres. This might reflect the fact that Einstein continued to exercise his brain strenuously—more like a young person—forestalling much of the atrophy that comes with age.

Check out Optiminds’ programs for adults and seniors, designed to increase mental capacity, process information better and faster, and get your memory up to its peak performance.

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. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Research Shows Exercise Is Good for Your Brain

October 9, 2013

Neuroscientists, psychologists and physicians all agree—Exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain. Laura Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, concurs: “If we had a pill that could do what exercise does, its sales would put Viagra’s to shame.”

Research continues to show that cognitive decline is not inevitable. Brain volume may shrink as we age, but the brain continues to make new neurons and fine-tune neural connections as long as we live.

Aerobic exercise, for example, reduces the level of brain loss and keeps cognitive abilities sharp. It slashes the lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half and the risk of general dementia by 60 percent.

Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, spurring the release of a chemical that stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions. This same chemical also repairs cell damage and strengthens synapses, which connect brain cells.

exercisebrain3It’s never too late for your brain to benefit from exercise either. A now-classic study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people 60 to 79 years of age who completed a six-month program of walking briskly on a regular basis showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus—the first time scientists have been able to demonstrate this.

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.

Do We Trust More As We Age?

January 8, 2013

Financial exploitation of seniors—from telemarketing scams to identity theft, fake check scams and home repair fraud—costs an estimated $3 billion annually, and is becoming epidemic according to an official at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

A recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging suggests age-related changes in the brain make it harder to detect suspicious body language and other warning signs that people may be untrustworthy.

Researchers at UCLA set out to explore whether older adults perceive facial cues related to trustworthiness differently from younger adults. The researchers showed photographs of faces selected to look trustworthy, neutral or untrustworthy to a group of 119 older adults (ages 55 to 84) and 24 younger adults (ages 20 to 42). Signs of untrustworthiness included averted eyes, insincere smiles and a backward tilt of the head. The participants were asked to rate each face based on how trustworthy or approachable it seemed.

Results of the study show that older adults were significantly more likely than the younger ones to rate untrustworthy faces as trustworthy, and to miss facial cues that are usually easily distinguished.

A smaller group of participants performed the same task while the scientists used functional MRI to look at changes in brain activity. The functional MRI scans revealed significant differences in brain activity between the age groups. An area known as the anterior insula, which is associated with “gut feelings,” became more active in the younger subjects at the sight of an untrustworthy face. Older subjects, however, showed little to no activation in this area. This supports other research that found that older adults have a diminished ability to process negative stimuli compared with younger adults, resulting in a false sense of well being.

Future research is needed to determine whether this is because older adults are paying less attention to important social signals or whether their brains are somehow unable to process those signals.

Concerned about maintaining your mental capacity as you grow older? Check out our Optiminds Brain fitness programs that take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells, plus improving cognitive and concentration power. Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Call us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.


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