Archive for the ‘neuroplasticity’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

Our Amazing, changing Brains

February 20, 2012

Source: “Brain Plasticity:  How learning changes your brain” by Dr. Pascale Michelon 

The human brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself (plasticity) by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons). This ability is called neuroplasticity.

Some examples of when neuroplasticity occurs in the brain include the following:

  • At the beginning of life, when the immature brain organizes itself
  • When brain injury occurs, to compensate for lost functions or to maximize remaining functions
  • Throughout adulthood whenever something new is learned and memorized

Factors affecting our brain’s plasticity include genetic factors, the environment we live in and our actions. Neuroplasticity allows brain activity associated with a function to move to a different location as the result of normal experience, brain damage or recovery. Our brains compensate for damage by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons. In order to reconnect, the neurons need to be stimulated through activity.

Research shows that the brain never stops changing through learning. When you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas in your brain that deal with this type of skill grow. For example, the left inferior parietal cortex of the brain is larger in people who are bilingual than in people who only speak one language. Gray matter volume is also higher in musicians than in non-musicians, etc.

If you are interested in growing your brain, Optiminds can help you improve your cognitive skills—the underlying brain skills that make it possible for us to think, remember and learn.

Optiminds is a tutoring company service in Southfield Michigan. Working with students of all ages in Metro Detroit, West Bloomfield, Bingham Farms, Redford, Huntington Woods and more.  We are a professional tutoring service featuring Reading Tutoring, Summer Tutoring, ACT Review Classes, Academic Tutoring and Dementia Help.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the study, reading and cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds brain fitness programs and cognitive skills training by calling 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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