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4 Exercises To Sharpen Your Brain
Think of your brain as a muscle: It gets stronger with exercise. Your everyday mental tasks are like walking, but how about a real workout? Try these simple exercises to boost your brain power and clear away the fog of forgetfulness.
1. Use your non-dominant hand
Tackling new tasks improves brain capacity in younger people and has a restorative effect on mental faculties that are declining. Boost your brain power right now by performing everyday activities with your non-dominant hand. If you're right-handed, use your left hand to eat, drink, comb your hair, and brush your teeth. Try writing your name with your non-dominant hand or put your mouse pad on the other side of the keyboard.
Aluminum And Alzheimers Disease
Large amounts of aluminum are usually found in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer's. This has led others to think that the disease is caused by using aluminum cooking pots and pans or ingesting oral antacids or antiperspirants containing aluminum.
It's a nice thought but one with no scientific basis. Professor Luigi Amaducci of the Department of Neurologic & Psychiatric Sciences at the University Of Florence said other patients with Alzheimer's don't have aluminum plaques in the brain which rules out this metal as the cause of the disease.
"There has been some concern in recent years that dietary aluminum may lead to Alzheimer's disease or senile dementia in older people. This concern arises from the fact that greater levels of aluminum are found in brain tissue of people dying from Alzheimer's disease than in brain tissue from people dying from other causes," according to Dr. Myron Winick, director of the Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in The Columbia Encyclopedia of Nutrition.
Be A Brain Scientist
"To think is to practice brain chemistry." - Deepak Chopra
Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, I'm no brain scientist¦"? Quite recently I had lunch with a friend while he was on a break from work. When he ordered a beer I raised my eyebrows in mock astonishment. He replied "It's not like I'm performing brain surgery later."
But we are all brain scientists. Our thoughts really do affect our brain chemistry. And we can be like surgeons in our ability to carefully excise negative thoughts from our gray matter.
Our patterns of thought are simply habits, but they are grounded in rich neural circuitry. Like deer in the woods, our thoughts form paths that will most likely be retread unless we consciously set out to find a new way. The first step to that new way is to be aware that thoughts can either be unconscious or conscious.
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How Brain Research And New Technology Are Going To Revolutionize Brain Care And Mental Health
Dr. John Docherty is an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College, Cornell University and Chief Medical Officer of Brain Resource. Trained as a clinical research fellow in neuropsychopharmacology at NIMH, he later returned as Chief of the Psychosocial Treatments Research Branch, responsible for all federally supported psychosocial treatment research in mental health nationwide. Dr. Docherty has wide experience in successfully implementing innovation in both clinical operations and managed health care.
Alvaro Fernandez (AF): Dr. Docherty, it is a pleasure to be with you today to discuss the main theme of latest market report, Transforming Brain Health with Digital Tools to Assess, Enhance and Treat Cognition across the Lifespan. Can you first briefly discuss your career trajectory and your current roles?
Dr. John Docherty (JD): Sure. The main theme of my work since the 1960s has remained the same, "How do we put knowledge into effective use to improve mental health?" Over the last century, medicine made tremendous progress in generating scientific and clinical knowledge. Basic research, discovery science, and clinical treatment development science have made great progress. The study of psychotherapy, however, lagged in development. In my role of Chief of the Psychosocial Treatments Branch of the NIMH, I supported the efforts of an extraordinary group of individuals to make possible the effective scientific study of the efficacy of psychotherapies.
I would say that my major interest, however, has been in the next step, the science of knowledge transfer. There has been and remains a long and costly (in terms particularly of unnecessary suffering) lag between the development of new knowledge and its common and effective use in practice.
Right now I am working on a plan to provide personalized, performance-based support for mental health professionals to progressively expand their range of competencies and to stay current in those areas of established competence. As Chief Medical Officer of Brain Resource, my role is to ensure the integrity of the clinical data in our platforms and systems.
AF: Based on those experiences, and also the companies you have been involved with, what are your reflections on how to put knowledge to good use?
JD: I may suggest the following. One, that putting good evidence to work in practice requires more than publishing good research. I'd say that scientific evidence is directly relevant to perhaps 15% of clinical decisions,. The remaining 85%, demands some degree of inference where we need other translational tools such as well-done quantitative studies of expert opinion.
Second, we require technologies that translate emergent knowledge into practice. Continuously updated Expert Decision Support systems embedded in EHR's are absolutely necessary to close the gap between the development of new knowledge and its effective use.
In Psychiatry, another specific technology that is required is one that provides a reliable and valid assessment of brain health at an affordable price. Psychiatry has unfortunately badly lagged behind other areas of medicine in evaluating and diagnosing the health of the major organ that it treats. In my opinion an assessment of basic neurocognitive function should be an essential part of any psychiatric evaluation. To do this, however, requires a technology that makes such an assessment convenient and affordable. Fortunately, we now have some technologies such as the Brain Resource WebNeuro program, among some others, that makes this possible.
Once we have recognized the fundamental importance of underlying brain function to mental health, the need for technologies, drugs and other lifestyle interventions and considerations to protect and improve brain health gains saliency and urgency. Cognitive enhancement and remediation technologies are now emerging. This is a nascent area of innovation and industry -- and a welcome one.
Finally, in order to truly encourage continuous innovation and improvement, we need to preserve both creativity and integrity. We need soft touches to guide the field in the right direction more than strict regulations that may be premature at this point.
AF: We see the opportunity to improve brain care through the life course by upgrading the very basic framework for care, moving from the prevention and treatment of a collection of symptom-based diagnoses towards the enhancement and maintenance of underlying brain-based functions. Do you see any progress in that direction?
JD: First, let me say that I fully share that point of view. As I noted, today's diagnostic framework is outdated in its limitation to symptom based diagnosis. All the organs in the body have a function, and the brain is no exception. Let's think of this analogy: the main function of the heart is pumping blood -- and when that function starts to fail a variety of symptoms appear, and may end in heart failure.
Cardiovascular health has seen major improvements over the last 50 years precisely because of its understanding of the heart as a system with a function. The brain's main function is information processing, yet psychiatry basically ignores it. It doesn't take into account that so-called disorders, which are diagnosed and treated as if they were each separate and binary (you have them or you don't) illnesses, are primarily signs of decompensation, By that I mean, when the brain gets overwhelmed and can't perform its function well.
What we have learned from neuroscience over the last decade is that we can, to a significant extent, start to identify the brain-based cognitive and self-regulation dysfunctions that often precede disorders. So, we should be asking, what are the brain-based risk factors, the main reasons underlying the appearance of mental health problems? at what point of dysfunction do problems -and which ones- appear?
In short, the mental health field should adopt a brain-based model for diagnosis and treatment.
AF: What would be key next steps in that direction?