Child Brain Evolution – Studying Brain Development Stages

Brain evolution in a child displays a marvelous period of brain development since birth to five – creating more than a million neural links every second.

The evolution of the child’s brain includes many factors that also include external factors such as the child’s relations, experiences and conditions. Recent research in child brain evaluations depicts the human brain areas that grow the most during childhood and adolescence are the same parts that developed the most during evolving as humans veered from other hominids. The brain evolution studies help to monitor the brain development process from the newborn stage to the brain-building process in following years.

The Evolution Phases

The evolution of the brain accelerates from the birth of the child. The brain transformation in the earliest year is rapid, and the visible signs are evident to the naked eyes. The evolution showcases results as a helpless infant quickly transform into a walking, talking child and develop skills such as reading, interactions and ability to think logically.

At birth, the size of the human brain is less than a quarter of the size of an adult human brain. However, 90 percent of all of the brain development and evolution takes place in the first five years of human life. As a child, a human brain evolves rapidly, and the size of the brain itself doubles in size in the first year after the birth of the child. The human mind keeps developing, and by the age of 3, the brain reaches 80 percent of the adult brain size and goes up to 90 percent, i.e., almost full grown by the age of five.

Prenatal Development of Brain From Prenatal Stage to Birth
Prebirth for the brain developments, a process of brain evolution starts, but it is at an initial development phase, and the birth of the infant sees a brain with a complicated arrangement of more than 100 billion neurons. While the structure of the brain nerve cells starts with the prenatal stages; however, these nerve cells are in links during the prenatal period, and the rapid evolution begins after birth.

From birth to the time the child turns three, the brain undergoes a complete connection of neurons, and functional architecture of the brain formation occurs. These stages the child takes into account all the sensory experiences such as sounds, smell and voices, and that brings the brain nerve cells in connection. From birth to the age of three, the brain forms more than 1,000 trillion synapses in reply to environmental inducements like visions, noises and tastes. Due to these neural links a rigid system of neural connections shapes up in the formation of brain functions.

When the child turns three, the brain continues to build neural connections and begin to interact and respond to the new learning experience. This evolution phase is the time when the child reaches a brain development stage that enables them to talk correctly, display different emotional reactions and develop motor coordination of the body parts. Starting from age three and up to age 11, the brain neural system is at its most responsive levels and this decade of life is the time where the child has the brain ability to learn many new skills that become difficult at an adult age.

When a child turns 11 years of age, the brain starts to dock away from the excess neural networks where the most related neural pathways continue and become an active component of the grown-up brain structure, but little-used neural networks fade.

From ages 11 to 13, the brain starts to evolve into the ability of performing logical thoughts, improved memory and more complex problem solving. At this age, children are able to look at things in different ways and realize that there is more to some situations than just what is on the surface level.

The evolution of the human brain since childhood is a fantastic study that sees the initial stage of neural cells formation and leading to strong neural networks of complete brain development.

Originally posted on Katy Trail Weekly. Read the original article here.

Chemo Brain

Most cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy reportedly complain of neurological side effects long after the therapy is over. The main effect on your brain after chemo is short-term loss of memory. In some extreme cases, seizures, dementia and vision loss have also been reported. Breast cancer survivors were the first to report ‘chemo brain’, also called chemo fog. The purported condition affected an individual’s concentration, memory, ability to multitask, along with several other declines in function.

 

Memory loss is one of many complaints for women who experience ‘chemo brain’

 

Some women with the problem reported they were not able to follow conversations like before and they got more easily confused and fatigued. Other ‘chemo brain’ symptoms and signs include mental fogginess, being unusually disorganized, difficulty learning new things, taking longer than normal to finish regular tasks, issues with verbal memory (unable to remember a conversation), and visual memory problems (difficult recalling a list or image of words).

Before research material relating to ‘chemo brain’ or the impact of chemotherapy on your brain after chemo surfaced, these side effects were usually dismissed as by-products of depression, anxiety, and fatigue relating to cancer-related diagnosis and treatment. Although the scientific community is increasingly acknowledging that primary chemotherapy agents could have a negative effect on neurological function in some cancer patients, the actual mechanisms underlying the dysfunction is yet to be clearly identified.

 

How Long Will ‘Chemo Brain’ Last?

Although research studies have established chemo fog as a real chemotherapy consequence, several questions remain to be answered. One among them being how long the condition lasts. Or, in other words, do patients experience cognitive impairments even after having completely recovered from the acute chemotherapy assault, after several months or years?

[Read More about how Chemo Brain can impact your quality of life.]

Pretty much all cancer survivors go through temporary memory loss and problems focusing during and right after treatment. While such cognitive impairment tends to wear off with time, some patients, especially those who were on high chemotherapy doses, start to feel these cognitive effects months or even years after the treatment concluded and the medicines exited their systems.

A study estimated that anywhere between 15 and 20 percent of the 2.4 million American breast cancer survivors (females) have lingering cognitive issues years post treatment. One more study exhibited 50 percent of females hadn’t recovered from their cognitive function issue even a year post treatment.

Some Chemotherapy Drugs Are The Culprit

A few common chemotherapy drugs used for treating an array of cancers were more injurious to healthy cells in the brain compared to the tumorous cells they were designed to treat. Several series of experiments were carried out to expose the hazardous drugs.

Fluorouracil (5-FU, FU) cancer chemotherapy drug molecule.

Fluorouracil (5-FU, FU) cancer chemotherapy drug, chemical structure. Atoms are represented as spheres with conventional color coding: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), nitrogen (blue), oxygen (red), fluorine (gold).

5-FU belongs to a drug class called antimetabolites that hinder cell division. This drug has been used to treat cancer for more than four decades. The drug, which usually gets administered in combination with other drugs for chemotherapy, is used to treat ovarian, breast, colon, pancreatic, stomach, and other types of cancer.

The research study carried out discovered that specific cell populations – oligodendrocytes – within the central nervous system underwent significant damage several months after exposure. Oligodendrocytes produce myelin, a fatty substance that coats the nerve cells and facilitates signal transmission between cells efficiently and rapidly. The myelin membranes turn over constantly. But these membranes will not renew and break down eventually if there isn’t a healthy oligodendrocytes population. This disrupts the routine impulse transmission that happens between nerve cells.

These findings sync with the observations from studies that were carried out on cancer survivors having cognitive issues. Their brains’ MRI scans revealed a condition akin to leukoencephalopathy. This white matter loss, or demyelination, could relate to several neurological issues.

In some patients, it’s clear that chemotherapy triggers a degenerative state within the central nervous system. As these treatments would most likely stay the standard for several years to come, understanding their precise influence on the nervous system is critical, and later incorporate the knowledge to discover ways to prevent such side effects.

Not all patients undergoing chemotherapy for their condition experience such cognitive issues. Finding out why some are more vulnerable could significantly help develop fresh ways to mitigate these side effects.

[READ: Tips for Managing Chemo Brain…]

Future ‘Chemo Brain’ Treatments

Although it could be possible to make drugs to decrease chemotherapy’s cognitive effects, those drugs would usher in the possibility of extra chemical constituents interacting with the cancer treatment itself, leading to other uncalled-for effects or causing a hindrance to the treatment itself.

According to a study from 2011, it concluded that neurotherapy was effective in helping to reduce and possibly even reverse some of the brain impairment symptoms caused by chemotherapy. Patients that participated in the study showed very significant improvements.

Woman Wearing Brainwave Scanning Headset Sits in a Chair In the Modern Brain Study Laboratory/ Neurological Research Center. Monitors Show EEG Reading and Brain Model.

Neurotherapy shows some promise for relief, but more tests are needed.

Researchers are also more positive about natural interventions getting uncovered to ward off damages resulting from ‘chemo brain’. For that reason, researchers studied whether an omega-3 fatty acids-rich diet would help decrease chemotherapy’s cognitive impacts on mice. This intervention unfortunately didn’t yield any significant outcome.

Such a study is first to create an animal model that demonstrates chemotherapy’s long-term effects on the brain. Going forward, the research team is hopeful of the model being utilized to study other nutritional components and graph their bearing on ‘chemo brain’.

 

CBD Oil and the Effects on the Brain

As we get older we learn more about what our bodies need and how to heal our aching bones. Now many are turning to Cannabidoil, or CBD. It’s becoming so popular The New York Times even called it a “magical elixir, a cure-all now available in bath bombs, dog treats, and even pharmaceuticals.” And for those who have never tried and want to learn more, you’re not alone!

What is CBD oil?

There are many questions about CBD oil: What is CBD? What is THC? Is it legal? Is it the same as marijuana?

molecular structure of CBD

In a recent interview with Dr. Russell Zwanka, a Siena College Food Marketing Researcher and a published author on CBD oil, he broke down exactly what CBD is and what you need to know. According to Dr. Zwanka, inside the cannabis plant is more than a hundred of what are called “cannabinoids.” CBD is a one of the cannabinoids inside the plant with less than 0.3 percent THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another cannabinoid inside the cannabis plant.

Both CBD and THC have effects on the body and especially the brain receptors associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination, and time perception, but in very different ways. THC is a psychoactive substance and causes the “high” feeling whereas CBD is not a psychoactive cannabinoid.

What are the effects of CBD oil on your brain?

CBD has been known to provide relief for ailments such as inflammation, arthritis, help with sleep, bone growth, bone disease, seizures, anxiety, and certain types of cancer. With millions of these claims, it begs the question, what is it doing to our brains and our bodies?

According to Leafly, when a substance reaches the brain after hitting the bloodstream, it will “influence brain activity by interacting with receptors and neurons.”

Neaurons Comminicating with Neurotransmitters

When it reacts with a receptor such as dopamine, it can help the body produce more cannabinoids and regulate behavior and cognition. One of the main reasons CBD has gained notoriety is its ability to target the serotonin receptors, which can help with disorders involving pain, depression, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, schizophrenia, and more.

Dr. Zwanka says your body already naturally produces cannabinoids, but taking CBD can help to restore the body and brain to maintain “normalcy.”

On top of that, when CBD reacts with opioid receptors, it can immensely reduce drug cravings or withdraw symptoms, which can be an organic way to heal your body rather than prescribing opioids. But the question comes into play of whether or not this is approved by the FDA and “legal.” That answer depends on what form the CBD oil comes in.

What form does CBD oil come in?

CBD oil comes in a number of forms from tinctures to salve, capsules, gummies and vaping. When using a tincture, you put it under the tongue and avoid the digestive system so it’s a quick reaction, going straight into the bloodstream. Meanwhile CVS and Walgreens will offer a salve over the counter.

The form with the most controversy is CBD oil vaping. Dr. Zwanka says while there may be a stigma on pulling from a pen, the smoke form has an almost immediate effect that lasts longer. It’s one of the most controlled ways to take CBD oil.

Is CBD oil legal?

The answer is yes and no. Different forms of CBD oil are different in legality.

If it’s hemp derived, Dr. Zwanka says it is a federally legal product as long as it has 0.3. That remains true unless the state wants to enforce its own rules. Anything derived from the marijuana plant and has more than 0.3 THC, then has to follow the state CBD regulations.

According to the Federal Drug Administration, companies cannot claim CBD oil as a treatment for many ailments people say they use it for, but you can say it has shown “relief” for or helps with symptoms from these ailments. The FDA has not allowed sales of CBD infused foods at this time since they believe more research needs to be done. A hearing is expected to take place in May regarding these regulations.

How much CBD oil should you take and how often?

Most experts say it’s difficult to truly give a dosage. Each body and brain is different when it comes to chemical balances, sizes, and needs. As always, when it comes to taking a new substance to help your body, speak with your doctor or physician if you have any questions.

The Brain Heart Connection

When you think about your brain, you probably think of it as a command center, having control over all functions of the body. During embryo development, the heart starts forming on day 18, while the brain starts forming on day 30. After that, the brain and heart work together for the duration of a lifetime.

We all know that eating a healthy diet and exercising contribute to our heart health. In turn, those health benefits are passed along to the brain too. Keeping your heart and brain in sync comes down to managing cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and maintaining a healthy weight. Your brain signals your heart to pump oxygenated blood to your heart. In response, the heart delivers the blood to your body.

However, your heart is not just a muscle pumping blood, it truly has a mind of its own. Your heart contains more than 40,000 neurons and neurotransmitters. This is literally an extension of the same network that’s inside your brain. Your heart is responsible for producing Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP), a hormone that triggers the brain to release Oxytocin. Experts have referred to this hormone as the “love” hormone because it triggers feelings of empathy, trust and relationship-building according to Medical News Today.

Love and compassion are complex emotions. They require your heart and brain to work together. Seeing a lost and emotional child in a crowded store would probably pull on your heartstrings. You might feel a tightening in your chest or a rush of adrenaline to want to help. This is your brain and your heart working together — sympathetically and parasympathetically. When your heart receives signals from the brain via the sympathetic nerves, it pumps faster. The sympathetic nerves cause you to rush to the child to protect them, and try to help find their parents. The parasympathetic nerves will encourage you to take deep breaths, to calm down and lower your heart rate.

Often times this adrenaline can be a good thing, helping you to act when you might have otherwise frozen. But sometimes, adrenaline can cause those nerves to stand on edge. Sometimes, the brain-heart connection and bundle of nerves can get so out of hand that they can cause panic attacks or people can feel like they’re having a heart attack. One way to keep your emotions in check is to focus on your breathing.

Deep breathing is an excellent coping skill for anxiety. Everyone’s optimum breath rate is between four to seven breaths a minute. When we are talking, we are taking 12 to 14 breaths a minute while trying to spit it all out. Shallow breathing means you’re not getting the oxygen pushed all the way down into the diaphragm. It stays in your chest. Trying to be mindful of your emotions and your breathing will help lower your heart rate. When you slow your heart rate down, it creates what’s called, your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

Monitoring your HRV can be an excellent tool for tracking and accountability. It will make you more aware of your diet, exercise, sleeping and other behaviors that affect your heart and brain. This awareness can be very helpful in managing stress, which is great for your heart and brain. Modern technology is even getting involved. You can find free apps on smartphones like Welltory or CardioMood that give you real time insight. So the next time you’re experiencing heightened nerves and your anxiety is kicking in, take a moment to breath, think about your heart-brain connection and know there are always options to help you push past your anxiety.

A Fox News Radio contributor, Richardson has spent her educational and professional career learning human behavior. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of North Texas and is working to integrate cognitive behavioral therapy into the treatment programs for many clients. In April 2009, Richardson opened The Brain Performance Center.

This article was written by Leigh Richardson and originally appeared in Katy Trail Weekly. You can read the article here.

Brain Injury Prevention

As we get older, our bodies and especially our brains, start to change in ways we may not expect. We become a little more forgetful, a little slower, and unfortunately, a little less steady on our feet. Believe it or not, the imbalance can actually put you at risk for a brain injury. It’s as simple as losing your balance, falling to the ground, and not bracing yourself quickly enough. It’s so prevalent in women as we get older, that The Mayo Clinic recommends doing simple things like reducing clutter in your home, wearing non-slip shoes, doing light exercise, removing hazards from high traffic areas, using a shower seat and adding night lights in halls and bathrooms to help you find your way. Additionally, the National Institute of Aging has some tips for making your home as fall-proof as possible.

 

People of all ages getting brain injuries are more common than you might think. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) each year.  50,000 people die from TBI each year and 85,000 people suffer long term disabilities.  In the U.S., more than 5.3 million people live with disabilities caused by traumatic brain injuries.

 

And unfortunately, it’s not only ourselves that we need to worry about. As women, we are often the nurturers in our family and often end up caring for our elderly parents, which can be a challenge. A UT southwestern study shows falls cause more than 80 percent of the traumatic brain injuries seen in adults age 65 and older. Doctors say educating yourself on how to keep our loved ones from falling is very important. We need to realize that it can be hard for an elderly parent to let go of control, especially when they might need help with something as routine as taking a bath or getting dressed.

 

On top of that, many women in their fifties are still working and might not be able to see everything a parent is doing at home during the day if they don’t have a 24/7 caregiver. If you suspect your relative has fallen and received a brain injury, some symptoms to look out for are headache, confusion, lethargic, mood swings, changes in sleeping routine, slurred speech, vomiting or convulsions. Some ways to prevent a fall and serious brain injuries could include low-impact activities like water aerobics or tai chi to help keep their bodies strong while improving their balance.

 

It’s also important to keep in mind that when you’re trying to help your loved one, you’re often going to find pushback. It’s best to have an open dialogue about their health and explain that you’re taking the necessary steps to keep them safe. You should also consider that your relative could be dealing with some fear regarding their mobility, including the fear of falling as failing eyesight, hearing/balance issues, dizziness, confusion, changes in medication, changes in sleeping patterns and delayed reflexes all become part of the problem.

Whether it’s for you or your aging loved one, preventing falls and especially severe head injuries comes down to awareness and realizing that we can’t control everything. If a fall does occur, the National Institute of Health recommends a few tips; take a few moments to calm down, stabilize yourself after the shock of falling, then crawl to a stable chair and pull yourself up. Regardless of if you’re a caregiver or not, keeping yourself safe has to be the number one priority, because if we can’t care for ourselves, we can’t care for others.

Keep Your Brain Forever Young

As we age physically, we also age mentally. Many things can expedite that process, like chemotherapy, emotional trauma, injury, medications, or other treatments. The one we all deal with, though, is time. At a certain point, we have to be a little more intentional about “working out” the brain as if it were a muscle in the body.

What Happens in the Brain, Changes the Brain

There are a lot of factors at play in the brain as we age. While we develop new neurons throughout our lives and reach our peak brain size in our 20s, the brain eventually experiences a decline in volume and decrease in blood flow. The miraculous thing about the brain, though, is that studies have shown it can regrow and is capable of learning and retaining new information. In other words, it is capable of neural reorganization.

When the brain changes, we tend to change. Mental tasks become a little more difficult, as do forming new long-term memories and performing certain mental operations. Our cognitive function becomes more of a challenge. Other parts of who we are, like our confidence, social life, or work life may also suffer.

That’s why, to help maintain the brain’s plasticity—its ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections—we have to put in more effort by creating our own mental stimulation and treatment. There are several ways you can do this.

Active Body, Active Brain

Woman CyclingWhen you work out your body, you work out your brain. While I don’t recommend going crazy and starting P90X or other high-intensity training, I do recommend some physical activity. Studies have shown that physical activity is a promising strategy that influences the brain to enhance cognitive function and emotional function, particularly in late adulthood. Exercising regularly is great for refreshing the immune system, which can improve cognitive function and information processing by increasing volume of the hippocampus(the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system). So, go for a “fast walk” or purchase a stationary exercise bike so you can “Netflix and cycle.”

Eat, Sleep, Think

By eating right, you’re doing your brain a favor. For years, scientists have suspected that the intake of specific nutrients can impact cognitive processes and emotions. A primary nutrient? Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be obtained from dietary fish. This nutrient can improve synaptic and cognitive functioning “by providing plasma membrane fluidity at synaptic regions.”

Also, give yourself a rest. Circulation and the brain is imperative to the proper nutrients and oxygen reaching the brain cells. To maintain that proper circulation and brain energy metabolism, we must receive the right amount of sleep. Think of it like this: it’s a great excuse to sleep in. But really, make your sleep a priority. Your brain will thank you 5 to 10 years from now. (And when the alarm goes off.)

Multi-Task

Autumn CandlesOkay, that’s a little misleading. Rather, let your senses multi-task. Some studies over time have shown that, if you can’t give your full attention to both activities, you’ll experience a deficit in cognitive function. But, if you allow your senses to multitask, you could be doing some wonders for your brain. (It’s fun, too.) Perform two sensory tasks at the same time, such as watching the rain and listening to jazz. Or, listening to jazz and smelling the Fresh Autumn candle you just lit. Stimulate to form new connections.

Get Artsy

Tap into the passionate part of you that has a soft spot for the arts. That could be music, visual art, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, reading. There are so many options, and they all stimulate the mind in unique, creative ways that help with abstract thinking. One in particular that has become incredibly popular in the last 5 years: coloring books for grown-ups.

Music, whether listening or learning to play it, is always a great choice, as it is complex and multisensory and has a positive influence on neuroplasticity in several regions of the brain. It’s the integration of audiovisual information as well as appreciation of abstract rules that has been shown to improve cognitive skills of attention, control, motor function, visual scanning, and executive functioning.

Change is Good

Making small adjustments or changes to your regular routine can stimulate your brain to create some new thinking pathways, new connections. That could mean just taking a new route to work, eating something new for lunch, changing your computer background, anything simple like that.

Stay Positive

Don’t let the ageist stereotypes about memory decline keep you from being hopeful about your brain’s future functioning. Confidence is hard to craft, but treat yourself kindly, take the measures needed to be healthy all around, and understand that the more positive you are about your memory, the more likely you are to improve it.

Lastly, Use Science

To scientifically assess and improve neuroplasticity and performance, you can always involve professionals and utilize neuromodulation, which can come in the form of neurofeedback, Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (pEMF), Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), and Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS). These stimulating neuro techniques use technology in a non-invasive way to increase blood flow and functional connectivity in the brain. In other words, our brains have taught us how to improve our brains.

This blog was previously posted in Prime Women magazine here.

Brain Health: The Things You Can Do to Make it Stronger

Getting older is something we all struggle with, from the thought of our increased age to the aging of our bodies. Some feel it in their joints and bones, while others notice their minds starting to slow. Aging causes many differences in not just our bodies but also in our brain. Fear not, there are some exercises that can help you stay sharp for many years to come.

As we get older, our cognitive abilities gradually deteriorate. A certain amount of cognitive decline is a normal part of ageing. When getting into your 50’s you can start to see your reasoning skills slow. According to research in the British Medical Journal, middle aged patients saw a 3.6 percent decline in reasoning skills over the past 10 years.

Woman Playing SudokuThere are things you can do to strengthen your cognitive abilities. Playing games that require logic, process of elimination, and reasoning skills such as Clue and Sudoku, can help strengthen those abilities by using parts of your brain that you may not use as much on a daily basis. Challenge your brain in your daily life. Try brushing your teeth with your non dominant hand. By doing this, you’ll be using the other side of your brain to perform the task which expands the part of the cortex that controls tactile information from the hand.

Though everyone is different, in a normal healthy brain, the major thing that happens as we get older is our neurons slow down a bit. According to the Journal of Nutritional Science, people whose diets consisted of fried foods didn’t score well on tests that measured brain function, memory, and learning. Researchers believed that having a poor diet of fried foods contributed to inflammation and a small brain size. Switching out battered and fried foods for grilled and baked items can help reduce this risk.

Other items bad for your brain’s health are high amounts of sugars and trans fats. Research has found that a high intake of trans fats, found in processed foods, like cakes and cookies, can increase your risk of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s. This is due to the possible cause of plaque build up in your brain. To prevent this, ditch the processed sweets for dark chocolate and/or fruit. Brain health, just like your overall health, is greatly affected by sugar!

As you age, your brain will shrink. It’s unavoidable. According to researchers at the University of California, Davis, there are four factors that can speed up the decline in brain volume.

      • high blood pressure
      • diabetes
      • cigarette smoking
      • being overweight or obese

 

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis can help to avoid this. Quitting smoking can always help with a healthier lifestyle and a healthier brain.

Though we have talked a lot about the effects of an aging brain, you might be confused where the line is between normal aging and a need for serious concern. Here are a few examples to ease your mind. Finding yourself searching for words is likely normal compared to using the wrong words, for example using the word stove when referring to your table. Driving a little slower than your used to is a normal thing among aging drivers, but if you start to react very slowly behind the wheel, or often miss stop signs and red lights, these could be signs of a bigger problem.

No matter how you age, the most important thing is to continue to live your best life. Here are a few things that can not only keep you active, but keep your brain active as well. Keep Learning! Instead of doing the same old thing, think outside the box and try something new. New experiences will build new pathways in your brain, keeping your mind healthy as you get older. You can also spend more time with friends and family. Being social can help keep your mind sharp as you age. The key to an active happy life and brain health is an active happy brain.

This blog was previously posted in Prime Women magazine here.

What To Remember About Memory Loss

Forgetting is Normal

We all forget things, and with time, we’ll start relying more on lists, note apps, and social cues to recall. The good thing though? It’s natural, and it’s okay. Here’s what you should know about memory loss and how to cope with it, whether it’s you or someone you love.

What Is Memory Loss?

Memory loss is characterized as “unusual forgetfulness.” That means, remembering new events or recalling one or more memories from the past becomes more difficult or impossible. Memory loss and other cognitive declines can result from normal aging, but it can be due to other health problems or injuries such as concussion or cancer treatment. Some of these can be treatable, and there are ways you can cope.  

Coping with Memory Loss

Memory loss, even simply from aging, can be frustrating and sometimes scary for a person. If you know you struggle with remembering things, take precautions:

  • Try to stick to a daily routine.
  • Rely on calendars, lists, post-it notes, or daily planners.
  • Designate spots for important items, and if need be, label the spot.
  • Don’t leave a room with water running or the stove on.
  • Take things slow. If you can’t remember a word, describe it, and do so calmly. Sometimes, the panic of not immediately remembering a word can nix all efforts of recalling it.
  • Use associations for recall.
  • Sleep well and routinely.
  • For important documents, print them out and keep a file in case you can’t find where you stored them on your computer or you accidentally deleted them.
  • Practice repetition. It’s been proven that repetition can make things easier to remember. For example, when meeting someone, repeat their name out loud.

Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Nothing makes memory loss an even more upsetting predicament than distracting thoughts resulting from panicky frustration.

Memory Loss & Communication

When someone you love is dealing with more than normal memory loss, it can be hard to communicate like you used to. Understanding what they’re saying and vice versa becomes more difficult. Patience, empathy, and open communication are key here.

Be patient while they try to remember a word or if they don’t remember something you’re referring to. Empathize when they forget something because it upsets them more than you. And communicate when you think it’s getting more serious, but do so kindly and in a soothing environment.

Choose simpler words and minimize other distractions in the environment during a conversation. Aid them however you can, and when talking to them about their impairment, do so respectfully, without speaking to them like a baby. Give them time to comprehend your words and come up with a response. More than anything, show that you care.

Maintain a Healthy Brain, Especially As You Age

No matter what age you are, taking steps to keep your brain healthy can impact your cognitive performance and help with memory loss. Practicing these habits can put some control back in your hands. Not to mention, they can impact other aspects of health as well. Other options are open as well, such as Neurofeedback, a proven method to increase neuronal communication in the brain.

Brain Awareness Week: Maintain A Healthy Brain

Next week is Brain Awareness Week, an appropriate time for a quick refresher on how to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best. It’s also a time to really appreciate what our brains do for us. The brain is, in a sense, the nucleus of all of our decision-making, emotional experiences, physical movements, memory, and much more. As such an integral part of our existence, the brain should be treated as healthily as possible. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep Learning

In other words, exercise your brain. Studies show that mentally stimulating activities help the brain to create new connections between nerve cells, possibly even creating new cells. In turn, this improves “neural plasticity,” which is the brain’s ability to adapt. Examples of mentally stimulating activities include reading, taking school courses, word puzzles, chess, or even more creative tasks, such as painting, drawing, knitting, and other crafts in general.

Exercise

Actual physical exercise has been shown to improve brain health as well, as it increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the part of the brain in charge of thought. Much like mental stimulation, using your body’s muscles helps the brain become more efficient, plastic, and adaptic. It also lowers blood pressure, helps balance blood sugar levels, improves cholesterol levels, and reduces stress. All of these benefit the health of the brain and the body as a whole.

Be Quiet

In today’s world, everything is moving so rapidly, and our schedules are stressing us out. From working out, keeping up with our social lives, maintaining our full time jobs, and having relationships, families, and sometimes even dealing with trauma, there is a lot going on in our heads. In fact, it’s all happening so fast that our brains are sometimes unable to process the information and our environment. At some point, your brain just needs silence–a practice that has been shown to create new cells in the brain and speed up mental processing.    

Have a Healthy Diet

Not only is a healthy diet good for your body, but it also has effects on cognitive processes and emotions. Studies have shown that dietary factors influence neuronal function and brain plasticity, potentially improving cognitive ability. With a decent focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils, and plant sources of proteins, you have a brain-healthy diet that is less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.

Have a Healthy Social Life

Social connectedness has a lot of benefits, including decreased feelings of depression, living longer, stronger immune system, and even reduced risk of dementia. Studies have shown that those who connect with others tend to perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. This is not to say that anyone should force themselves to be around people constantly, but rather to find people–even a select few–to connect with and confide in. Having that deep connection with others makes life less lonely and more genuine.

Get Some Feedback: Neurofeedback

Sometimes, to maintain a healthy brain, you have to look at the brain itself. Through neurofeedback–a form of biofeedback that relies on brainwave patterns and measures brain wave activity to indicate how a person is functioning–you can learn to improve and strengthen brain waves. In turn, it improves learning, focus, and attentiveness.

Happy Brain Awareness!

Brain Awareness Week, in a sense, is “awareness of awareness.” Your brain gives you the ability to even be aware, so give back to your brain. By doing so, you give back to your entire body and your well-being altogether.

 

SOURCES

Healthy Gut = Healthy Brain

Your gut is the new frontier of neuroscience. That’s right: What’s taking place in your intestines affects not only your brain’s daily functions, but also determines your risk for a number of neurological conditions.  Scientists now understand that bacteria in your gut affects your overall physiology, and they have recently uncovered a connection between that bacteria and your brain. This gut­–brain axis has led to a new concept called psychobiotics — probiotics and prebiotics that can influence your mental well-being.

Our intestinal organisms, or microbiome, participate in a wide variety of bodily systems, including immunity, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter and vitamin production, nutrient absorption, whether you feel hungry or full, and how you utilize carbohydrates and fat. All of these processes factor into whether you experience chronic health problems like allergies, asthma, ADHD, cancer, type 2 diabetes, or dementia.  What you might not know is that your microbiome also affects your mood, your libido, and even your perceptions of the world and the clarity of your thoughts. A dysfunctional microbiome could be at the root of your headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate, or even negative outlook on life.

Put simply, nearly everything about our health — how we feel both physically and emotionally —  can hinge on the state of our microbiome. No other system in the body is more sensitive to changes in gut bacteria than the central nervous system. What’s more, researchers have found dramatic turnarounds in brain-related conditions with simple dietary modifications.

How closely are the gut and brain related?

Just as your brain can send butterflies to your stomach, your gut can relay its state of calm or alarm to the brain. Our vagus nerve is the primary channel between millions of nerve cells in our intestinal nervous system and our central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. Bacteria in the gut directly affect the function of the cells along the vagus nerve.  The neurons in the gut are so innumerable that many scientists are now calling them the “second brain.” This second brain not only regulates muscle function, immune cells, and hormones, but also manufactures an estimated 80 to 90 percent of serotonin (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter).

This means the gut’s brain makes more serotonin — the master happiness molecule — than the brain in your head! Many neurologists and psychiatrists are now realizing that dietary changes may be a more effective treatment for depression than antidepressants are. Two other chemicals manufactured in the gut also critical to the nervous system are GABA  and Glutamate. GABA, an amino acid produced by gut bacteria, calms nerve activity by inhibiting transmissions and normalizing brain waves, to a steadier state after it’s been excited by stress.

Glutamate, a neurotransmitter also produced by gut bacteria, is involved in cognition, learning, and memory. It is abundant in a healthy brain. A slew of neurological challenges — including anxiety, behavioral issues, depression, and Alzheimer’s — have been attributed to a lack of GABA and glutamate.

You may have heard about the perils of a leaky gut, where the intestinal lining become compromised. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including pathogenic bacteria,  medications, stress, environmental toxins, elevated blood sugar, and potentially gut-irritating food ingredients like gluten.  Once the intestinal barrier is compromised, undigested food particles leak into the bloodstream, where they elicit an immune response. This can create systemwide inflammation. When your intestinal barrier is compromised, you become susceptible — due to that increased inflammation — to a spectrum of health challenges, including arthritis, eczema, allergies, and even autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

The problems of a leaky gut become even more monumental in light of new science that proves the brain/gut connection. Can a leaky gut lead to a leaky brain?

We’ve long assumed that the brain was insulated from what goes on in the rest of the body. The problems of a leaky gut become even more monumental in light of new science that shows how loss of gut integrity can lead to a “leaky” brain.

It’s now clear that many substances can threaten the brain’s integrity. And once the brain’s barrier is compromised, various molecules that may spell trouble — including proteins, viruses, and bacteria — can get inside it.

So – what can we do about this?   The most significant factor related to the health of the microbiome — and thus, the brain — is the food we eat.  Food matters enormously, trumping other factors in our lives that we may not be entirely able to control. The idea that food is the most important variable in human health is not news. But our new understanding of the connection between what you eat and how it affects your microbiome, and your brain, is exciting.  You can change the state of your microbiome — and the fate of your health — through dietary changes, opening the door for better health in general, and improved brain function.

Something to think about…..