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Continuing The Series On Brain Plasticity By Guest Author Anna Kucirkova

Ways To Harness Plasticity

harness plasticity

With the right circumstances, the power of brain plasticity can help adult minds grow. Although certain brain functions decay with age, people can tap into plasticity and refresh the brain.

Targeted brain plasticity exercises help to keep our brains fit. Even those suffering from brain damage may be able to retrain their brains for better function. The key is identifying what brain functions to target and how to best exercise them.

Researchers suggest that there are various methods of harnessing brain plasticity:

Intermittent Fasting

The Society for Neuroscience suggests that fasting increases synaptic plasticity, decreases risk of neurodegenerative diseases, promotes neuron growth and improves cognitive function. When you fast, a metabolic shift reduces the body’s leptin levels. Thus, the brain receives a chemical signal for neurons to produce more energy.

Travel

Traveling encourages neurogenesis by exposing your brain to new, fresh, and complex environments. Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist from the University of Pittsburgh explains, “Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites.” And a week-long tour of another country isn’t necessary to get this benefit; take a weekend road trip to a different city.

Use Mnemonic Devices

Memory training promotes connectivity in your brain’s prefrontal parietal network and can slow memory loss with age. Mnemonic devices combine visualization, imagery, spatial navigation, and rhythm and melody, so they can reach various parts of the brain simultaneously.

Learn an Instrument

Musicians’ brains show sharp connectivity between brain areas. Neuroscientists explain that the multi-sensory experience of playing a musical instrument allows for the association of motor actions with specific sounds, and memorizing visual patterns leads to new neural networks being formed. As you practice a new instrument, the repetition will allow for neuroplasticity to do its work.

Non-Dominant Hand Exercises

Using your non-dominant hand during routine tasks can help form new neural pathways. Doing this strengthens connectivity between your brain cells. Studies also show that non-dominant hand activities improve emotional health and impulse control. Try switching hands during some simple tasks and give your brain a test.

Read Fiction

Studies show increased and ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading a novel. Enhanced brain activity occurred in the brain area that controls physical sensations and movement. Scientists explain that reading a novel can be a physical transportation into the fictional world. Shifting into this mental state is crucial for learning how to have complex social relationships.

Expand your Vocabulary

When you learn new words, the brain’s visual processes, memory processes, and auditory processes activate. The smaller your vocabulary, the more likely you are to have poor cognitive skills.

Sleep

Studies show that sleep “helps learning retention with the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions that connect brain cells and facilitates the passage of information across synapses.” Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night will help the brain retain information.

Try at least one of these ways and disprove the old idea that we lose brain function as we age.  The last part of this age will be published next week.

Aging Gracefully For Other People, Not yourself (Or Thinking About (“A Place For Mom”) ut

 

With the Baby Boomers coming into the picture, there are more of us who are dealing with the problems of aging.  One of them occurs when others tell those who are aging what they should do and how they should be.  This makes those among us who are aging feel that we are no longer in charge of our own destinies and that it is all downhill the rest of our lives.  Thus we tend not to maintain our intellect, our bodies, and our skills.

Another problem is we seem to not be able to know our own minds, understand our own medical problems, and what we are capable or not capable of doing.  Recently I began treatment for sleep apnea.  I realized from what the doctors said and what I have read and experienced that it was serious enough that it was occasionally interfering with my consciousness and this led to me not driving for a while until my sleep apnea improved with the use of a CPAP machine.

How this problem with sleep apnea was interpreted by some of my family was wrong and I got criticized for saying anything to the doctor (while it really was the truth).  I wound up losing my right to drive until it cleared up.  P.S. I had wanted my family (just before this happened) to drive me to get immediate medical care for asthma on one of these occasions that I experienced this while driving.

 

Secondly, there were no restrictions on my driving before this happened; but after, my family wants to place restrictions on my driving which would include having someone with me and limiting my driving to a certain local area.  While I am limiting my driving on my own to local communities, doctor’s appointments, and church, having certain someone’s with me inspecting my driving isn’t going to help matters.  I want my mind on the wheel and not on those kinds of distractions.

I have physical disabilities, but over time I have improved in terms of what I can and can not do.  Aren’t I supposed to get worse or might that really happen because I am supposed to give up and totally decline in terms of what I am able to do?  I have increased the amount of housekeeping and shopping I do.  I babysit grandchildren while my husband watches TV.  Keeps me busy.  I post on my website each week and balance my checkbook and pay my bills each month.  I have traveled sometimes on my own.

Question is how do those younger in my family or other younger acquaintances perceive me?  Is it for their own convenience or is it from their misguided perceptions of aging?  Beware, is aging caused by time or by what other people expect or by just giving up?

I continually increase my current knowledge in many areas (usually by reading).  I do scan the internet, I watch the news, I follow fashion magazines and TV programs, and I follow the interior decorating channels and magazines as well as religious and spiritual issues in print, on TV, and the internet.  I even talk to myself (sometimes I don’t have an appropriate audience) and my friends formulating ideas for presentations I would like to give on various subjects.  Oh, and my family worries if I say anything on the internet or in my blog I might embarrass myself (what about them?).  P.S. they don’t read my blog and if they did it probably it would probably be to edit it, not read it.  I have been writing this blog for five years.

When Is Being Disabled A Disability?

rp_300px-Handicapped_Accessible_sign.svg_.pngPeople often do not display common courtesy to the disabled.  They are often discourteous, inconsiderate, and just plain ignorant.  God, that does sound pretty inconsiderate, discourteous, and just plain stupid of me.

I have disabilities. caused by arthritis, a possible spinal cord injury, and inheritance.  I work hard at overcoming my disabilities especially when I or other people expect me to do things that are often awkward and unsafe for me to do.  For example, changing two litterboxes.  I have trouble maintaining my balance and walking especially in unfamiliar or crowded places.  Also, I can’t see behind me without turning my body around and I have trouble with dropping things.

Can you imagine what other people might think of me when they don’t know and/or acknowledge this?  I often take a back seat when other people are up moving around so as not to be knocked down.  I can’t carry a tray.  Can you imagine how this might effect me when there is a buffet?  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who spontaneously help me and that is a blessing.

I can do a lot of things on my own when there is no one to knock me down, butt in line, or otherwise take advantage of my disabilities?  Do they even know that they are taking advantage of my disabilities?  (Oh, in case you don’t know, I have had physical and occupational therapy; but some of the best therapy I have had is when I learned how to do something myself (and I could do a whole post on that).)

rp_308895522_e2ab0d2ebd_n.jpgI usually get myself to events and can go places while there if they are not too far away and there are no steps involved, but it does take me time.  This why I sometimes find it difficult to get to the bathroom and back during breaks and (get this) when I get to the bathroom someone is probably using the handicapped toilet stall that doesn’t need it i.e. to change clothes or to have a time-taking bowel movement or just because it is more convenient.

I guess some people are more considerate of others even when it is inconvenient than other people.  I have an aunt that had polio not only did she recover from that but later she went back to teaching with some accommodations.  (I was going to say several accommodations; but that that might make her mad if she knew I said that.)  I am much more understanding of her situation now than I was then.

It appears that some people don’t notice that some people have disabilities.  They often sometimes unconsciously or consciously take advantage of these people.  As a disabled person, I do often feel possibly unfairly limited by this.  I have a kitchen with an island in the middle which is convenient now for me, but I often have to wait for other people to go ahead of me when I or they think I would take too much time and bother.

If you see a disabled person sitting back and waiting for others to get finished doing something, it may not be because they want to, it may be because they feel that they have to.  Do you agree that people often do something around disabled people because they can, not because they ought to?

P.S.: I don’t feel disabled when I am in my recliner reading a book or watching TV.  It also does get me out of changing my grandkids’ diapers!rp_9429411558_188837b502_m.jpg

 

Have You Been Brainwashed As A Child To Not Notice Certain Things?

Have you been brainwashed as a child?

Have you been brainwashed as a child?

Have You Been Brain Washed As A Child?

It is likely that you have.

In order to understand our world, we quickly accept our parents and others views of the world and begin to reject or deny those things that don’t fit these preconceived notions.  How much evidence from our own senses do we reject in order to fit in?  Researchers have found that sounds not used in our native language atrophy  if we don’t use them.  How many other things atrophy from disuse.  Our caregivers teach us what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to and thus, limiting what we take in in terms of our senses (normal vs. paranormal?).  Yes, if some limiting does not get done, a child will be confused by all the input coming from his or her senses and his or her ability to pay attention will be impaired.

rp_300px-TV_highquality.jpgFor example, still today professionals in my field, psychology, deny that children see monsters in their rooms when they try to go to sleep and give advice to parents that they should reassure their children, when this happens, that this is not so, and not to  encourage them to make a big deal of it.  This can make children doubt their senses and this can be seen as a form of manipulation.

rp_3112139566_2b90ffcc0e_m.jpg

When Things Are Black And White

Recently I have discovered that this is not true.  Things do look different in a darkened bedroom with only a little light from a night light or from the hall through a barely open door.  Our pupils dilate in these circumstance and we can see more with less light.  True, it is the multitude of  black and white sensors (which are called rods) in the retina that perceive this as they are the most sensitive in this type of situation of low light.  Also their accuracy in perceiving things is only fair unlike that of the cones which are not operating. Cones perceive things in bright light and do so with a lot more accuracy than the rods which take over and dominate when there is not much light.  Part of the reason for this is that there are more rods than cones.

Sweet Dreams?

Sweet Dreams?

I’ve tried this out in my bedroom in the middle of the night and things don’t look the same as they do when the room is well lite.  I often initially have difficulty figuring out what things are, even familiar things like my spouse laying besides me.  I am an adult and I know that this is happening.   What about about a child who naturally sees things differently when the light is dim and he or she may see formless shapes that don’t look familiar and is scared.  A parent denying that this happens doesn’t make it go away and further more it doesn’t change what and how children see in their dimly lite bedrooms.  It just encourages them to deny that what is really happening is true.

When Is Reassurance Necessary?

When Is Reassurance Necessary?

Often the child learns that asking for reassurance doesn’t work.  It just teaches them to keep it to themselves and to be afraid of the dark like I was as a child.  The only time I could sleep comfortably is when there was another person staying in the room with me or when I had a low wattage light nearby where I could see it.  This fear can spread farther if parents’ continue to tell children to deny what they see and how it makes them feel.

Can You "See" What he is feeling?

Can You “See” What he is feeling?

For awhile there was a lot of research on the “double bind”and how it was often found in families of schizophrenics (which is a serious mental illness) and their ability to think and reason is also often impaired.  A family member would say one thing when he or she  obviously looked like and or sounded like he or she meant something else.  For example, by holding a small child at arm’s length and saying, “I love you.”  Sometimes adults’ think that they are being polite when they do this and often people are trained to not “see” this or if they do, to not comment on it.  This can completely mix up a child’s brain.   He or she can not be confident that what they are seeing and/or hearing  is what they are actually seeing or hearing.

A Perplexed Child

A Perplexed Child

Genuineness can become a rare commodity if this is constantly done.  The child’s gut feels one thing when he or she is told that the person with them is not feeling that way.  Lately people have been told to trust their intuition or instincts more.  So many people have shut off that “still small voice” so often that they don’t hear it anymore.  How often have we been taught not only what to think, but also what to feel.  Does the word “propaganda” sound familiar?  It starts when parents are uncomfortable with children who see and feel things  like they really are and that is not what the parent wants the child to see and hear.  This makes them uncomfortable because they don’t want a child to feel or think that way for some reason.  What is the difference, if any, between this and outright deliberate lying?rp_Feelings.jpg

We naturally are able to perceive many different things and people find it easier to deny this ability in others so they can control them, not only what they do, but also what they think.  We are not a bunch of sheep who must be herded in the direction that the “shepherd” wants us to go for his or her own convenience or nefarious ends.

How often have we heard the response, “No, I am not angry,” when a person obviously is.  Lying is often a convenient thing to do.  It aids in the manipulation of others and has almost become a way of life for many if not all people.  In this society we continually put people down and this most often happens after we have encouraged someone to tell the truth.

rp_Is-Status-More-Important-Label-LB-1981.gifDon’t put people down.  There are enough people doing it already.  Bring them up instead.  No wonder we are so sensitive.  Sometimes I feel that I should be wearing a suit of armor.  This is often done in childhood when it is most easily done.  Children are innocent and don’t realize what is being done to them.    Do people put other people down just so they can bring themselves up?  Sounds phony doesn’t it?

What do you think?  Continuing to explore this issue, was your childhood family motto:”Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?”  More on this in a future post.

 

 

 

 

Flowers Versus Weeds. How Were You Raised? What Are You Raising?

rp_8150559597_f6b72c73b6_m.jpgIt all depends on your point of view.
The problem is that in your garden you may have been taught to see certain plants as weeds and which should be “weeded” out and others as flowers which should be cultivated.  Many people when they plant their gardens expect to get flowers but the truth is that when you plant a seed, you may get not get what you expected which is someone like you and you don’t know how to cultivate them.  How do you handle this mystery seed as a disappointment or as a wonderful new discovery  if you got what you were hoping for.  Why take it out on the plant, because you have to learn new cultivating  techniques and, for example, provide different amounts of water, different amounts of sunshine or shade, and different kinds and amounts of plant food as well as protection from different types of insect infestation.  Some require  more space than others or grow taller and block the sun getting to other plants and/or your view of them.  You can look on this as a pleasant surprise or as a serious disappointment and/or you might learn new things about growing different “plants”.

rp_300px-Drill.jpgThe famous Kennedy family had their developmentally disabled daughter unsuccessfully operated on to deal with her unconventional behavior and then institutionalized her because they couldn’t cope with her unfortunate behavior changes after surgery and her perceived inability to benefit (they thought) no longer from family life with the other children.  Could she who was seen as an unfortunate weed that needed to be changed been raised successfully (at least for her if not for them) in the in the Kennedy family compound? They felt that they couldn’t cope with her behavior and poor ability to comprehend and benefit from what was going on around her.  It was an unfortunate decision and at the time, they didn’t know that the operation would not help her, but injury her further.

Did you get what you individually needed to grow and flourish as the flower that you actually  were or were you treated unfortunately as an unwanted weed? Also what were your parents considered to be by their parents, teachers, and even peers?  Flowers or weeds? and how were they raised? you-are-exactly-who-you-are-suppose-to-beTaking account of the differences as well as the similarities is important in raising your own off spring or the children you have contact with, students, nieces and nephews,  etc. .  Consider such happenings  as a pleasant  surprise and  as a splendid way to learn new things and see life from a different point of view and not as dealing with an unwanted pest and, at best, as at least an inconvenience to have such a child and set them the child up for the rest of his or her life to be seen as a failure or to be at the least second best when compared with a sibling or or siblings who might more meet your expectations and fit your style of dealing with life itself.

Take A Trip This Christmas And Leave Your Worries Behind

Take a trip this Christmas.  It doesn’t matter where you go  if you know you won’t have to do anything but enjoy the ride.  That is what I am going to do when I take a Christmas shopping trip tomorrow.  Somebody else is driving and I don’t have to worry about getting in and out of the vehicle and finding a parking space.  We are going out to dinner and seeing Christmas lights.  The most it will cost me is a small fee for the ride and whatever I decide to pay for my food at dinner.  I have nothing in particular to get and I will be happy to get out and about no matter what stores we go to.  It is out of my hands and I like it that way.  There will be no drama as far as I am concerned as I don’t expect more than what I have described on this trip.

rp_300px-Face-smile.svg_.pngI leaving my worries and bills at home.  My motto at home is ” what house gets kept I keep”;  and I am sure the household chores that don’t get done before I go will be there waiting there for me when I get home.    I will empty my mind and leave room to experience the gift of the present.  I will not be concerned with whether or not I will make friends. . I just want to get along with the other passengers.   I won’t be rude or crude.  I don’t care which seat I get in the bus.  I won’t fight over a window seat .  I won’t try to take control of the group riding the bus and demand that they sing Christmas carols, the ones that I want to sing

I am going to let go and no matter what happens (even if it doesn’t make me deliriously  happy) I am going to accept it and realize that the privilege of getting to go on the trip is enough  and so is having a chance to to leave all my cares behind.  Now your “trip” might not be my “trip”; but do it anyway.  Just let go and do something with few expectations about what will happen.  Give yourself a break.  If  possible, leave all or as many of your responsibilities behind as you can.  You can always take them back up again when your “trip” ends.

Time On My Hands. I paid The Price.

Time is a Tickin'

Time is a Tickin’ (Photo credit: im elsewhere)

This being under the weather sucks.  Everyone thinks you have time on your hands when what you actually do is get behind and have to pay the piper.  Nothing gets done without your presence and when you do return, they clamor for your attention.

I was recovering quite well when I decided to help my 2 1/2 yr. old grandson get in my lap after an absence of over two weeks due to my “bad” cold  (You don’t always tell the whole truth to two year olds.).   I strained some muscles in my neck and back.  Well, one step forward, one step back.  This left me not able to turn my head or bend my neck to look at things.  (Actually I could do this but the price in terms of pain was too high.)  Indirectly, this kept me from typing too.

Insomnia

Insomnia (Photo credit: schnappischnap)

The other price I paid for being sick was not being able to get any sleep.  In the first place, I couldn’t stop coughing long enough to fall asleep.  In the second place, if I tried to get comfortable in bed, I set off a muscle spasm.  It hurt to get into bed and it hurt even more to get out of bed.  When I got out of bed, I was extremely stiff and could hardly move a muscle.

P.S.: I am not kidding even though it is April Fools Day.

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What I See From Here, A Matter of Perspective

What I see from here may be different from what you see from there.  It is a simple difference in perspective or is it?  I was on your side once upon a time and then things started to change.  It happened initially to me a little bit at a time.  It “snuck up” on me.  I used to say to myself that as I matured if I had to choose between losing my mind and losing my body, I would choose my physical capabilities.  Be careful what you ask for you might get it.

English: dGEMRIC T1 map of knee cartilage

English: dGEMRIC T1 map of knee cartilage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It started out when I began having “cold feet” and then I got “weak in the knees.”  I found the cause of the knee problem.  X-rays showed that both knees were bone on bone.  That means there was no cartilage left.  Cartilage  greases the works so to speak in your knees. This was eventually followed by knee replacement surgery in both knees.

Til this day I am not 100% sure that I have found the cause of the “cold feet.”  I doctored with more than one neurologist with no results before I also began losing the feeling in my fingers and began dropping things.  Of course,  according to everyone else, I was just clumsy and should have been more careful.

cervical and lumbar regionslarge_cervical_lumbarTo make a long story, short, I went to a hand doctor (who I would highly recommend) who referred me to yet another neurologist who made the correct diagnosis from an MRI.  A little more than six months later, I had immediate (?) neck surgery because my spinal cord was pinched (causing both my feet and hand problems) which would have led to my becoming a quadriplegic if I had not been successfully operated on.

All this explains why what I see from here is different from what you see from there.  It’s a matter of perspective.  What made me think about this was “running” out to the car this evening to get some medicine I had left in the car, I looked at the three or four feet of gravel drive I had to cross before getting to the back steps and realized it was not quite as daunting as it was a year or so ago.  Now that three or four feet might not appear like the continental divide to you; but it did to me a year or so ago.

 

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You Can Learn From Everything And Everybody

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

You can learn from everything and everybody.  You just have to recognize that it is true.  Some people are so comfortable in their own little world that they never leave it and ridicule others who live elsewhere.  They do not accept others who have a different point of view let alone try to understand what that point of view is.  We are blessed in that we can learn from others’ experiences and do not have to experience these things ourselves in order to understand them; but often we ignore this idea and depend only upon our own experience to prove something.

Books, movies, television programs, and storytelling are all sources of second hand, but not necessarily useless experience.  How open are you to other peoples’ ideas and ways of doing things?  Some people do not feel secure unless their way is the only way and forget about everybody else’s.  That makes for a very small world and very narrow point of view.  One man used to tell his wife, “I never met a person I couldn’t learn from.”

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Understanding and Accepting Handicaps Part IV

Nederlands: Elleboogkruk

Nederlands: Elleboogkruk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCost...
English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCoste frames. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to add that sometimes you can get the experience of being disabled whether by birth, accident or aging.  Gloves can effect the touch; blindfolds, the sight.  Food can taste funny especially if on a special diet and hard to get into bite size servings without help.  You also may not be able to chew it or get it to your mouth. Some times, the food is ground up, ick.  You can try out a walker or crutches.  By the way, those rollators (those walkers that you can use as a seat) are awkward and heavy to get in and out of the trunk. (At one point lifting a gallon of milk was an effort for me.)  Also they are easily “goosed” as they have four wheels not two like on a walker and you have to use a parking brake on the wheels in order to sit safely even then you can move some.  Some people swear by them.  My sight is pretty good.  By the way I am used to it now but my cataract surgeon goofed and put the wrong strength lens in one eye and then I started seeing double and his optometrist made me glasses which made it worse, instead of better.  I now use reading glasses only and I am driving with my optometrist’s permission.

Then I started thinking what were my mother’s and my aunt’s experiences.  I was curious.  I had underestimated how many problems they had and what praise they should have gotten for living with them.  I am choosing my aunt as her experience was unique.  In her thirties, she was struck down by polio and she had a boy about my age and a girl younger about my younger brother’s age.  She spent more than a year in an iron lung far away from home and then when she came home to my grandparents‘ house, she had to do rehabilitation exercises and she looked like a concentration camp victim.  She died unfortunately at sixty three from post-polio syndrome; but not after doing some amazing things.  She went back to being a teacher of home economics and she even put on a big fashion show each spring.  She got pregnant and had another baby (he is now a competent, well-recognized professional).  I didn’t think about those things when I thought of her, but I just remembered that she would get her hair done once a week in a beehive with lots of spray.  She always wore a brace on her right knee and at times, she used crutches.  She wrote by guiding her right hand with her “good” left hand.  I am sure there were things that she did that were just as amazing considering her handicaps.  All I could focus on was her skeletal figure, her armored hairdo (she couldn’t reach above her head with both hands to do it herself), and the fact that my elderly grandmother had to do the housework for her.  She had three children to raise and no help from the father.  She never wound up in a nursing home; my grandparents were a factor in this.  Both my father and grandfather provided transportation for her.  She had many doctor’s appointments away from home.  My father served as an unarmed referee when her husband was there.  Also my father helped her to get her own house to live in.

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