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Centerpointe Research


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.


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.


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.

Devilish Behavior And The Las Vegas Shooting – A Hypothesis

There has been a lot of people looking for a motive for the shooter in the Las Vegas shooting.  They haven’t found any accomplices and the shooter was a known moderately (by Vegas standards) successful gambler and he had openly lived that life before the shooting.  He had gone on 12 or 13 cruises in the last year.  He had several homes. It apparently took a lot of planning, the acquiring of specific knowledge, and the scoping out of other possible locations and events where he could have carried the same type of atrocity.  He knew how to aim his semi-automatic weapons standing upon special platforms and he had made calculations to be sure he would aim the rifles in such a way as to enable him to kill or wound the most people.

Now you might not believe in the devil and/or in demon possession as described in the Bible but it seems to fit here.  Could a bargain have been made with the devil which allowed him to live the successful life he did even though he started his life with a very low-level job?  Also, his girlfriend said that he would struggle and thrash in bed (was he fighting with a demon or dealing with demon possession?).  It also accounts for the extensive planning that he did, the knowledge that he acquired, and possibly the targets.  Surely the devil would like to have him choose a target which would include a lot of lovers of country music which are often Christians?  Maybe he didn’t need an accomplice if he already was involved in a pact with the devil or had opened himself to demon possession.  As I present this hypothesis, I am calling upon the name of Jesus to rebuke the devil and his accomplices and to protect me from the devil.

The possibility of mental illness has been proposed, but it usually is not possible for a mentally ill person to be so successful in doing something that involved so much knowledge and preparation.  Was he a narcissistic sociopath? a paranoid schizophrenic?  Often mental illness leads to confusion and unrealistic ideas of special powers and also unrealistic ideas of how to carry out distorted ideas.  Yes, they can desire to kill people.  Maybe he had it in for Christians; but if he did, he told no one about it.  There has so far been any evidence of any delusions.  He was not the type of guy who stood out in any crowd and he was known as a frequent successful gambler but he did not cause any problems.   He was not known to associate with anybody but his girlfriend and, if not her,  prostitutes.


Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder?

Godward-Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder-1912

Godward-Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder-1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does absence make the heart grow fonder?  I hope so at least in my case.  I have been out with double pneumonia and was so mentally out of it,  I couldn’t get my password straight.  I almost spent the last two weeks in the hospital.

Good news, the family has expanded by two, a boy and a girl, at the same time.  I did get a peak but don’t want to spread “a good thing” and my own resistance is low.

Curiously enough I was writing about the need to take a break every now and then.  I was doing too much and didn’t even realize it until it was too late.  Too much stress can result in one mental breakdown or in one physical illness.  You may not know but your body does.  Every change (whether good or bad) or the addition of another commitment adds up until there is a breakdown.

Can’t say, “No?”  Something like this will do it for you.  Remember to say to yourself, “Take good care of yourself.  You belong to me.”

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The First Nine Months

pancioneHow did people know about the first nine months of life before it could be studied by modern science?  This is speculation; but it seems to make sense.  The only evidence people probably had at one time were stillbirths and miscarriages.  The most knowledgeable people probably were midwives and the early students of medicine who either were grave robbers or the patrons of grave robbers.  This could be a topic for further research.

Only recently have we had ways of viewing conception and growth in the womb.  Ultrasounds (especially 3-D ultrasounds) are rather recent as is open surgery done on the fetus while still inside the womb.  The first evidence that we had of the progress of the first nine months was usually the result of a terminated pregnancy, voluntary or involuntary.  It wasn’t so long ago that we had few pictures of what type of development occurred during the first nine months.  In fact, there were more artist’s representations of what was happening than photographs or other forms of scientific monitoring of fetal growth.  Yes, there were x rays, but these were often considered harmful to the growing baby.

The first nine months were often a mystery that wasn’t solved until the baby was delivered alive or dead.  Many parents lived with terrible uncertainty until they finally found out this way.  Many women, if they did not have a story of their own, heard the whispered stories of what had happened to other women.  There was much distress caused by this; but it was frequently not shared and doctors and staff were often not emotionally supportive of the parents.  Also if you go back far enough and (that really isn’t very far) you can view the stone memorials to mothers and children that didn’t make it through the first nine months.

This leaves us with another question about the first nine months.  When is it acceptable during those first nine months to terminate a pregnancy?  We still seem to be acting like ostriches burying our heads in the sand when it comes to becoming aware as to what is going on at different stages of pregnancy and exactly how the procedure is done.  Only recently have we instituted mourning procedures for families of miscarried or early onset still born babies.

Mysteries still abound about the procedures involved in the termination of pregnancies, when they are allowed and who has to give permission.  The woman involved has always been  encouraged to give up her right to say, “No,” later once she has given permission to end the baby’s life.  I have my own story to tell.  I have never read anywhere that one had to sign papers saying she would give the doctor the right to terminate the pregnancy (which was the latest an abortion was allowed to be performed) if the amniocentesis determined that the baby had Down syndrome; but this was what I was told by two different obstetricians.

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Laughter is good for you and good for others as long as they laugh with you.  Laughing at someone as long as they are in on the joke and/ or they did something deliberately to evoke it is fine.

Laughter has been known to be used by cancer patients to relieve the stress of  cancer treatments.  Frequently videos of comedians are watched to elicit spontaneous laughter.

Laughter initiates a mood change.  It is hard to be grumpy and pessimistic when you are smiling and chuckling.

Laughter is more frequent among children than among adults.  Hang around the younger generation and concentrate on the laughter and joy that surrounds them when they play.

Laughter is generated when you can see the humor in a situation even if it is initially distressing or embarrassing.  Awkward moments have been handled by doing this.  Comedians often make fun of themselves and of things like divorce and death which people don’t usually perceive as funny.


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Understanding and Accepting Handicaps Part III

As for being handicapped,I found that most people had made their places handicapped accessible, but not conveniently so; and a lot of places did not maintain them.  I was repeatedly faced with a button to open a bathroom door that was very heavy that did not work.  It was at the college where I was in a choir.  Usually the parking for someone is handicapped is not close to the front door.  I understand they have to put those long ramps there and that  was where were the parking was at the end of the ramp not the front door.  Also I find I have to use a quad cane to get to the shopping carts or electric  cars inside.  That is the most dangerous part of the trip for me.  It would be nice if carts, etc., could be easily accessible from your car.  Occasionally I flag someone down who has a cart or carts and ask them if I can have it for my trip inside.

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...

This is the internationally recognized symbol for accessibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People can be very helpful and sweet out in public, but sometimes in crowded places they don’t look where they are going and make quick turns.  I am now at a stage where I could do without my cane if the place is not crowded and there are walls or furniture to hang on to if I need it.  At home I do without; but I am challenged by open spaces and rough ground, roads, and sidewalks and especially in the dark.  A lot of this stuff you don’t know until you are there.  Stairs and slopes each have there pitfalls.  I like to walk on a level surface and curbs and slopes challenge me.  Long flights of stairs are scarey (and they need railings or banisters for safety), more so going down than up.  Of course I use elevators, but they don’t always have them and I have not yet tried an escalator, but they have them in London if you want to use the underground.  I’ve been there.  That’s my story, don’t get me going I could talk for hours on this subject.  Did you learn anything that you didn’t know?


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Overcome With Emotion

English: emotions

English: emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Decisions made in the heat of the moment are often regretted.  When you are overcome with emotion, you can sometimes make drastic, life threatening decisions.  It is recommended when you have a big life stress or change, that you make no decisions at the time that can’t be revoked or changed later.  For example, widows and widowers often rashly select a new mate, because they feel uncomfortable being by themselves after being used to  having someone around to share the responsibilities of life.  A home can feel very empty and a person can become very lonely.  I can think of two widows I know of that did just this and ended up getting  divorces even though they had both enjoyed  long married lives with their first husbands.

Of course the emotions I am talking about are usually the “bad” ones, rage, anger, anxiety, fear, self deprecation, depression, or feeling suicidal.  At the time, the person almost always feels cut off from other people and resources.  Sometimes, I think almost everyone needs a therapist or a therapy group with a good leader.  In AA, there are sponsors that alcoholics can call when they have an overriding urge to drink.  Drinking is usually done to deal with uncomfortable emotions and though it might get rid of them for a time, they come back especially when and if the alcohol wears off.  Please note that drinking is also done by people with poor social skills to make themselves comfortable and outgoing in social situations.  The use of drugs and alcohol  and other addictions can frequently be a way to self-medicate.   They are a way to change what you’re are feeling at the moment, but they don’t last; and later the person feels that he or she has to self-medicate again.

Some potentially disastrous things a person can do when over come by uncomfortable or unacceptable emotions are murder, suicide self-injury, over indulgence in mood altering substances or activities which often create even more problems such as depleting  resources needed for everyday living, interfering with necessary daily activities such as work, child care, etc., and causing serious health problems.

As important as learning skills to deal with emotions is, we do very little about it.  We frequently leave people to suffer by themselves and to find their own inadequate, sometimes dangerous, solutions.  Relaxation techniques, meditation, mindfulness,, anger management skills, all can be used.  There are also many others that counselors recommend.

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When Tragedy Strikes, Be Prepared

English: Harvard Medical School

English: Harvard Medical School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you always pulled your own weight? Done things for yourself? Fought your own battles? Do you think it was worth it? Yes, it was. When tragedy strikes, you’ll be prepared.

Just imagine if you are going along in life and things have always gone smoothly for you and then something bad, really bad, happens, how well will you cope? I don’t wish you bad luck, but life is not always peaches and cream and if you expect it to be that way, you will be very disappointed when something bad happens and you can’t handle it.

Often misfortune has a way of giving you a chance to learn something and a way to see what you can do in a very difficult situation. Frequently something like this is not seen as an opportunity to grow and to learn new skills. You even might wind up changing directions in your life possibly for the better.

Life’s bad experiences have a cumulative effect and where you wouldn’t have known what to do if you had not had these problems, you do know now. Imagine being a new mother and your baby (your first) has the stomach flu with vomiting and diarrhea.  Now imagine yourself in the same situation later with  the baby as a two year old.  Wouldn’t you be better prepared to handle the problem if this child had had the same problem several times before.

You can be sheltered and cossetted in life and never had to deal with the problems most other people have to deal with by themselves; but it leaves you less protected from life’s major disasters in the future.  For example, if, in the past, you were finishing your internship and applying for a residency and you don’t get accepted to train at the only hospital that you had planned on attending. This hospital supposebly might have put you on a waiting list in case one of the positions opened up because one or more of the applicants had decided to go elsewhere. Meanwhile, lets say, you had not applied at other less desirable residency programs In those days there were no computer matching programs and different programs had different closing dates after which they would no longer take applications. Then you don’t get this one and you are still on the waiting list when applications elsewhere are no longer being accepted and now you have nowhere to go. The “waiting list” actually might have been a polite form of rejection. If previous experiences applying for school had taught you to have a backup plan and to apply at more than one place in case you don’t get accepted at your first choice, then you would not be surprised and be caught unprepared to apply elsewhere when it did not look like you were going to get your first choice.

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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

People need their basic needs met before they can focus on what makes them happy in life and when these needs are met, the need for self-actualization becomes active.  Almost everyone has the potential to be or do something in life.  When this potential motivates a person’s behavior, he or she may then feel that he or she has become all he or she can be.

Have you ever wondered is that all there is when you have a job that meets your needs and pays your bills? You have food, clothing, and shelter and the love and respect of others.  You also have self-respect.  Yet you feel something is missing.  For example, one of my friends has been and still is a student of the guitar and also has been determined to give his child a good start in life.  What do you want after the material things in life have been attained?

Every person is as unique as a snowflake.  Most people have special talents and abilities that when developed, they are able to fill a special and unique role in life. Focusing on being the best parent a person can be or on having a fulfilling, meaningful hobby can be the high point of a person’s life.  Getting there can be and (possibly should be) the most fulfilling part of the process.  Such interests can provide you with joy and pleasure in life. You have finally figured out your place in life. Unlike animals, people are aware of their own existence and assume that they have a purpose in life.


Basic needs

Basic needs (Photo credit: Luca Violetto)


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Got Ya!

Have you ever felt that there was something slightly wrong with something someone did for you?  It could be a form of passive aggression which is a way of indirectly expressing something or doing something the other person wouldn’t like without being held accountable.  They might even say about the behavior that they were only trying to help you.  Yet you sense that their motives are less than pure.  You wind up unhappy in the relationship and when you call them on it, they act misunderstood and sometimes even offended.

Once when I was in a relationship that was falling apart, my partner was still handling the bill payments for both of us and obligated me for a repair contract on an appliance that I was taking with me, but which I felt that I didn’t need and which would cost money that I couldn’t afford to spare when paying my bills on my own without my partner’s income  He didn’t ask me what I wanted in this situation and I found out about it indirectly when I was looking at some paperwork.  I confronted him about this. Of course, he felt that he was only doing me a favor.  What I found overall in the relationship was that his tendency to frequently resort to passive aggressive behavior was one of the reasons I left the relationship.  There are other forms of passive aggressive behavior and the one most given as an example is agreeing to do something and then messing it up,  My partner agreed to do the bill paying; but I was not happy with the way he was doing it.


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