Posts Tagged brain

[Infographic] The Effects of Music on the Brain

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[ARTICLE] Food for Thought: Basic Nutrition Recommendations for the Mature Brain – Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Mild changes in memory and the way that we think can be normal as we age, but there are actions you can do to take charge of your brain health! We now better understand the importance of healthy eating for brain health in older adults. Doctors recommend healthy lifestyle changes to maintain or improve brain health, which include getting enough sleep, physical activity, and eating healthy foods. With your brain in mind, we created this page to help you adopt a healthy lifestyle. Most of the foods that we discuss can be found at grocery stores around your neighborhood. In addition, table 1 has useful online resources to help you keep your brain healthy.

Table 1Resources
Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s and Public Health Resource Center https://www.alz.org/
Caregiver Tips and Tools

The MIND diet

https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/food-eating https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/caregiver-health/be_a_healthy_caregiver The MIND diet and tips on how to follow it.
Adopt a Healthy Diet https://www.alz.org/brain-health/adopt_healthy_diet.asp The DASH and Mediterranean Diets
Administration for Community Living https://www.acl.gov
Nutrition Services https://www.acl.gov/programs/health-wellness/nutrition-services The Administration for Community Living’s Administration on aging nutrition programs targeting older adults.
Global Council on Brain Health www.GlobalCouncilOnBrainHealth.org
Brain-Food https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/global-council-on-brain-health/nutrition/ Recommendations on nourishing your brain health.
National Institute on Aging
Healthy Eating https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/healthy-eating Choosing healthy meals as you get older, overcoming roadblocks to healthy eating, serving and portion sizes, maintaining a healthy weight

Abbreviations: DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension; MIND, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

General dietary recommendations for the aging brain

Plan your meals keeping these tips in mind. It is important to meet with a registered dietitian for individual dietary advice.1, 2, 3, 4, 5

  • 1.

    Eat whole grains with every meal

    • Sources include whole grain bread (wheat, rye, or barley), whole grain pasta, brown or wild rice, quinoa, and oats.

    • By eating at least 3 portions of whole grains a day you give your brain energy in the form of complex carbohydrates, B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).

  • 2.

    Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day

    • Make your plate colorful!

    • Eat berries, especially blueberries, at least twice per week as they are packed with protective substances called antioxidants.

    • Eat dark green leafy and cruciferous vegetables (spinach, kale, parsley, broccoli, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts) at least 6 times per week as these are rich in antioxidants, vitamins K and C, and folate.

  • 3.

    Eat legumes 3 or more times per week

    • Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts) are good sources of complex carbohydrates, protein, folate, and fiber.

  • 4.

    Limit red meat to once or twice a week

    • Swap out red meat, which is high in unhealthy saturated fat (lamb, beef, pork, and sausages), for poultry (chicken or turkey), fish, and beans and other legumes.

  • 5.

    Focus on healthy fats

    • Use extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter, margarine, or vegetable shortening.

    • Eat omega-3 rich foods from animal sources such as fish (sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon, sea bass, and trout) at least once a week. Vegetarian? No problem! Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, walnuts, and their oils, and Chia seeds.

    • Other sources of healthy fats include almonds, nut butters (eg, peanut butter), seeds, olives, and avocados.

    • Limit baked goods, fast foods, and fried foods since they contain unhealthy saturated and trans fatty acids.

  • 6.

    Don’t forget about dark chocolate

    • Dark chocolate has been shown to aid in brain health and to improve mood, learning, memory, and attention.

    • Aim for a small square (2cm×2cm) of dark chocolate (>70% cocoa) 2 to 3 times a week.

  • 7.

    Spice up meals with herbs and spices

    • Cook with herbs and spices and limit the use of salt.

    • Turmeric, cinnamon, clove, cumin, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, oregano, and sage can all be helpful for brain health.

  • 8.

    Stay hydrated

    • Drink 6-8 8-oz glasses of water or non-caffeinated herbal teas per day. This helps to keep your entire body, including your brain, in tip top shape.6, 7

  • 9.

    Drink caffeine, but in moderation

    • Caffeine and antioxidants found in coffee can improve mood and increase alertness and attention.8

    • Daily cups of green or black tea brewed from tea leaves have been linked to brain health.

    • However, aim for no more than 1-3 cups of caffeinated tea or coffee daily, and limit drinking caffeine in the afternoon and at night as this can lead to poor sleep.

  • 10.

    If you consume alcohol, enjoy a glass of red wine with meals

    • Red wine contains a number of antioxidants, such as resveratrol, which have been shown to be helpful for the brain.

    • It is best to enjoy red wine in moderation, in other words, one glass a night and always consume with meals.

  • 11.

    Practice balance and do not overeat

    • Control your portion sizes and eat protein-packed snacks such as low fat yogurt with walnuts or seeded bread or rice/quinoa cakes with peanut butter, low fat cheese, or egg whites to help prevent you from overeating.

Practical cooking tips

  • 1.

    Cooking whole grains? Cook the whole bag and store the extra portions in your freezer for later use.

  • 2.

    Make sure you always have lentils in your pantry as they are the quickest legumes to prepare.

  • 3.

    Roasting salmon or other fatty fish? Roast an extra filet and make a fish spread for tomorrow’s sandwiches (puree the fish in a food processor with herbs and add a tablespoon of olive oil or tahini).

  • 4.

    Store berries and other fruits in your freezer to use in shakes or frozen desserts or to put on top of yogurt and hot cereals.

  • 5.

    Increase your vegetable intake by making an antipasto! Mix a variety of vegetables with a few tablespoons of olive oil and roast 20 minutes in a 450°F (230°C) oven.

  • 6.

    Legumes are not only for vegans! Replace beans for half of the meat you are cooking.

  • 7.

    Make homemade soft drinks! Place fruit slices and herbs (eg, mint, lemongrass) in a large container of water and set aside to allow the flavors to blend.

  • 8.

    Thicken soup using nuts! Add a handful of nuts to a soup and puree with a blender to thicken and add flavor.

  • 9.

    Experiment with spices! Cardamom goes great with cauliflower and sage works well with pumpkin.

  • 10.

    Make your own sauces! Mix 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 crushed garlic clove, and 1 tablespoon of chopped spring onion for a great sauce that can be used on pasta or meat.

Authorship

This page was developed by the members of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) Neurodegenerative Diseases Networking Group and the ACRM Culinary Medicine Task Force: Elena Philippou, RD, PhD (e-mail address: Philippou.e@unic.ac.cy), Rani Polak, MD, Chef, MBA, Ana Michunovich, DO, Michele York, PhD, Julie M. Faieta, MOT, OTR/L, Mark A. Hirsch, PhD, and Patricia C. Heyn, PhD, FGSA, FACRM.

Disclaimer

This information is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always talk to your health care provider if you have any specific medical concerns or questions about treatment. This Information/Education Page may be used noncommercially by health care professionals to help educate patients and their caregivers. Any other reproduction is subject to approval by the publisher.

References

  1. Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate.National Academies PressWashington (DC)2005
  2. Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes. The essential guide to nutrient requirements.National Academies PressWashington (DC)2006
  3. Masento, N.A., Golightly, M., Field, D.T., Butler, L.T., and van Reekum, C.M. Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. Br J Nutr20141111841–1852
  4. Morris, M.C., Tangney, C.C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F.M., Bennett, D.A., and Aqqarwal, N.T. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement2015111007–1014
  5. Ngandu, T., Lehtisalo, J., Solomon, A. et al. A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet20153852255–2263
  6. Panza, F., Solfrizzi, V., Barulli, M.R. et al. Coffee, tea, and caffeine consumption and prevention of late-life cognitive decline and dementia: a systematic review. J Nutr Health Aging201519313–328
  7. Petersson, S.D. and Philippou, E. Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: a systematic review of the evidence. Adv Nutr20167889–904
  8. Solfrizzi, V., Custodero, C., Lozupone, M. et al. Relationships of dietary patterns, foods, and micro- and macronutrients with Alzheimer’s disease and late-life cognitive disorders: a systematic review. J Alzheimers Dis201759815–849

via Food for Thought: Basic Nutrition Recommendations for the Mature Brain – Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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[ARTICLE] Neurotechnology-aided interventions for upper limb motor rehabilitation in severe chronic stroke – Full Text

Abstract

Upper limb motor deficits in severe stroke survivors often remain unresolved over extended time periods. Novel neurotechnologies have the potential to significantly support upper limb motor restoration in severely impaired stroke individuals. Here, we review recent controlled clinical studies and reviews focusing on the mechanisms of action and effectiveness of single and combined technology-aided interventions for upper limb motor rehabilitation after stroke, including robotics, muscular electrical stimulation, brain stimulation and brain computer/machine interfaces. We aim at identifying possible guidance for the optimal use of these new technologies to enhance upper limb motor recovery especially in severe chronic stroke patients. We found that the current literature does not provide enough evidence to support strict guidelines, because of the variability of the procedures for each intervention and of the heterogeneity of the stroke population. The present results confirm that neurotechnology-aided upper limb rehabilitation is promising for severe chronic stroke patients, but the combination of interventions often lacks understanding of single intervention mechanisms of action, which may not reflect the summation of single intervention’s effectiveness. Stroke rehabilitation is a long and complex process, and one single intervention administrated in a short time interval cannot have a large impact for motor recovery, especially in severely impaired patients. To design personalized interventions combining or proposing different interventions in sequence, it is necessary to have an excellent understanding of the mechanisms determining the effectiveness of a single treatment in this heterogeneous population of stroke patients. We encourage the identification of objective biomarkers for stroke recovery for patients’ stratification and to tailor treatments. Furthermore, the advantage of longitudinal personalized trial designs compared to classical double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials as the basis for precise personalized stroke rehabilitation medicine is discussed. Finally, we also promote the necessary conceptual change from ‘one-suits-all’ treatments within in-patient clinical rehabilitation set-ups towards personalized home-based treatment strategies, by adopting novel technologies merging rehabilitation and motor assistance, including implantable ones.

Introduction

Stroke constitutes a major public health problem affecting millions of people worldwide with considerable impacts on socio-economics and health-related costs. It is the second cause of death (Langhorne et al., 2011), and the third cause of disability-adjusted life-years worldwide (Feigin et al., 2014): ∼8.2 million people were affected by stroke in Europe in 2010, with a total cost of ∼€64 billion per year (Olesen et al., 2012). Due to ageing societies, these numbers might still rise, estimated to increase 1.5–2-fold from 2010 to 2030 (Feigin et al., 2014).

Improving upper limb functioning is a major therapeutic target in stroke rehabilitation (Pollock et al., 2014Veerbeek et al., 2017) to maximize patients’ functional recovery and reduce long-term disability (Nichols-Larsen et al., 2005Veerbeek et al., 2011Pollock et al., 2014). Motor impairment of the upper limb occurs in 73–88% first time stroke survivors and in 55–75% of chronic stroke patients (Lawrence et al., 2001). Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT), but also standard occupational practice, virtual reality and brain stimulation-based interventions for sensory and motor impairments show positive rehabilitative effects in mildly and moderately impaired stroke victims (Pollock et al., 2014Raffin and Hummel, 2018). However, stroke survivors with severe motor deficits are often excluded from these therapeutic approaches as their deficit does not allow easily rehabilitative motor training (e.g. CIMT), treatment effects are negligible and recovery unpredictable (Byblow et al., 2015Wuwei et al., 2015Buch et al., 2016Guggisberg et al., 2017).

Recent neurotechnology-supported interventions offer the opportunity to deliver high-intensity motor training to stroke victims with severe motor impairments (Sivan et al., 2011). Robotics, muscular electrical stimulation, brain stimulation, brain computer/machine interfaces (BCI/BMI) can support upper limb motor restoration including hand and arm movements and induce neuro-plastic changes within the motor network (Mrachacz-Kersting et al., 2016Biasiucci et al., 2018).

The main hurdle for an improvement of the status quo of stroke rehabilitation is the fragmentary knowledge about the physiological, psychological and social mechanisms, their interplay and how they impact on functional brain reorganization and stroke recovery. Positive stimulating and negatively blocking adaptive brain reorganization factors are insufficiently characterized except from some more or less trivial determinants, such as number and time of treatment sessions, pointing towards the more the better (Kwakkel et al., 1997). Even the long accepted model of detrimental interhemispheric inhibition of the overactive contralesional brain hemisphere on the ipsilesional hemisphere is based on an oversimplification and lack of differential knowledge and is thus called into question (Hummel et al., 2008Krakauer and Carmichael, 2017Morishita and Hummel, 2017).

Here, we take a pragmatic approach of comparing effectiveness data, keeping this lack of knowledge of mechanisms in mind and providing novel ideas towards precision medicine-based approaches to individually tailor treatments to the characteristics and needs of the individual patient with severe chronic stroke to maximize rehabilitative outcome.[…]

Continue —>   Neurotechnology-aided interventions for upper limb motor rehabilitation in severe chronic stroke | Brain | Oxford Academic

Conceptualization of longitudinal personalized rehabilitation-treatment designs for patients with severe chronic stroke. Ideally, each patient with severe chronic stroke with a stable motor recovery could be stratified based on objective biomarkers of stroke recovery in order to select the most appropriate/promising neurotechnology-aided interventions and/or their combination for the specific case. Then, these interventions can be administered in the clinic and/or at home in sequence, moving from one to another only when patient’s motor recovery plateaus. In this way, comparisons of the efficacy of each intervention (grey arrows) are still possible, and if the selected interventions and/or their combination are suitable, motor recovery could increase.

Conceptualization of longitudinal personalized rehabilitation-treatment designs for patients with severe chronic stroke. Ideally, each patient with severe chronic stroke with a stable motor recovery could be stratified based on objective biomarkers of stroke recovery in order to select the most appropriate/promising neurotechnology-aided interventions and/or their combination for the specific case. Then, these interventions can be administered in the clinic and/or at home in sequence, moving from one to another only when patient’s motor recovery plateaus. In this way, comparisons of the efficacy of each intervention (grey arrows) are still possible, and if the selected interventions and/or their combination are suitable, motor recovery could increase.

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[NEWS] New Virtual Reality Therapy game could offer relief for patients with chronic pain, mobility issues

News-MedicalA Virtual Reality Therapy game (iVRT) which could introduce relief for patients suffering from chronic pain and mobility issues has been developed by a team of UK researchers.

Dr Andrew Wilson and colleagues from Birmingham City University built the CRPS app in collaboration with clinical staff at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust for a new way to tackle complex regional pain syndrome and to aid people living with musculoskeletal conditions.

Using a head mounted display and controllers, the team created an immersive and interactive game which mimics the processes used in traditional ‘mirror therapy’ treatment. Within the game, players are consciously and subconsciously encouraged to stretch, move and position the limbs that are affected by their conditions.

Mirror therapy is a medical exercise intervention where a mirror is used to create areflective illusion that encourages patient’s brain to move their limb more freely. This intervention is often used by occupational therapists and physiotherapists to treat CRPS patients who have experienced a stroke. This treatment has proven to be successful exercises are often deemed routine and mundane by patients, which contributes to decline in the completion of therapy.

Work around the CRPS project, which could have major implications for other patient rehabilitation programmes worldwide when fully realised, was presented at the 12th European Conference on Game Based Learning (ECGBL) in France late last year.

Dr Wilson, who leads Birmingham City University’s contribution to a European research study into how virtual reality games can encourage more physical activity, and how movement science in virtual worlds can be used for both rehabilitation and treatment adherence, explained, “The first part of the CRPS project was to examine the feasibility of being able to create a game which reflects the rehabilitation exercises that the clinical teams use on the ground to reduce pain and improve mobility in specific patients.”

“By making the game enjoyable and playable we hope family members will play too and in doing so encourage the patient to continue with their rehabilitation. Our early research has shown that in healthy volunteers both regular and casual gamers enjoyed the game which is promising in terms of our theory surrounding how we may support treatment adherence by exploiting involvement of family and friends in the therapy processes.”

The CRPS project was realized through collaborative working between City Hospital, Birmingham, and staff at the School of Computing and Digital Technology, and was developed following research around the provision of a 3D virtual reality ophthalmoscopy trainer.

Andrea Quadling, Senior Occupational Therapist at Sandwell Hospital, said “The concept of using virtual reality to treat complex pain conditions is exciting, appealing and shows a lot of potential. This software has the potential to be very helpful in offering additional treatment options for people who suffer with CRPS.”

via New Virtual Reality Therapy game could offer relief for patients with chronic pain, mobility issues

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[NEWS] Pill that reverses brain damage could be on the horizon

 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made important progress in designing a drug that could recover brain function in cases of severe brain damage due to injury or diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

brain cellsVitaly Sosnovskiy | Shutterstock

The work builds on a previous study where the team managed to convert human fetal glial cells called astrocytes into functional neurons. However, that required using a combination of nine molecules – too many for the formula to be translated into a clinically useful solution.

As reported in the journal Stem Cell Reports, the team has now successfully streamlined the process so that only four molecules are needed – an achievement that could lead to pill for repairing brain damage.

We identified the most efficient chemical formula among the hundreds of drug combinations that we tested. By using four molecules that modulate four critical signaling pathways in human astrocytes, we can efficiently turn human astrocytes — as many as 70 percent — into functional neurons.”

Jiu-Chao Yin, Study Author

The researchers report that the new neurons survived for more than seven months in the laboratory environment and that they functioned like normal brain cells, forming networks and communicating with one another using chemical and electrical signaling.

“The most significant advantage of the new approach is that a pill containing small molecules could be distributed widely in the world, even reaching rural areas without advanced hospital systems,” says Chen.

“My ultimate dream is to develop a simple drug delivery system, like a pill, that can help stroke and Alzheimer’s patients around the world to regenerate new neurons and restore their lost learning and memory capabilities,” he continued.

Now, the years of effort the team has put into simplifying the drug formula has finally paid off and taken the researchers a step closer towards realizing that dream.

via Pill that reverses brain damage could be on the horizon

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[WEB SITE] The Benefits of Playing Music Help Your Brain More Than Any Other Activity

Learning an instrument has showed an increase resilience to any age-related decline in hearing.

The brain-training is big business. For companies like BrainHQ, Luminosity, and Cogmed, it’s actually a multimillion dollar business that is expected to surpass $3 billion by 2020. But, do the actually benefit your brain?

 

Research doesn’t believe so. In fact, the the University of Illinois determined that there’s little or no evidence that these games improve anything more than the specific tasks being trained. Luminosity was even fined $2 million for false claims.

So, if these brain games don’t work, then what will keep your brain sharp? The answer? Learning to play a musical instrument.

Why Being a Musician Is Good For Your Brain

Science has shown that musical training can change brain structure and function for the better. It can also improve long-term memory and lead to better brain development for those who start at a young age.

Furthermore, musicians tend to be more mentally alert, according to new research from a University of Montreal study.

 

“The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times,” said lead researcher Simon Landry.

 

“As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them.”

 

Previously, Landry found that musicians have faster auditory, tactile, and audio-tactile reaction times. Musicians also have an altered statistical use of multi-sensory information. This means that they’re better at integrating the inputs from various senses.

 

“Music probably does something unique,” explains neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.”

 

Unlike brain-games, playing an instrument is a rich and complex experience. This is because it’s integrating information from senses like vision, hearing, and touch, along with fine movements. This can result long-lasting changes in the brain. This can also be applicable in the business world.

Changes in the Brain

Brains scans have been able to identify the difference in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians. Most notably, the corpus callosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two sides of the brain, is larger in musicians. Also, the areas involving movement, hearing, and visuospatial abilities appear to be larger in professional keyboard players.

 

Initially, these studies couldn’t determine if these differences were caused by musical training of if anatomical differences predispose some to become musicians. Ultimately, longitudinal studies showed that children who do 14 months of musical training displayed more powerful structural and functional brain changes.

 

These studies prove that learning a musical instrument increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, It also strengthens the long-range connections between them. Additional research shows that musical training can enhance verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills.

Long Lasting Benefits For Musicians

Brain scanning studies have found that the anatomical change in musicians’ brains is related to the age when training began. It shouldn’t be surprising, but learning at a younger age causes the most drastic changes.

 

Interestingly, even brief periods of musical training can have long-lasting benefits. A 2013 study found that even those with moderate musical training preserved sharp processing of speech sounds. It was also able to increase resilience to any age-related decline in hearing.

 

Researchers also believe that playing music helps speech processing and learning in children with dyslexia. Furthermore, learning to play an instrument as a child can protect the brain against dementia.

“Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t,” says Loveday. “It’s a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.”

Other Ways Learning an Instrument Strengthens Your Brain

Guess what? We’re still not done. Here are eight additional ways that learning an instrument strengthens your brain.

 

1. Strengthens bonds with others. This shouldn’t be surprising. Think about your favorite band. They can only make a record when they have contact, coordination, and cooperation with each other.

 

2. Strengthens memory and reading skills. The Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University states that this is because music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms.

 

3. Playing music makes you happy. McMaster University discovered that babies who took interactive music classes displayed better early communication skills. They also smiled more.

 

4. Musicians can process multiple things at once. As mentioned above, this is because playing music forces you to process multiple senses at once. This can lead superior multisensory skills.

 

5. Musical increases blood flow in your brain. Studies have found that short bursts of musical training increase the blood flow to the left hemisphere of the brain. That can be helpful when you need a burst of energy. Skip the energy drink and jam for 30 minutes.

6. Music helps the brain recover. Motor control improved in everyday activities with stroke patients.

7. Music reduces stress and depression. A study of cancer patients found that listening and playing music reduced anxiety. Another study revealed that music therapy lowered levels of depression and anxiety.

 

8. Musical training strengthens the brain’s’ executive function. Executive function covers critical tasks like processing and retaining information, controlling behavior, making, and problem-solving. If strengthened, you can boost your ability to live. Musical training can improve and strengthen executive functioning in both children and adults.

 

And, wrap-up, check out this awesome short animation from TED-Ed on how playing an instrument benefits your brain.

 

via The Benefits of Playing Music Help Your Brain More Than Any Other Activity | Inc.com

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[BLOG POST] 7 principles of neuroscience every coach and therapist should know – Your Brain Health

What does neuroscience have to do with coaching and therapy?

Short answer: EVERYTHING!

If you’re a coach or therapist, your job is to facilitate change in your client’s

  • thinking (beliefs and attitudes)
  • emotions (more mindfulness and resilience)
  • behaviour (new healthy habits).

Coaching builds the mental skills needed to support lasting change. Skills such as:

  • mindfulness
  • self-awareness
  • motivation
  • resilience
  • optimism
  • critical thinking
  • stress management

Health and wellness coaching, in particular, are emerging as powerful interventions to help people initiate and maintain sustainable change.

And we have academic research to support this claim: check out a list of RCTs in table 2 of this paper).

How can neuroscience more deeply inform coaching and therapy?

Back in the mid-1990s when I was an undergrad, the core text of my neuroscience curriculum was ‘Principles of Neural Science’ by Eric Kandel, James Schwartz and Thomas Jessell. Kandel won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on memory storage in neurons.

A few years before his Nobel, Kandel wrote a paper A new intellectual framework for psychiatry’. The paper explained how neuroscience can provide a new view of mental health and wellbeing.

Based on Kandel’s paper, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine proposed seven principles of brain-based therapy for psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. The principles have been translated intopractical applications for health & wellness, business, and life coaches. 

One fundamental principle is,

“All mental processes, even the most complex psychological processes, derive from the operation of the brain.”

And another is:

“Insofar as psychotherapy or counseling is effective . . . it presumably does so through learning, by producing changes in gene expression that alter the strength of synaptic connections.”

That is, human interactions and experience influence how the brain works.

This concept of brain change is now well established in neuroscience and is often referred to as neuroplasticity. Ample neuroscience research supports the idea that our brains remain adaptable (or plastic) throughout our lifespan.

Here is a summary of Kandel, Cappas and colleagues thoughts on how neuroscience can be applied to therapy and coaching…

Seven principles of neuroscience every coach should know.

1. Both nature and nurture win.

Both genetics and the environment interact in the brain to shape our brains and influence behaviour.

Therapy or coaching can be thought of as a strategic and purposeful ‘environmental tool’ to facilitate change and may be an effective means of shaping neural pathways.

2.  Experiences transform the brain.

The areas of our brain associated with emotions and memories such as the pre-frontal cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus are not hard-wired (they are ‘plastic’).

Research suggests each of us constructs emotions from a diversity of sources: our physiological state, by our reactions to the ‘outside’ environment, experiences and learning, and our culture and upbringing.

3.  Memories are imperfect.

Our memories are never a perfect account of what happened. Memories are re-written each time when we recall them depending on how, when and where we retrieve the memory.

For example, a question, photograph or a particular scent can interact with a memory resulting in it being modified as it is recalled.

With increasing life experience we weave narratives into their memories.  Autobiographical memories that tell the story of our lives are always undergoing revision precisely because our sense of self is too.

Consciously or not, we use imagination to reinvent our past, and with it, our present and future.

4. Emotion underlies memory formation.

Memories and emotions are interconnected neural processes.

The amygdala, which plays a role in emotional arousal, mediate neurotransmitters essential for memory consolidation. Emotional arousal has the capacity to activate the amygdala, which in turn modulates the storage of memory.

 

5. Relationships are the foundation for change 

Relationships in childhood AND adulthood have the power to elicit positive change.

Sometimes it takes the love, care or attention of just one person to help another change for the better.

The therapeutic relationship has the capacity to help clients modify neural systems and enhance emotional regulation.

6. Imagining and doing are the same to the brain.

Mental imagery or visualisation not only activates the same brain regions as the actual behaviour but also can speed up the learning of a new skill.

Envisioning a different life may as successfully invoke change as the actual experience.

7. We don’t always know what our brain is ‘thinking’.

Unconscious processes exert great influence on our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The brain can process nonverbal and unconscious information, and information processed unconsciously can still influence therapeutic and other relationships. It’s possible to react to unconscious perceptions without consciously understanding the reaction.

 

via 7 principles of neuroscience every coach and therapist should know – Your Brain Health

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[WEB SITE] Long Term Depression Permanently Changes the Brain

Long-lasting cases of depression may need to be treated differently than newer cases.

Chelsea Gohd February 27th 2018

Depression Inflammation

New research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto has revealed something remarkable about mental illness: years of persistent depression-caused inflammation permanently and physically alter the brain. This may dramatically affect how we understand mental illness and how it progresses over time.

In a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers found that those who had untreated depression for over a decade had significantly more inflammation in their brains, when compared to those with untreated clinical depression for less than a decade. This work jumps off of senior author Jeff Meyer’s previous work, in which he found the first concrete evidence that those with clinical depression experience inflammation of the brain.

This study went even further, proving for the first time that long-term depression can cause extensive and permanent changes in the brain. Dr. Meyer thinks that this study could be used to create treatments for different stages in depression. This is important because now it is clear that treating depression immediately after diagnosis should be significantly different than treatment after 10 years with the illness.

Improving Understanding

Once a doctor and patient find a treatments for depression that works for the patient, treatment typically remains static throughout the course of the patient’s life. Taking this new study into account, this might not be the most effective method.

A PET image of a slice of human brain, showing areas of blue and red coloring. This method was used to measure depression-caused inflammation in this study.
A PET image of a slice of human brain. Image Credit: Jens Maus

This study examined a total of 25 patients who have had depression for over a decade, 25 who had the illness for less time, and 30 people without clinical depression as a control group. The researchers measured depression-caused inflammation using positron emission tomography (PET), which can pick out the protein markers, called TSPO, that the brain immune cells produce due to inflammation. Those with long-lasting depression had about 30 percent higher levels of TSPO when compared to those with shorter periods of depression, as well as higher levels than the control group.

Many misunderstand mental illness to be entirely separate from physical symptoms, but this study shows just how severe those symptoms can be. These findings could spark similar studies with other mental illnesses.

It is even possible that depression might now be treated as a degenerative disease, as it affects the brain progressively over time: “Greater inflammation in the brain is a common response with degenerative brain diseases as they progress, such as with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” Meyer said in a press release.

 

via Long Term Depression Permanently Changes the Brain

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[BLOG POST] Antidepressants help us understand why we get fatigued during exercise

In general, the term ‘fatigue’ is used to describe any exercise-induced decline in the ability of a muscle to generate force. To identify the causes of fatigue, it is common to examine two divisions of the body that might be affected during exercise. The central component of fatigue includes the many nerves that travel throughout the brain to the spinal cord. The peripheral component predominantly reflects elements in the muscle itself. If there is a problem with either of these components, the ability to contract a muscle might be compromised. For many years, there has been suggestion that central fatigue is heavily influenced by neurotransmitters that get released in the central nervous system (such as dopamine and serotonin). However, little research has been performed in this area.

Serotonin is a chemical that can improve mood, and increasing the amount of serotonin that circulates in the brain is a common therapy for depression. However, serotonin also plays a vital role in activating neurons in the spinal cord which tell the muscle to contract. With the correct amount of serotonin release, a muscle will activate efficiently. However, if too much serotonin is released, there is a possibility that the muscle will rapidly fatigue. Recent animal studies indicate that moderate amounts of serotonin release, which are common during exercise, can promote muscle contractions (Cotel et al. 2013). However, massive serotonin release, which may occur with very large bouts of exercise, could further exacerbate the already fatigued muscle (Perrier et al. 2018).

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. These medications keep serotonin levels high in the central nervous system by stopping the chemical from being reabsorbed by nerves (reuptake inhibition). Instead of using SSRIs to relieve symptoms of depression, we used them in our recent study (Kavanagh et al. 2019) to elevate serotonin in the central nervous system, and then determine if characteristics of fatigue are enhanced when serotonin is elevated. We performed three experiments that used maximal voluntary contractions of the biceps muscle to cause fatigue in healthy young individuals. Our main goal was to determine if excessive serotonin limits the amount of exercise that can be performed, and then determine which central or peripheral component was compromised by excessive serotonin.

WHAT DID WE FIND?

Given that SSRIs influence neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, it was not surprising that peripheral fatigue was unaltered by the medication. However, central fatigue was influenced with enhanced serotonin. The time that a maximum voluntary contraction could be held was reduced with enhanced serotonin, whereby the ability of the central nervous system to drive the muscle was compromised by 2-5%. We further explored the location of dysfunction and found that the neurons in the spinal cord that activate the muscle were 4-18% less excitable when fatiguing contractions were performed in the presence of enhanced serotonin.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPLICATIONS

The central nervous system is diverse, and the fatigue that is experienced during exercise is not just restricted to the brain. Instead, the spinal cord plays an integral role in activating muscles, and mechanisms of fatigue also occur in these lower, often overlooked, neural circuits. This is the first study to provide evidence that serotonin released onto the motoneurones contributes to central fatigue in humans.

PUBLICATION REFERENCE

Kavanagh JJ, McFarland AJ, Taylor JL. Enhanced availability of serotonin increases activation of unfatigued muscle but exacerbates central fatigue during prolonged sustained contractions. J Physiol. 597:319-332, 2019.

If you cannot access the paper, please click here to request a copy.

KEY REFERENCES

Cotel F, Exley R, Cragg SJ, Perrier JF. Serotonin spillover onto the axon initial segment of motoneurons induces central fatigue by inhibiting action potential initiation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 110:4774-4779, 2013.

Perrier JF, Rasmussen HB, Jørgensen LK, Berg RW. Intense activity of the raphe spinal pathway depresses motor activity via a serotonin dependent mechanism. Front Neural Circuits. 11:111, 2018.

AUTHOR BIO

Associate Professor Justin Kavanagh is a researcher and lecturer at Griffith University. His team explores how the central nervous system controls voluntary and involuntary movement, and he has particular interests in understanding how medications can be used to study mechanisms of human movement.

via Antidepressants help us understand why we get fatigued during exercise – Motor Impairment

 

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[WEB SITE] Restoring the function of arms that have been disconnected from the brain

Advances in the control of prosthetic arms, or even exoskeletal arms, continue to amaze. Yet someone with a severe neck injury doesn’t need any such device since the greatest arm they could imagine is sitting right there hanging off their shoulder — but unable to perform. Efforts to control an artificial arm may seem impotent to these folks, when a bridge spanning just a couple centimeters of scar tissue in the spinal column can not even be made. A way forward is now taking shape at Case Western University in Ohio. Researchers there are gearing up to combine the Braingate cortical chip developed at Brown University with their own Functional Electric Stimulation (FES) platform.

It has long been known that electrical stimulation can directly control muscles. The problem is that it is fairly inaccurate, and can be painful or damaging. Stimulating the nerves directly using precisely positioned arrays is a much better approach. One group of Case Western researchers recently demonstrated a remarkable device called a nerve cuff electrode that can be placed around small segments of nerve. They used the cuff to provide an interface for sending data from sensors in the hand back to the brain using sensory nerves in the arm. With FES, the same kind of cuff electrode can also be used to stimulate nerves going the other direction, in other words, to the muscles.

Arm Muscles

The difficulty in such a scheme, is that even if the motor nerves can be physically separated from the sensory nerves and traced to specific muscles, the exact stimulation sequences needed to make a proper movement are hard to find. To achieve this, another group at Case Western has developed a detailed simulation of how different muscles work together to control the arm and hand. Their model consists of 138 muscle elements distributed over 29 muscles, which act on 11 joints. The operational procedure is for the patient to watch the image of the virtual arm while they naturally generate neural commands that the BrainGate chip picks up to move the arm. (In practice, this means trying to make the virtual arm touch a red spot to make it turn green.) Currently in clinical trials, the Braingate2 chip has an array of 96 hair-thin electrodes that is used to stimulate a small region of motor cortex.

The trick here is not just to find any sequence that gets the arm from point A to point B, but to find sequences similar to those that real arms actually use in particular tasks. This is important because each muscle has not only a limited contraction range, but also a limited range where it can actually deliver significant force, and generate feedback signals about those forces. When muscles contract they obviously change shape, but less obvious perhaps, is that their shape at any given moment affects how the other muscles leverage the joints they work. Just as important is the effect of the opposing muscles that control counter movements.

ArmSim

Few movements that we make, even low-force movements, consist of pure contractions of the active muscle and pure inhibition of the opposing muscle. In actuality, muscle units on both sides can be firing in alternating bursts to quickly ratchet joint angles open, particularly when the vector of end-point movement is oblique to the axes of individual arm segments. In other words, even in a simple movement like a bench press, both the biceps and triceps generate forces alternately at various points in the lift, despite the fact that the weight rises uniformly in the upward direction.

If artificial methods of control are going to be used for flesh-and-blood systems, particularly ones that have been idle for some time, overstimulation (or mis-stimulation) when lifting anything even slightly heavy is something to be guarded against. Many sports injuries, such as those in older people performing unfamiliar moves, happen not because they reach too far or too hard, but because their nervous system is not sufficiently practiced to be able to protect the muscle.

While no model for limb movement can be perfect, for the majority of everyday tasks, close may be good enough. The eventual plan is that the patient and the control algorithm will learn together in tandem so that the training screen will not be needed at all. At that point, we might say that Case Western will have a pretty slick interface to offer.

via Restoring the function of arms that have been disconnected from the brain – ExtremeTech

 

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