The Brain Needs Exercise Too
Our brain is one of the most vital, yet complex organs in the body. Not only is it the control system for the entire nervous
system, but it also gives us the capacity for things like art, language, morals, rational thought, personality, memories,
movement, and our five senses. The brain is also responsible for controlling our unconscious movements like breathing and
digestion. Because the brain loses function as we age, it is important to take action and keep challenging the brain to keep it
active and functioning to the utmost ability. Regular physical exercise is important for the brain especially if it requires balance
and co-ordination like table tennis. Exercise will increase the blood flow to the hippocampus which is the part of the brain
responsible for memory, and increase the production of new brain cells.
It is also important to stay social and involved with others. Studies show that the interacting with others on a regular basis can
prevent cognitive decline. Volunteering at a charity or joining a book club can be a big help.
The food in your diet can make a big difference in brain function as well. Dark fruits and veggies like kale, spinach, beets,
eggplant, avocados, blueberries, raisins, prunes, red grapes, and oranges can help keep the neurons in the brain firing. Fish
like tuna, trout and salmon and walnuts are also good food for the brain.
One of the most important things you can do to help the function of the brain is to exercise it and challenge yourself on a daily
basis with games like crossword puzzles, word scrambles, Sudoku, etc. Nintendo also has a program for the DS called Brain
Age that has great activities for all ages. If you don't want to spend money on an expensive game system check out
www.brainmetrix.com, www.braingle. com, or www.sharpbrains.com for some free mental exercises that can really make a
Research shows that exercising the brain can increase alertness, agility of thought, creativity, concentration, brain speed,
reflection, and improve the function by 10 years. Get started today and keep your brain going strong.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative, inflammatory disease that affects about 13 million people worldwide. It is
estimated that there are 360,000 new cases in the US per year and that number is expected to triple over the next 40 years.
Alzheimer's disease causes some of the nerve cells in the brain to die which makes it difficult for brain signals to be transmitted
properly. After the disease has been diagnosed, it could progress as quickly as 2-3 years or a person could live with the
disease for up to 20 years. Symptoms of the disease include impaired memory, disorientation, confusion, forgetting common
things like the meaning of numbers or the people in their lives, trouble performing familiar tasks, changes in personality and
judgment, problems communicating, loss of drive and sleep patterns, impaired vision, etc. The actual cause of Alzheimer's is not
known, but there are several things that have been shown to be significant factors to the disease. Over time, the brain
develops plaques which is a build up of a protein called beta-amyloid between the nerve cells and tangles which is protein
called tau in the nerve cells. People with Alzheimer's tend to develop much more of these proteins at a much quicker rate.
Family history can be a factor. While there is no cure medical for Alzheimer's at this point, there are some things you can do to
decrease your chance of getting the disease. Recent studies have shown that a vitamin B12 deficiency can be missed by
currently available blood tests. A B12 deficiency can cause many of the same symptoms as dementia and Alzheimer's. The most
reliable test is to take a good quality B12 supplement such as Standard Process Cataplex B12 or Biotics Research B12-2000 for
at least a three month trial. B12 can significantly improve the symptoms. Inflammation is a leading contributor and possibly a
cause of the disease. Eating a well balanced diet with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies is also very important in keeping a
healthy mind. Foods rich in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as cold water fish can help keep the
pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in balance as we discussed in our March newsletter (see www.CareWC.com for archived
newsletters). This can decrease the chance of getting the disease. It is imperative to stay active both mentally and physically.
Do what you can today to take care of your health. It is never too late to start taking care of yourself to make sure you have a
long and healthy future.
Old Brains Learn New Tricks
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
By Emily Singer
Imaging neurons in the living brains of mice shows that these cells can grow in surprising ways -- perhaps suggesting new
ways to treat spinal cord injuries and other neurological problems.
Scientists once thought the adult brain was set in its ways. Now they're discovering that adult neurons have a remarkable
ability to grow and change -- and researchers at MIT have shown that some neurons can sprout new branches and retract old
These findings, published in last week's issue of PLoS Biology, an online journal from the Public Library of Science, add to a
growing body of evidence that older brains are, in fact, still agile. The same method that researchers applied in the current
study could be used to assess the best ways for encouraging brain cells to grow, which would help people with spinal cord
injury, stroke, and other disorders. "This could be a powerful diagnostic or a way to test therapies," says Elly Nedivi, the
professor of neurobiology at MIT who led the research team. Nedivi and her collaborators used mice that had a few neurons
labeled with fluorescent dye, so the cells could be seen under a microscope. They shaved off a small piece of a mouse's skull
and covered the opening with glass. Using that "window," they then took pictures of the fluorescent neurons with a
two-photon microscope, a technique that provides very high-resolution images of living brain tissue. And, finally, to record how
the neurons changed over time, they captured images of the same neurons over several weeks.
Their laborious work paid off. What they found was that dendrites -- those treelike extensions on neurons which receive
information from other brain cells -- grew, shrank, and changed over time. "You see the full range of types of growth you see
during development, such as growth spurts, new processes, or new branching from [the main neuronal process]," says Nedivi.
"This is what the brain is doing on a day-to-day basis." In previous studies, scientists had observed structural changes in tiny
spikes on the surface of dendrites, called spines. But, by painstakingly reconstructing larger portions of neurons, Nedivi and her
colleagues Wei-Chung Lee, Peter So, and Hayden Huang revealed larger-scale changes in the dendrites, which may have gone
unnoticed with other methods.
"We know that throughout life we learn things, so synapses must be changing in some way. But people didn't know if the
same synapses were getting stronger or weaker, or if whole new ones were forming or old ones were disconnected," says
Harvard neuroscientist Joshua Sanes, who generated the mice used in the MIT study. "This raises those last possibilities: that
some changes may involve wholesale formation of new synapses or loss of old ones."
Edward Callaway, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in San Diego, says these new findings are the first clear indication that
larger structural changes occur in dendrites. But, he adds, researchers still need to show that these structural changes are
linked to changes in the connections between neurons. Nedivi and colleagues now plan to search for ways to boost the growth
and plasticity of neurons, which could eventually provide a new approach to treating spinal cord injuries. They will also
determine if such structural changes correlate with changes in learning and behavior, such as might occur after mice are
challenged with a more stimulating environment or new tricks.
An additional area of interest, according to David Kleinfeld, a physicist who studies neurobiology at the University of California,
San Diego, would be to investigate what happens to neurons in brain regions affected by stroke. "Blood vessels sprout in the
'dead zone' left after a stroke," he explains, "but it's unknown if you get sprouting of neurons at the same time."
The MIT researchers will also look at mouse models of diseases such as Alzheimer's, to figure out if neurons involved in such
disorders grow too much, too little, or in the wrong way.
Copyright Technology Review 2006.