Monthly Archives: September 2015

Books and Your Brain Continued… Paper or Plasma

old book

By: Tina Davidson

Reading and Your Brain

Did you know you can exercise the deep reading part of your brain quite simply? All you have to do is put down your Kindle (after you’re done reading my blog, of course) and spend some time reading a paperback book instead.

I found a great link to an article, based on a radio interview, that discusses our bi-lateral brain and why we shouldn’t only read from screens.

You can read about it here. I found the following quote interesting:

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.

What about you? Did your brain just skim the quote I posted? Did you skip reading the full article?

Thanks to @movedtowrite for retweeting the link to this article on Twitter!

Writing and Your Brain

I guess we still need old-fashioned books and the experience of writing with pencil on paper. Here’s a quote from another interesting article that @tara_in_canada tweeted.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

The article also mentions the benefits of students taking notes by hand rather than on a laptop.

I think technology has its benefits (I love being able to create graphics on my laptop) but there’s still a lot to figure out when it comes to the effects of technology on the brain.

Wi-Fi and Your Brain

I posted a link previously from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) about Wi-Fi in the schools and how schools should proceed with caution in regards to devices that emit electromagnetic frequencies (stay wired for internet if possible). When I read the recent article: “First US Public School District Limits Wi-Fi Radiation Exposure to Students and Staff,” I found this to be good news.

Ashland, Massachusetts Public Schools have implemented Wi-Fi Device “Best Practices” which include turning the Wi-Fi off when not in use and keeping devices on a table.

Let’s use technology but limit the radiation exposure is basically what the school is implementing and promoting.

Hopefully, schools aren’t trading in all our kids’ textbooks and notebooks for Chromebooks too quickly (Sorry, Google, if you were hoping to take over the school market). Hopefully, we’ll find a happy balance with technology in our homes and schools. One day my children and perhaps grandchildren may write a handwritten note to thank me for keeping them safe.

Join me, @tinabrainblog, on Twitter and let me know what interesting brain facts you’ve stumbled upon lately.

Sources:

Twitter

“Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing.” The Takeaway. September 18, 2014. Editor T.J. Raphael.

“What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” http://www.nytimes.com. Maria Konnikova. June 2, 2014.

“First US Public School District Limits Wi-Fi Radiation Exposure to Students and Staff.” SBWire. September 25, 2015.

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Books for Your Brain Health

Happy Fall! Despite its beautiful red colors, poison oak seems to always be in season along CA's Central Coast.

Happy Fall! Despite its beautiful red colors, poison oak always seems to be in season along CA’s Central Coast.

Although the hot temperatures along California’s Central Coast make it seem more like summer, according to the calendar, it is the first day of Fall. Hooray!

Here’s a look back on my summer reading list:

  • The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healing Your Sinuses by Ralph B. Metson, M.D. with Steven Mardon (2005)–just skimmed this one in hopes of finding some nugget of wisdom to help me with my hearing loss from my ruptured ear drum.
  • Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior- The Groundbreaking Story of The Gut-Brain Connection edited by Teri Arranga, Claire I. Viadro, MPH, PhD, and Lauren Underwood, PhD (2013)–reads more like a scientific paper- you’ll learn all about helminths (aka parasitic worms) and fecal microbiota transplantation! The stuff that big pharma doesn’t want you to read.
  • The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine by Terry Wahls, M.D., with Eve Adamson (2014)–super fascinating–I don’t have MS but I am more conscious of eating for my mitochondria now.
  • Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life by David Perlmutter, M.D., with Kristin Loberg (2015)–great stuff–especially for those looking to heal your gut. Dr. Perlmutter’s book allows a few more foods in your diet that the Wahls Protocol suggests you take out.
  • Power Food for the Brain: an Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., with recipes by Christine Waltermyer and Jason Wyrick (2013)–interesting–had a slightly different take than other books on the topic– recommends no meat in diet and no mention of probiotics.
  • The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: the Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch (2010)–some fascinating stuff I hadn’t read before–surprised she didn’t include any research about the importance of sleep and probiotics though–maybe she assumed that was a given? Or just too much material to fit in one book?

I’m currently reading, “The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole my Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped me get it Back” by Clark Elliott, Ph.D. (2015). I’m eager to keep reading this one because I’ve cheated and found out how it ends. Here’s a portion of the book’s synopsis quoted from Dr. Elliott’s website:

After eight years, the cognitive demands of his job, and of being a parent finally became more than he could manage. In one final effort to hold on to his life, Clark crossed paths with two brilliant Chicago-area research-clinicians—one an optometrist using neurodevelopmental techniques, the other a cognitive restructuring specialist—working on the leading edge of brain plasticity. Together, they targeted the visual centers of Clark’s brain, teaching him to use new neural pathways where others had been damaged. The impact was dramatic. Within weeks, the ghost of who he had been returned.

Concussions are so terrible. I love that Dr. Elliott’s story has a happy ending. 🙂

How about you? Do you like happy endings? Have a good book on brain health to share? I’d love to hear about it so I can add it to my Fall reading list.

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Pain, Music, and Your Brain

Music-on-Brain

By: Tina Davidson

I used to brag about how I never got sick and how I hadn’t been on antibiotics for over ten years. I should have known better–as the saying goes, “Pride goeth before the fall” (adapted from Proverbs 16:18).

About four months ago, over the course of a week, I desperately needed antibiotics to combat an infection. I’m not sure how I would have survived without antibiotics because the pain from the infection was so great. The first doctor I saw prescribed Amoxicillin. Unfortunately, this antibiotic couldn’t kick the infection, so four days later the next doctor prescribed the tenacious, Augmentin. This antibiotic combated the bad bacteria no problem and my pain was relieved. (Sadly, Augmentin probably killed off some of my good gut bacteria as well. I recommend the book, “Brain Maker,” by Dr. David Perlmutter on this topic)

My tale of woe began with a sore throat–the kind where I could barely swallow–and it lasted for a week. On the seventh day, with a little help from Vitamin I, aka ibuprofen, I thought I was on the mend. Then things got worse. That evening the pain in my head went from a level 1 (slightly-painful) to a level 10 (Old Faithful was gonna blow!). After a grueling night of no sleep and lots of prayer (2 Corinthians 12:9), I texted a friend in the morning and she urged me to see a doctor and offered to watch my children (I am forever in her debt!).  After my children were safely inside my friend’s house, I drove white-knuckled to the urgent care as the pressure in my head heightened like labor pains. It felt like my ear was trying to give birth to another ear.

Once in the waiting room I tried not to make eye contact with the other sufferers.  I handed the receptionist my insurance card and managed to choke out, “My head really hurts and I can no longer hear out of my left ear.” Despite her sympathy, she couldn’t change the estimated forty-five minute wait time.

I grabbed some tissue and writhed in a corner of the waiting room–doing my best to fill out the new patient form and not scare the other patients with my Gollum-like state. I wanted to pull out my hair and scream, “My precious!” (I recommend you watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy if you haven’t yet). I had lost something precious to me–my health! Luckily, I managed to not totally lose my mind and all my hair.

After what seemed like an eternity of corner writhing, I finally saw a doctor.  He diagnosed me with an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection in my left ear. I left with a prescription for antibiotics (Amoxicillin), some more Kleenex, and still lots of pain. Four days later the pressure in my head was hovering around level 9.5 (Calgon take me away!) and the fluid draining from my left ear had turned red (reminding me of the Nile in Exodus 7:14-25), so I made an appointment to see an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist).

The ENT informed me that my left ear drum had ruptured and prescribed more antibiotics (hence, Augmentin).  She gave me ear drops to combat the infection from the outside and pills to combat it from the inside. I was told it would take 10 to 20 days for all the fluid to drain. A week later I couldn’t hear out of my left ear and continued to experience ringing. It has been over four months and my ear is still not 100% better. I lost weight, sleep, and part of my sanity during this trial but I gained a whole new appreciation for those who are sick and in pain.

Distraction from Pain

When my head pain hovered near the 6-8 level (on my personal pain scale), I tried reading as a distraction. Surprisingly, I found a brain health reference in a book I had least expected it–in a book about Zumba. The book mentioned a study that had used drumming to help Parkinson’s patients (Zumba is type of dance workout that is all about rhythm). Of course, I was immediately intrigued by this rhythm/brain connection. I made a mental note to investigate this idea further–when I was feeling better–so, here’s what I found out.

Music Therapy

I found a 2006 article in the Saturday Evening Post that mentioned the music therapy research of Dr. Ron Tintner, co-director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston. Prior research showed that rhythm makes people move, but he was specifically interested in finding out if certain rhythms helped Parkinson’s patients move better. (Anyone know what the results were after the trials? I can’t find any new publications/articles following up with Dr. Tintner on the matter.)

More recently, the American Physical Theraphy Association released information in 2013 that trials in Canada were using iPods as the next tool to help improve freezing of gait, the inability to continue walking or start walking, in Parkinson’s patients.

The system is called Ambulosono, and it uses an app called Gait Reminder in conjunction with motion sensing technology in an iPod Touch. The iPod is strapped to an arm or leg, and the app controls music, which plays or stops based on the quality and synchronization of the patient’s stride length, arm swing, and other factors. The system was featured in a YouTube video posted by the University of Calgary in May. States News Service
This sounds similar to the device Dr. Tintner was looking for:
“Over the course of a year, we want to determine which acoustic stimuli will help Parkinson’s patients move and function better. Ultimately, the goal would be to create a device, perhaps similar to a personal music device that would be tailored to each Parkinson’s patient’s needs,” he said.

Whether you have Parkinson’s or not, listening to and/or playing music can help contribute to your overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that music can influence babies as well as boomers according to a TEDx talk by Jessica Grahn, a cognitive neuroscientist.

If you are pregnant and are considering special womb headphones for your baby, the kind of headphones that you stick on your belly so your baby can listen to classical music, aka smart music, you should watch Jessica’s TEDx talk.  It is nice to see her debunk some of the hype around such gadgets.

Spoiler alert: Playing classical music to your baby in the womb isn’t going to increase your baby’s brain function. She recommends you save your money and buy some calming mp3s instead.

The most important bit of information that I took away from Jessica’s talk is that music can help reduce pain! I like the sound of that and I’m sure those suffering from pain do as well.

Here’s some other great benefits of listening to music:

  • Aids in stroke rehabilitation
  • Improves endurance and perceived exertion during exercise
  • Helps Parkinson patients with walking (as mentioned previously)
  • Helps dementia patients with memory recall

This list of benefits is sure to grow as scientists continue their research on the effects of music on the brain. I was especially intrigued by the article, “A Brain for Rhythm.”  This article talked about Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart, and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.  They are working together to try to crack the “rhythm code” in regards to how it can help with diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“We’re going after the rhythm code,” Hart says. “If we crack it, we may be able to use that information to diagnose and treat these brain diseases. That’s the big enchilada!”

Hart’s mother has Alzheimer’s so I understand why this research is important to him.  I recommend reading the whole article.  There is fascinating stuff going on in brain research with brain rhythms.

The Big Enchilada of my Health Issues

The following quote sums up my health issues nicely:

The nervous system controls the function and regenerative process of every cell in the body–including the sinus cavity and channels.  If the nervous system is not in a state of coherence, this means energy is not flowing from brain to body and the cells of the sinuses are not regenerating. This may also have an effect on the eustachian tubes, leading to chronic ear infections and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).  Its not a drainage problem.  Its a nervous system out of balance. Yonge Finch Health Team

So, maybe I just need to get my nervous system back in balance. Perhaps you do too? I hope to continue to share tips for a healthy brain and continue to apply what I’ve learned to my own life.

You had me at “Neuroscience”

Are you especially drawn to reading an article if it uses the word “neuroscience”? I recommend you check out: “Superfluous Neuroscience Information Makes Explanations of Psychological Phenomena More Appealing.” I read about it on the blog Mindhacks.

Medical Disclaimer: All information on http://www.tinadavidson.wordpress.com is the opinion of the author and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please contact your physician if you need medical attention and do not delay seeking professional assistance/treatment because of something you have read on this blog. The information posted here is for general knowledge and entertainment.

For more information on music therapy, check out the following resources:

Sources & Resources

FCR – Endonasal Therapy. YoungFinchHealth.com

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Vestibular.org

Zumba: Ditch the Workout, Join the Party! the Zumba Weight Loss Program [With DVD] Perez, Beto ( Author ) ] { Hardcover } 2009.

Hearing Loss Tied to Brain Shrinkage. Blog.aarp.org

“Parkinson’s Patients Sing in Tune with Creative Arts Therapy.” PR Newswire 14 June 2011. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

 “Unique music therapy research is under way at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston.” Saturday Evening Post July-Aug. 2006: 51+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

“IPODS-THE NEXT TOOL IN PARKINSON DISEASE TREATMENT?” States News Service 17 Oct. 2013. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

“Music Therapy: One Key for People with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease.” Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Feb. 2001: 3. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

A Brain for Rhythm. The-Scientist.com

Freezing of Gait. Encyclopedia of Movement Disorders. Bloem, B.R., Delval, A., Mahabier, S.W., Snijders, A.H.2010, Pages 486–491.

Fernandez-Duque, D., Evans, J., Christian, C., & Hodges, S. (2015). Superfluous Neuroscience Information Makes Explanations of Psychological Phenomena More Appealing Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27 (5), 926-944 DOI: 10.1162/jocn_a_00750

Music and the Brain. TEDx talk by Jessica Grahn posted on Inside the Brain

Music, Rhythm, and the Brain. BrainWorldMagazine.com

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