Tag Archives: Orange County Register

Fine-Tuning of Brain Function and Autism

Perhaps you have a friend or family member on the autism spectrum?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

Dr. Martha Herbert, pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, wrote an article about autism that was published online for the Orange County Register on October 18, 2013.  She wrote: “Some autism self-advocates don’t think autism is a “disorder” at all – they describe themselves as having a “condition” that is simply a different way of being human.”

Her article, “Autism challenges us to ‘think different,'” did indeed challenge me to think differently about the subject.

Here’s an excerpt from her article regarding the brain and autism that has implications for us all:

“The areas where people on the autism spectrum have the hardest time are the functions requiring the most exquisite fine-tuning of brain function. The brain requires loads of energy to fire its signals, and to coordinate them. When the brain and body are worn down by too much stress and exposures from the environment, its cells are going to have a hard time generating that energy. The most complex functions will be harder to perform. They may even be put on hold, to protect the rest of the system.

A brain with low energy is going to be challenged when the demand gets high – so finding the right words or tone, figuring out what facial expressions mean, integrating vision with sound and smell, being coordinated, paying attention or even being flexible – all of these will be hard – often too hard.

From this perspective you can see why there would be a spectrum in autism – it’s because there are a million ways of getting overloaded and running out of energy. Each person has their own unique combination of genetic weak spots and exposures that pile on top of this. Each person has their own total load recipe.” Check out the whole article here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/spectrum-531927-autism-many.html

There is a lot to learn. I am intrigued to check out her book, The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be.

Anyone read it?

I hope that you are taking care of your brain so that it is not overloaded.

One thing you can do to keep your  brain happy and healthy is to exercise.  Try just a casual walk with a friend to reduce your stress. Your brain will be happy you did!



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Want to Check out Einstein’s Brain?

Today there’s an app for almost anything– even an app to check out microscopic pictures of Einstein’s brain.  The Chicago branch of The National Museum of Health and Medicine created the app, Einstein Brain Atlas, and you can purchase it on iTunes for $9.99.

How is it we even have pictures of Einstein’s brain?

Well, a pathologist, Dr. Thomas Harvey, thought they might be useful one day, I suppose.

Dr. Thomas Harvey harvested Einstein’s brain shortly after his death in 1955.  There is controversy surrounding how he got Einstein’s brain and if he had permission to obtain it.  However, it has been said that Einstein wanted his brain donated to science and researched. Most of his brain now remains at the University Medical Center in Princeton and, in 2011, 46 slivers of Einstein’s brain went on display at the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library in Philadelphia. (I gathered this information from huffingtonpost.com. Click here to read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/05/einsteins-brain-well-connected-hemispheres_n_4045095.html (check out the slideshow about Einstein’s brain too!).

Even though Einstein is considered a genius, he isn’t the only one to have his brain harvested and researched.  UC Irvine has collected 210 brains for their 90+ study.  It seems the donated brains may give researchers insight into longevity and healthy living. Here’s what reporter, Lori Basheda, of the Orange County Register, wrote about the 90+ study:

“More than 4 million people in this country have dementia. The number of people in the dementia-ripe age range (90 and older) will quadruple by 2050, according to National Institute of Health projections.

And right now there is no consensus about what causes Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia, let alone a cure or sure-fire prevention.

In a nutshell: One camp of researchers believes that a buildup of protein plaques in the brain causes Alzheimer’s. Another camp believes that protein tangles are to blame. And there are outlying researchers who don’t agree with either theory, saying the explanation is more complicated.

Kawas’ collection of brains lends credence to the latter conclusion. Forty percent of the people in the study who displayed no signs of dementia in life had post-mortem brains that were riddled with plaques and/or tangles.” Published: Oct. 11, 2013 Updated: Oct. 13, 2013 6:29 p.m. To read the whole article click here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kawas-530623-study-brains.html

Alzheimer’s disease is so complex and puzzling.

Thank you to those who are donating their brains to help others– a true gift to future generations!

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