Brain fitness class’ monthly Q&A: Memory, stress, emotions, and more

Reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants in the new e‑course How to Be Your Own Brain Fit­ness Coach can take part in a month­ly online Q&A ses­sion to dis­cuss progress and open ques­tions with the course fac­ul­ty and with fel­low par­tic­i­pants. Below is the tran­script of the Octo­ber 30th Q&A ses­sion, light­ly edit­ed and anonymized.

Course Fac­ul­ty (or F): OK, we are ready to start. You can start writ­ing and sub­mit­ting any ques­tions and com­ments! The Inter­net seems to be very slow today, per­haps giv­en Sandy storm. We have a Com­cast crew in front of our build­ing. Let’s try to see if this works today, and if not we’ll find anoth­er day and time.

Course Par­tic­i­pant (or P): The results so far of my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the course How to be you own brain fit­ness coach…1. I fol­lowed up the brain fit­ness plan that I designed at the end of the course. 2. Men­tal stim­u­la­tion pil­lar — Trans­la­tion of sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles from Eng­lish to Span­ish. 3 While I trans­lat­ed I lis­ten to clas­si­cal music. 4. Slow pace at the begin­ning. Then faster pace. 5. Then I became ful­ly aware of the mate­r­i­al 6 At the same time the music began mak­ing sense. I was able to under­stand every word. Key is the inte­gra­tion of the four pil­lars dis­cussed in the course. It is like some­thing click.

F:  That looks fas­ci­nat­ing indeed! Some­one else has already watched any of the lectures?

P: I just watched the first les­son last night. I am very excit­ed about the qual­i­ty of the knowl­edge, expe­ri­ence, and exper­tise of all of you.

P: I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in what the speak­er said in les­son 1 about the brain mak­ing sense of emotions.

F: Yes, that is key. We often view mem­o­ry, think­ing, emo­tions, as com­plete­ly sep­a­rate enti­ties, but they tru­ly are part of the same process, so if we want to improve over­all brain health we need to pay atten­tion to the “weak link” what­ev­er it is. And in today’s soci­ety, man­ag­ing stress and neg­a­tive emo­tions is often that weak link.

F: A par­tic­i­pant men­tions he has attend­ed some very inter­est­ing wine cours­es in the past, and embarked on inter­est­ing wine-relat­ed activ­i­ties. What is the dif­fer­ence between this brain fit­ness course and those wine courses?

P: Where­as the wine cours­es were very stim­u­lat­ing, it is only one area. The dif­fer­ence is that this course acti­vates the whole nextwork. The connectome.

F:  Inter­est­ing point. The wine cours­es pro­vid­ed men­tal stim­u­la­tion, where­as this course leads to more holis­tic and inte­grat­ed actions (well, as much as the stu­dent actu­al­ly leads them!)

P: You are dis­cussing the con­cepts that I have been liv­ing. My own sit­u­a­tion is very com­pli­cat­ed. I’m try­ing to fig­ure out how to talk about it in this lim­it­ed for­mat. It’s a chal­lenge but def­i­nite­ly a very good one for me.

F: Indeed it is good to see chal­lenges as good oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow…as long as we have the toolk­it to do so. This is what we want­ed to bring via the course: knowl­edge and a toolk­it to empow­er you to deal with chal­lenges. We can obvi­ous­ly not go into per­son­al details, but what would you say is one of the areas you want to learn more about via this course?

P: My brain was injured because of hypox­ia dur­ing a pro­ce­dure in the cath lab 8 years ago. It’s been very dif­fi­cult get­ting any help but I have been very suc­cess­ful in that I got my claim approved through my long-term care insur­ance pol­i­cy. This means I have a large month­ly bud­get for the rest of my life to hire a team of peo­ple who can help me man­age my life.

F: That is indeed one area we can­not go deep since this is a course aimed at health and the gen­er­al pub­lic, we can­not deal with indi­vid­ual clin­i­cal needs. But it is good you have that bud­get — are you work­ing with a good neuropsychologist?

P: My team now includes a per­son­al assis­tant to help me man­age details in my life like my home. I have a per­son­al chef who comes one day a week so that I can eat the best foods to sup­port my brain. I have 2 excep­tion­al chi­ro­prac­tors who help man­age my food, body, and emo­tions. I have a a mas­sage ther­a­pist who also works with my doc­tors and helps me com­mu­ni­cate with them. My internist does inte­gra­tive med­i­cine. I have a house­keep­ing team who takes care of the inside of my home and the out­side. I am the only claim of this sort at my insur­ance company.

F: That is a great team to help cope with life in its mul­ti­ple facets. What a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist could help you with is with iden­ti­fy­ing the par­tic­u­lar brain-based skills you may need help with and lead a cog­ni­tive rehab process, so you get bet­ter over time.

P: When you get to the four pil­lars of good brain health you will see that is like build­ing a room to pro­tect your brain. It will all come togeth­er. Believe me. I am 78 years old I am begin­ning a new career. Yes, it is possible.

F: I like the metaphor of “build­ing a room.” What would you say of the oth­er tools we dis­cuss in the course, such as biofeed­back and cog­ni­tive training?

P: Tremen­dous help. The rea­son is that those two tools togeth­er with med­i­ta­tion bring the whole into one.

P: Today, because of my team, I am able to con­tin­ue prob­lem solv­ing in my life. I have been very suc­cess­ful at this, but have to be very care­ful about avoid­ing hyper­vig­i­lence. I want to work on emo­tion­al con­nec­tions to the peo­ple around me. That’s why I picked up on the lec­tur­er’s men­tions of emotions.

F: That makes sense. I think you’ll enjoy the talk and activ­i­ties around med­i­ta­tion and biofeed­back dur­ing ses­sions 2 and 3

P: I just signed up for a mind­ful­ness work­shop at UCLA in Decem­ber. I’m look­ing for­ward to that.

F: Excel­lent. We have found that biofeed­back tools can make it eas­i­er to under­stand and mas­ter mind­ful­ness, so per­haps you want to give it a try before your Decem­ber work­shop to arrive well equipped. 

F: Based on every­thing we cov­er in the course, how would you say you self-mon­i­tor progress now? how does that com­pare to what you did before the course?

P: It is much bet­ter know. That is the rea­son why I am able to do what I do.

F: How do you know it is bet­ter now?

P: One mea­sure. How many peo­ple do you know that are able to trans­late a sci­en­tif­ic man­u­script at 1000 words every 5 hours at my age?

P: This is very inspiring!

P:  Nev­er take no for an answer. That is no mine. Its Win­ston Churchill.

F: That is indeed inter­est­ing. I real­ly don’t know about aver­age trans­la­tion speed rates, but what you are say­ing is that now you feel more in con­trol, you feel you can per­form bet­ter that before. I agree that is what matters.

P: One of my goals in the course is to be able to pass on resources to my LTC insur­ance com­pa­ny. They are shock­ing­ly igno­rant about the needs of some­one with a cog­ni­tive impair­ment claim. I am also the agent on this pol­i­cy. I worked for this com­pa­ny for 27 years. I would not have got­ten this claim if not for the help of associates/friends who are experts in LTC insur­ance. My new “job” is to make it pos­si­ble for reg­u­lar peo­ple to get this kind of help through their poli­cies. It does­n’t appear to be hap­pen­ing right now.

F: That is indeed one huge gap — so it is good to hear you are try­ing to solve it! cog­ni­tive health in gen­er­al has been and still is neglect­ed with­in over­all health, and this is only start­ing to change because of a com­bi­na­tion of new sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy AND peo­ple like you try­ing to dri­ve chance. See this brief note and paper, quite rel­e­vant. It is not the same condition/ cause, but the under­ly­ing theme is the same: how to accel­er­ate cog­ni­tive rehab.

P: I just had an inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion with the claims man­ag­er of my LTC insur­ance provider when she asked me how my doc­tors know if I’m get­ting bet­ter for worse. The best I could do was say I just by my lev­el of stress. It is impor­tant to me to be able to objec­tive­ly mea­sure that. One of the prob­lems in my sit­u­a­tion is that it’s not a straight line because of my brain injuries.

F: A neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist would also be able to assess your start­ing base­line of brain func­tion­ing and then doc­u­ment how that evolves over time. Dur­ing the course we dis­cuss a num­ber of tools for con­sumers to do this them­selves as a proxy but this would­n’t be rel­e­vant to your situation.

P: My insur­ance com­pa­ny did­n’t want to approve my claim for severe cog­ni­tive impair­ment until I had dete­ri­o­rat­ed to the point where it was vis­i­bly obvi­ous. No one with a lim­i­ta­tion of their oth­er phys­i­cal activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing is required to wait until their life is total­ly destroyed to get help. I am for­tu­nate to be going thru this at a time when peo­ple are hear­ing about foot­ball play­ers and sol­diers whose lives are being destroyed because peo­ple don’t believe the need help.

F: Indeed, brain prob­lems are often “silent” and that is a tragedy. That’s why we have been track­ing assess­ments for years, “you can’t man­age what you can’t mea­sure.” We have only a few min­utes left. Any oth­er feed­back regard­ing the course? is every­thing clear? how to watch lec­tures, access mate­ri­als and discussions…

P: Not yet, but I’m sure I will. How do I ask ques­tions oth­er than the Q&A sessions?


F: To the course fac­ul­ty, via this month­ly Q&A. To oth­er fel­low stu­dents, via the Dis­cus­sion Forum.

P: Thank you for this Q&A.

F: Have a nice day!

–> The next Q&A ses­sion will take place on Tues­day, Novem­ber 27th. To Learn More and Reg­is­ter: click on How to Be Your Own Brain Fit­ness Coach

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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