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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

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Course: Brain Fitness Coach, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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