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Poll: 93% believe mental health system needs to change

mental health

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Satch­er-Kennedy: How to fix the men­tal health sys­tem (USA Today):

…an over­whelm­ing major­i­ty (96%) of the pub­lic agrees that men­tal health con­di­tions, such as depres­sion, anx­i­ety and alco­hol or drug abuse are seri­ous pub­lic health prob­lems, accord­ing to a new poll by Pub­lic Opin­ion Strate­gies. Almost as many (93%) believe that the cur­rent way we are han­dling men­tal health needs to change…

Fifty-two years ago this week, Pres­i­dent John Kennedy Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding Brain Imaging

Daniel Lende and Greg Downey run the though-pro­vok­ing Neu­roan­thro­pol­o­gy blog. Daniel also teach­es a class at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame, and he asked his stu­dents to sub­mit group-based blog posts in lieu of the tra­di­tion­al final essays. He explains more on Why A Final Essay When We Can Do This?.

Below you have a spec­tac­u­lar post writ­ten by 4 of his stu­dents. They show how brain imag­ing is start­ing to pro­vide a win­dow into the plas­tic­i­ty (glos­sary here) of our brains, and how our very own actions impact them. For good and for bad.

Under­stand­ing Brain Imag­ing

— By Chris Dud­ley, Matt Gasperetti, Mikey Nar­vaez, and Sarah Walors­ki

Do you remem­ber the anti-drug pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment from the 1980s that showed an egg fry­ing in a hot pan which rep­re­sent­ed your brain on drugs?

Read the rest of this entry »

Build Your Cognitive Reserve: An Interview with Dr. Yaakov Stern

Yaakov SternDr. Yaakov Stern is the Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter, and Pro­fes­sor of Clin­i­cal Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy, at the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, New York. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez inter­views him here as part of our research for The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness book.

Dr. Stern is one of the lead­ing pro­po­nents of the Cog­ni­tive reserve the­o­ry, which aims to explain why some indi­vid­u­als with full Alzheimer’s pathol­o­gy (accu­mu­la­tion of plaques and tan­gles in their brains) can keep nor­mal lives until they die, while oth­ers -with the same amount of plaques and tan­gles- dis­play the severe symp­toms we asso­ciate with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. He has pub­lished dozens of peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic papers on the sub­ject.

The con­cept of a Cog­ni­tive Reserve has been around since 1989, when a post mortem analy­sis of 137 peo­ple with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease showed that some patients exhib­it­ed few­er clin­i­cal symp­toms than their actu­al pathol­o­gy sug­gest­ed. These patients also showed high­er brain weights and greater num­ber of neu­rons when com­pared to age-matched con­trols. The inves­ti­ga­tors hypoth­e­sized that the patients had a larg­er “reserve” of neu­rons and abil­i­ties that enable them to off­set the loss­es caused by Alzheimer’s. Since then, the con­cept of Cog­ni­tive Reserve has been defined as the abil­i­ty of an indi­vid­ual to tol­er­ate pro­gres­sive brain pathol­o­gy with­out demon­strat­ing clin­i­cal cog­ni­tive symp­toms. (You can check at the end of this inter­view a great clip on this).

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Key take-aways

- Life­time expe­ri­ences, like edu­ca­tion, engag­ing occu­pa­tion, and leisure activ­i­ties, have been shown to have a major influ­ence on how we age, specif­i­cal­ly on whether we will devel­op Alzheimer’s symp­toms or not.

- This is so because stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, ide­al­ly com­bin­ing phys­i­cal exer­cise, learn­ing and social inter­ac­tion, help us build a Cog­ni­tive Reserve to pro­tect us.

- The ear­li­er we start build­ing our Reserve, the bet­ter; but it is nev­er too late to start. And, the more activ­i­ties, the bet­ter: the effect is cumu­la­tive.

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The Cog­ni­tive Reserve

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Dear Dr. Stern, it is a plea­sure to have you here. Let me first ask you this: the impli­ca­tions of your research are pret­ty broad, pre­sent­ing major impli­ca­tions across sec­tors and age groups. What has been the most unex­pect­ed reac­tion so far?

YS: well…I was pret­ty sur­prised when Read the rest of this entry »

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