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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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What Everyone Should Know About Stress, Brain Health, and Dance

-- Dancing to the clapping of bands. Egyptian, from the tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, about 3300 B.C. (British Museum.)

– Danc­ing to the clap­ping of bands. Egypt­ian, from the tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, 6th Dynasty, about 3300 B.C. (British Muse­um)

Every­one expe­ri­ences stress at some point in our lives. It is impor­tant to know that stress can harm the brain, and also that dance can be a great avenue for a per­son resist, reduce, or escape it.

Stress can change the phys­i­cal struc­ture and func­tion of the brain, affect­ing wiring and thus per­for­mance of one’s activ­i­ties. Read the rest of this entry »

What Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance

dance

— The Dance for Ath­letes class at Glen Burnie High School per­forms a swing piece

Dance. Is it mere­ly art?  Is it just recre­ation?  Think again.

Dance is now being stud­ied as a path­way to enhance learn­ing.  And, sci­en­tists say, edu­ca­tors and par­ents should take note of the move­ment.

Recent­ly at the annu­al meet­ing of the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science annu­al meet­ing, more than 6,800 atten­dees paid rapt atten­tion to renowned chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Mark Mor­ris as he answered ques­tions about Read the rest of this entry »

To Harness Neuroplasticity, Start with Enthusiasm

We are the archi­tects and builders of our own brains.

For mil­len­nia, how­ev­er, we were obliv­i­ous to our enor­mous cre­ative capa­bil­i­ties. We had no idea that our brains were chang­ing in response to our actions and atti­tudes, every day of our lives. So we uncon­scious­ly and ran­dom­ly shaped our brains and our lat­ter years because we believed we had an immutable brain that was at the mer­cy of our genes.

Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training for Babies: Hope, Hype, Both?

Train­ing the brain is pos­si­ble because of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. Our dai­ly expe­ri­ences can trig­ger neu­ro­plas­tic changes in the brain, such as the growth of new brain cells (neu­rons) and new con­nec­tions (synaps­es) between neu­rons. Plas­tic­i­ty is observed at all ages but is at its peak dur­ing brain devel­op­ment, as a baby and then a child learns basic knowl­edge and skills nec­es­sary to sur­vive. We should thus expect that the brain of a baby could be eas­i­ly trained. This is what Wass and his col­leagues recent­ly demon­strat­ed in a new study with 11-month-old babies. Read the rest of this entry »

Education builds Cognitive Reserve for Alzheimers Disease Protection

Giv­en the grow­ing media cov­er­age men­tion­ing the terms Cog­ni­tive Reserve and Brain Reserve, you may be ask­ing your­self, “What exact­ly is my Cog­ni­tive (or Brain) Reserve?”

The cog­ni­tive reserve hypoth­e­sis, test­ed in mul­ti­ple stud­ies, states that indi­vid­u­als with more cog­ni­tive reserve can expe­ri­ence more Alzheimer’s dis­ease pathol­o­gy in the brain (more plaques and tan­gles) with­out devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease symp­toms.

How does that work? Sci­en­tists are not sure but two pos­si­bil­i­ties are con­sid­ered.
1. One is that more cog­ni­tive reserve means more brain reserve, that is more neu­rons and con­nec­tions (synaps­es) between neu­rons. Indi­vid­u­als with more synaps­es would then have more synaps­es to lose before the crit­i­cal thresh­old for Alzheimer’s Dis­ease is reached.
2. Anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty is that more cog­ni­tive reserve means more com­pen­sato­ry process­es. The brain of indi­vid­u­als with more cog­ni­tive reserve would use more alter­na­tive net­works to com­pen­sate for the dam­ages caused by the pathol­o­gy in pre­vi­ous­ly used net­works.

In a new­ly pub­lished study, Roe and col­leagues brain fitness event from Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in St. Louis, used the num­ber of years of edu­ca­tion as a mea­sure of cog­ni­tive reserve. Why years of edu­ca­tion? Because pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that peo­ple who have more edu­ca­tion also exhib­it a greater resis­tance to Alzheimer’s symp­toms, even while patho­log­i­cal changes are occur­ring in the brain (see Ben­nett el al., 2003 or Roe, Xiong, et al., 2008).

Roe and her col­leagues stud­ied 198 indi­vid­u­als whose mean age was 67. Out of these 198 indi­vid­u­als, 161 were non­de­ment­ed and 37 were diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease.

All the par­tic­i­pants in the study took a Read the rest of this entry »

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