Brain-Building: The Key to Longevity?

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4 Essential Facts You Need to Know About Neuroplasticity

In the last decade, it has become clear that our brain’s ability to function at its highest level is, at least partly, within our control.  Genetics and head trauma play a role but so does our environment, the foods we eat, and the quality of our daily brain workout. 

In 2014, on Father’s Day weekend, I was in a boating accident.  I was a passenger in a 4-seater SeaDoo jet boat driving in a no-wake zone.  A young inexperienced driver in a 27 foot speed boat struck us at full speed.  I had broken ribs and a concussion.  There is so much I could write about the effect of that accident on my life – about how it gave me a new perspective on things, about how I look at each day differently, and about how blessed I am to have the people in my life that supported me after the accident.  But, the scope of this article is to share with you the importance of neuroplasticity in a brain that is damaged by trauma, age, environmental factors and the failure to give the brain the attention it deserves and requires.

The word, “neuroplasticity” comes from the root words, “neuron” and “plastic.”  “Neuroplasticity refers to the potential that the brain has to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs.”[1]  The old school of thought was that the brain is static, except “during some critical developmental periods.”[2]  We now know that is not true.  Our brains are remarkable.  They can reorganize pathways, create new connections and even create new neurons throughout your lifetime if treated well. (Click Link to Tweet)

Here are the bare-bone facts about neuroplasticity.

  1. Neuroplasticity Occurs Under 2 Conditions:  “(1) during normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood (developmental plasticity and plasticity of learning and memory), and (2) as an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of brain injury.”[3]

2.  Cells that Fire Together, Wire Together.   “When people repeatedly practice an activity or access a memory, their neural networks — groups of neurons that fire together, creating electrochemical pathways — shape themselves according to that activity or memory.”[4]  Over time, “these connections become thick, hardy road maps that link various parts of the brain. When people stop practicing new things, the brain will eventually eliminate, or prune,” the connecting cells that formed the pathways.[5]  Thus, you must always continue to practice new things to create new pathways and to make sure the “map” in your brain will take you where you want to go.

3.  Our Senses are Closely Connected to Memory and Cognition.  Thus, a weakness in one of the brain’s pathways can effect one of more of your senses.

 For example, we all know that Alzheimer’s patients slowly lose their memories. One way this manifests is that they eat less food. Why? As it turns out, visual deficits are also a part of Alzheimer’s. People eat less because they can’t see the food as well. Another example is in normal age-related cognitive changes. As we grow older, we get more forgetful and distracted in large part because our brain does not process what we hear, see, and feel as well as it once did. The result is that we can’t store images of our experiences as clearly, and so have trouble using them and recalling them later.[6]

4.  Neuroplasticity is directly related to age.  The brain changes at all ages, “but different kinds of change are relevant at different ages.”[7]   The brain will change and rewire itself through its life in responds to stimulation of learning and experience. “As we age, the rate of change in the brain, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, declines but [it] does not come to a halt. In addi­tion, we now know that new neu­rons can appear in cer­tain parts of the brain up until the day we die.”[8]   We may increase our brain’s plasticity to try to slow down the aging process.

So what can you do to improve your brain’s function?

  1. Get evaluated by a good functional neurologist so that you can discover any brain weaknesses and any metabolic issues affecting your brain function. Click here to read our blog post about functional neurology and click on any of our doctors’ names below to read about their training.
  2. Engage in neurological therapies. Click here for a list of some of the therapies we use in our office.
  3. Have your brain-mapped and trained using neurofeedback. Click here to read our blog post about neurofeedback or here to visit our neurofeedback website.
  4. Meditate.  Click here to visit Dr. Joe Dispenza’s website to learn about how meditation changes the brain.
  5. Try one of the many brain-training “games” on-line like, Lumosity, Peak, Elevate, or Fit Brains. You can also get these on your phone as mobile apps.

The good news is that for most people, you can improve the brain’s neuroplasticity if you are capable of learning anything new, no matter how small.  Obviously, the level of improvement will depend on many factors. You will notice even greater improvement when you combine one or more of the action steps above.

As for me, I’ve done “all of the above” and will continue to work out both my body and my brain in hopes of living a long and healthy life.  I may also avoid boating for a while  🙂

Dr. Keith S. Ungar
May 17, 2015

www.balancingyourchemistry.com
Email: info@feohio.com
Functional Endocrinology of Ohio
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330) 644-5488
Cleveland: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd., Ste. 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216) 236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, and Dr. Andrew Kender, Chiropractic Physicians
Click here to make an appointment.

[1] http://www.whatisneuroplasticity.com
[2] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/15/neuroplasticity-brain-health.aspx
[3] http://www.efpta.org/docs/NeuroplasticityMM-474891-29-04-2012.pdf
[4] http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-neuroplasticity
[5] Id.
[6] http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-plasticity/what-is-brain-plasticity
[7] http://www.efpta.org/docs/NeuroplasticityMM-474891-29-04-2012.pdf
[8] http://sharpbrains.com/resources/1-brain-fitness-fundamentals/neuroplasticity-the-potential-for-lifelong-brain-development

Quick Guide to Neurofeedback

NF Quick GuideQuick Guide to Neurofeedback

Hello everyone, I am one of FEO’s Neurofeedback Technicians. I love this job because I get to help clients achieve their goals and diminish symptoms with which they have suffered for years. Some of these symptoms may include sleep issues, social hinders, migraines, depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and memory loss. I feel so lucky because I get to see people come in longing for help and watch them leave a happier, more collected person!

Neurofeedback is pretty high-tech stuff, but I will try to give as simple of an explanation as I can. Neurofeedback is the study of analyzing the speed of neural cells and how fast they are firing from one cell to the next.  Basically, we are looking at the electrical activity of the brain. We can identify neuronal abnormalities such as anxiety, depression, ADD, and ADHD, and then correct them with neurofeedback. How do we do this, you may ask? We record a brain map called an E.E.G. and then create a customized training protocol to help that specific client.

Brain Maps

A brain map is a report that is generated from collecting data from the brain.  We collect the data by putting an electro-cap (looks and feels like a swimmers cap) on the clients head.  19 small round sensors cover the cap. Each of these sensors reads the brain activity of a particular part of the brain and our computers record this information.   From there, the lab prepares a report based on the data collected and generates a report for our doctors.   The report includes colorful pictures of the brain that correlate to what is going on in the brain.  It shows what areas are firing too quickly or too slow, or areas where the brain waves are too high or too low. After analyzing the report, our doctors meet with each client individually to discuss the findings and create a protocol for them.

Brain Training Sessions

After the doctor creates a protocol, I take over and set the client up for their brain training session. A session comes in many different forms. The main purpose of the neurofeedback session is to exercise the brain and make it more flexible. We can achieve this goal through a variety of different means:

  • watching a movie
  • relaxing with your eye closed
  • listening to music
  • playing virtual arcade games.

During these trainings, the client receives sound or visual rewards. The rewards encourage the brain to maintain the desired level.  (The level correlates to the brain map findings.) After being rewarded, your brain will learn how to gain more rewards and eventually your brain will embrace and want the new levels. That’s why neurofeedback is successful over 90% of the time!

Neurofeedback can help with many conditions, including:

  • sleep disorders
  • chronic fatigue
  • memory loss
  • ADD/ADHD
  • migraines
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • fibromyalgia
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • traumatic brain injuries
  • concussions

To learn more, visit our main website at www.balancingyourchemistry.com or our neurofeedback-specific website at www.brainbalancingandneurofeedbackcenter.com.

I will be back next month to go more in depth about neurofeedback, stay tuned!

Author: Klinger, Missty. February 19, 2015

Just the DNA PleaseFunctional Endocrinology of Ohio
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road,Suite 100, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330)644-5488
Independence: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd.,Suite 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216)236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, Dr. David Starkey, Dr. Andrew Kender, Chiropractic Physicians