Friday, May 28, 2010

Drive to buy 'Sat nav' of brain surgery

Medtronic Navigation equipment The Medtronic Navigation equipment has been dubbed the "sat nav" of brain surgery
State-of-the-art equipment, dubbed the "sat nav" of brain surgery, could be coming to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
The Sick Kids Friends Foundation has announced a £220,000 fundraising drive to buy the technology, which produces 3D images of children's heads.
The groundbreaking equipment could help more than 100 children each year.
Patients would receive the most up-to-date neurosurgery treatment to help brain tumours, epilepsy and infections.
The kit is currently available in only one other paediatric centre in the UK.
Soft skull The new Medtronic Navigation equipment, which the Sick Kids Friends Foundation hopes to deliver to the hospital by early Autumn, uses image guidance technology to "map" the patient's brain by combining MRI, CT and Fluoroscopy to give 3D images of the child's head.
The position of the surgeon's instruments can then be tracked against those images during operations.
The 'sat nav' kit allows this type of technology to be used on children without the need to fix pins into the head, making the procedure available to babies, whose skulls are too soft for the use of pins, for the first time.
Maureen Harrison, Sick Kids Friends Foundation's chief executive, said: "Without technology such as this it can be difficult for surgeons to ensure, for example, the accurate positioning of a shunt in a child's brain, especially for infants.
"The Medtronic Navigation equipment will give surgeons a much clearer picture of the brain and enable them to work more precisely."
Jerard Ross, consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, added: "This piece of equipment is a significant advance in neuro-surgical technology.
"It will help us manage patients, both new and old, who come to Sick Kids for help with a range of conditions, including hydrocephalus."

Dr. Oz's B.E.A.C.H. Diet.

Earlier this month, That's Fit talked with three working moms from Detroit who'd been challenged by "The Dr. Oz Show" host Dr. Mehmet Oz to get "beach body ready" using his B.E.A.C.H. diet and fitness plan. Four months later, when the ladies returned to "The Dr. Oz Show" on May 18, they'd lost between 30 and 60 pounds apiece. Impressive, huh? Here's a more detailed look at how the B.E.A.C.H plan can help you get ready to make some waves.

Eat Breakfast
The "B" in B.E.A.C.H. stands for breakfast, which you should ideally have shortly after you wake up each day. "In study after study, people who eat a healthy breakfast lose more weight than those who don't," said Dr. Oz. "Eating soon after you wake up in the morning gives you the calories and energy you need for the day and kicks your metabolism into gear." Choose breakfast foods that contain protein and fiber, like scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast or a bowl of whole grain cereal. "Whole grain cereal is one of your best weight loss allies because the fiber in the cereal helps fight hunger all day long," said Dr. Oz. This yummy oatmeal recipe from Dr. Oz's "YOU: On A Diet" (co-authored by Dr. Michael Roizen) kick starts your day with four grams of fiber!

Banana Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Cinnamon
Makes 3 servings, 200 calories per serving
2 1/3 cups fat-free milk
2/3 cup steel-cut oats
1/8 tsp salt
1 large banana, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 2 cups of the milk to a gentle simmer. Stir in the oats and salt. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring frequently until most of the milk is absorbed and the oats are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in banana and cinnamon. Pour into two cereal bowls and serve with remaining 1/3 cup milk.

Eliminate the Simple Carbs
The "E" in B.E.A.C.H. stands for eliminating foods that contain simple carbohydrates -- white rice, white potatoes and any breads, pastas, cereals cookies, cakes, crackers, pastries, muffins and so forth that are made with refined white flour and sugar. And don't overlook cutting out these liquid sources of simple carbs (often called wet carbs): Soda, fruit drinks, juices sports/energy drinks and alcohol. The simple carbs in these kinds of foods and drinks are dieting Kryptonite. They're digested very quickly, causing wide swings in blood sugar that make you feel hungry again not long after you've eaten. To keep your appetite in check, opt for foods with complex carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables and breads, cereals and pastas made with 100 percent whole grains. It takes longer to digest complex carbohydrates, so your blood sugar stays steady and you can go longer without feeling hungry.

Exercise (Almost) Every Day
The "E" also stands for exercise -- something the three healthy housewives of Detroit did six days a week. Cardio exercise (biking, treadmill, kick boxing, dance) will burn off calories, while strength-training with weights or core workouts like yoga and Pilates build and tone muscle, which will help you burn more calories overall, even when you're not exercising. "Muscle burns several times more calories than fat," explained Dr. Oz. "More importantly, you burn more calories between muscle-burning workouts than the actual workout, which is the opposite of what happens when you just walk or run." Still, burning even a few more calories than you eat each day will add up, so when you don't have time for a full workout, look for opportunities to organically work exercise into your daily activities. On your break, go for a walk instead of sitting and reading a magazine. Park at the far end of the lot, and then walk to the mall or market. Take the dog for a hike. Play tag or Frisbee or kick the ball around with your children on the playground. Use the restroom that's two floors down from your office and take the stairs to get there instead of the elevator or escalator. Track your progress with a pedometer and work up to 10,000 steps a day. Every two pounds you lose trims an inch off your waistline, Dr. Oz said.

Add Antioxidants to Your Plate
Fresh summer produce is one of the go-to sources for the "good" carbohydrates that control hunger, and, provided that you don't drown them in rich sauces and dressings, are also so low in calories you can go back for seconds and thirds without feeling like you're "cheating." But the fruits and vegetables in season now (and throughout the year) have one more thing going for them: They're chock-full of antioxidants -- the "A" in B.E.A.C.H. The compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors also help reduce inflammation in the body, which indirectly helps with weight loss. "Inflammation contributes to chronic stress in the body, which activates certain receptors in the brain that lead us to overeat -- the same receptors that give people the 'munchies' after smoking pot," said Dr. Oz. Less stress equals less rampant snacking, which equals more weight loss.

Indulge in Dark Chocolate
Yes you can! Every diet needs a little splurge, and the B.E.A.C.H. plan builds it right in with dark chocolate -- the "C" in B.E.A.C.H. -- so it's not cheating! (As long as you don't have too much, said Dr. Oz.) A nibble of dark chocolate (look for brands with 70 percent cacoa) will satisfy a sweets craving when you're in the mood to excavate a gallon of ice cream. And savor this morsel: Dark chocolate is another gold mine of the same kinds of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that work behind the scenes to help you lose weight by reducing inflammation. And, yes, it has to be dark -- milk chocolate contains far fewer antioxidants than dark, and white chocolate none at all.

Hydrate Yourself

The "H" in B.E.A.C.H. stands for hydration, which is especially important in summertime because you can lose a lot of fluids through sweat. But staying hydrated also plays a big role in your weight loss efforts, said Dr. Oz, because we often mistake thirst for hunger and grab a snack when what we really need is something to drink. "You can really shed pounds by taking a drink when you feel hungry because chances are, some of the time, you'll really be thirsty," he said. But, again, skip the soda, beer, juice or sports drinks because those things are loaded with calories and sugar. Your best bet on a warm summer day? Water. Drink it unadorned, or, if that's just too blah, try a no-calorie flavored water or mix seltzer with a splash of fruit juice.

Quantcast Ultrasound Helps Spot Stroke Risk in Symptomless Patients

Screen may allow doctors to identify those who would benefit from surgery, study finds
Researchers say ultrasound can successfully spot patients at risk of having either a stroke or a "mini-stroke" due to a narrowing of the carotid artery - the main vessel in the neck that brings blood to the brain.
Click here to find out more!
The finding could help doctors more easily identify patients whose otherwise undiagnosed carotid blockage could, in fact, be relieved through a standard surgical procedure, known as an endarterectomy.
Discussion of the potential benefit of ultrasound screening is presented online May 28 by a team led by Hugh Markus of St. George's University of London, in advance of publication in the June print issue of The Lancet Neurology, and is also slated for presentation this week in Barcelona at the European Stroke Conference meeting.
Although an endarterectomy is a risky operation that can itself prompt a stroke, the authors note that when successfully performed, the procedure does in fact reduce the risk for stroke by up to 75 percent among patients who display symptoms of arterial narrowing.
However, whether or not surgery is the optimal treatment for the blockage known as "carotid stenosis" in patients who display no symptoms has been an open question, given that many can best benefit from non-surgical options such as lifestyle changes.
To see whether ultrasound could spot symptom-free patients who would be good surgical candidates, Markus and his colleagues focused on 482 such patients from health facilities all over the world whose arteries had narrowed by at least 70 percent.
Every six months over an 18-month period, one-hour ultrasounds were administered to detect small blood clots and plaque related to arterial narrowing. Stroke incidence was tracked for two years.
The study authors found that those patients identified by ultrasound to have had such clots and plaque were 2.5 times more likely to experience a stroke or mini-stroke (also called a transient ischemic attack), and determined that the procedure was effective in identifying both low-risk and high-risk patients.
The researchers concluded that ultrasound, which is a noninvasive and inexpensive technique, "might be a useful risk predictor for identifying those patients who might benefit from intervention with carotid endarterectomy."

Medical Experts perceive new anatomical images in Sistine Chapel painting

Two neuroanatomy experts claimed recently that Michelangelo left secret anatomical images in his paintings on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
4th bay of the Sistine Chapel ceiling depicting Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden.
The experts, Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, are from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
They wrote about their findings in the scientific journal Neurosurgery, the Huffington Post said.
According to Neurosurgery, in his final stages of painting the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted four frescoes along the longitudinal apex of the vault.  This would complete a series of nine central panels that depicted scenes from the book of Genesis.
Suk and Tamargo contend that the artist concealed a neuronanatomic structure in the final panel of this series, called “Separation of Light From Darkness.” Here, he painted a ventral view of the brainstem, according to Neurosurgery.
Suk and Tamargo noted that Michelangelo was a master anatomist who dissected cadavers many times—aside from being an artist.
“We propose that Michelangelo, a deeply religious man and an accomplished anatomist, intended to enhance the meaning of this iconographically critical (final) panel and possibly document his anatomic accomplishments by concealing this sophisticated neuroanatomic rendering within the image of God,” they wrote in Neurosurgery.
The experts were not the first to make such contentions.  In 1990, physician Frank Meshberger, in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the central panel which showed God Creating Adam, contained a perfect anatomical illustration of the human brain in cross section, according to the Huffington Post.
The same report says Suk and Tamargo mention a precise depiction of the human spinal cord and the brain stem including the eyes and optic nerve.  This is seen in the chest and throat area of Michelangelo’s painting of God, which is situated directly above the altar.
It took Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, starting from the chapel’s entrance and ending just above the altar. The last panel he painted depicts God separating light from darkness. This is where the researchers report that Michelangelo hid the human brain stem, according to the Huffington Post.
The anatomical irregularities in the artist’s depiction of God’s neck in this final panel, plus discordant lighting which seems to spotlight the neck had long been cited by art critics and historians, the Huffington Post said.
This has given rise to speculations as to why a master artist with such knowledge of anatomy such as Michelangelo would so carelessly bungle his depiction of the image of God, particularly at the throat—and spotlight it–above the altar, the Huffington Post reports.
Suk and Tamargo contend that the distortion is intentional, as it is the only panel with such distortion and irreconcilable lighting.  This is because the precise features of the human brain are concealed in the distortion.
The Huffington Post also said that a human spinal cord can be detected in a roll of fabric that extends from the center of the robe of God in the painting.  The cloth is bunched up and in the folds the spinal cord ascends to the brain stem that is hidden in the distortion on the artist’s image of God’s neck.
The way the robe twists is also unnatural to how the fabric would be normally draped.  The crumpled robe also reveals optic nerves from two eyes, which approximate Leonardo Da Vinci’s illustration of 1478.  Da Vinci and Michelangelo were contemporaries and acquainted with each other’s work, the Huffington Post said.
Other scholars have seen a kidney in Michelangelo’s painting, and ponder over the possibility that he was preoccupied with such because he had kidney stones.  There is however the contention that the images seen in the Sistine Chapel painting may have been perceived in the same way as one would perceive a Rorschach test, the Huffington Post said.
Meaning to say, anatomists would be inclined to see anatomy.  Others may build on this and wonder if such hidden images would contain secret messages.  Symbolism is used whether in the literary or other forms of art, and particularly in paintings.
Historians would note that this was a time when Protestants had clashed with Catholics, and scientists with the church—particularly the monk Copernicus who said the earth revolved around the sun, a new idea not yet acceptable at that time.
Hence, added impetus for Michelangelo to possibly conceal these anatomical images.   Michelangelo did lend his own face to Saint Bartholomew’s body (the saint was skinned alive) and to the severed head of Holofernes, who was seduced and beheaded by Judith, according to the Huffington Post.
And while we may never know if what is perceived is what is seen–and whether what seems to be recognized is adequately interpreted to be a secret message from the artist–all must agree that Michelangelo’s work is provocative and awe inspiring, the Huffington Post says.

Woman Walks Better For First Time in 20 Years

HOUSTON - A Houston-area woman was only 11 years old when she suffered a brain aneurysm that permanently paralyzed the left side of her body.

Celicia Hughes cannot believe after living with the paralysis for almost 20 years, new technology is helping her return to a normal life.

The life-threatening aneurysm usually only happens to adults.

"The type of aneurysm I had was probably congenital, Normally, it would happen later in life. For some reason, it happened then and there's no way to know why it happened," explains Hughes.

Whatever the reason, the aneurysm damaged the right side of her brain, which affects the left side of her body. She now has a condition known as drop foot, where she has a hard time picking up her foot.

Hughes counts on a device called Bioness L-300.

Therapists at Dynamic Orthotic & Prosthetics in Houston make sure the device is fitted just right.

"It sends a signal through the nerve to the brain and tells the brain to pick the foot up in the swing phase. Before this treatment, Hughes had a difficult time walking and would often trip and even fall down," explains certified orthotist Jeremy Bilow.

"I actually have scars all over the place. I fell in December, right before I tried the Bioness. It scraped off all the skin. There was no skin on the back of my hand. I had bruises and scars all over the place," says Hughes. She says the frustrating thing about it, instead of getting better, the older she gets, the more she trips.

"I was to the point where I had to look at the ground and measure every single step that I took," says Hughes.

That is until she started using the device with electrodes.

"It's very rewarding to fit her with this device because she benefits so much from it, and it makes her much safer in the community," says Bilow.

"I tried it on and immediately it was like, oh, this is perfect! The muscles that have been dead for 20 years because of lack of use, the electrical stimulation in the Bioness unit actually stimulates those muscles and forces them to work, when they don't know how to work," says Hughes.

Now, Hughes hopes a similar device can help stimulate her arm.

"I have good range of motion with my arm, but basically from wrist down -- nothing!," says Hughes. She hopes the device will help develop her muscles enough for her to stop wearing it someday, but if not, says she is happy to wear it for life, to be able to walk right.

Bilow tells FOX 26 News that this device is very expensive. It costs almost $6,000.

Hughes had to save up her money for it, but says it was well worth the cost for her. It helps treat similar problems for people who have had a stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy.

Health insurance currently only pays for it to help people with spinal cord injuries.

What coaches can learn from neuroscience research

Advances in neuroscience now can provide guidance for the development of a new view of mental health/illness that can be translated into practical applications for personal, executive and life coaches.

In a ground breaking article entitled "A New Intellectual Framework for Psychiatry," Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel proposed several principles based on neuroscience research. Of these principles, perhaps the most important is that "all mental processes, even the most complex psychological processes, derive from the operation of the brain," Kandel also suggested that genes do not explain differences in mental illness and that experience and environment have significant influences.

Researchers Nydia Cappes, Raquel Andres-Hyynan and Larry Davidson of the Yale School of Medicine have proposed 7 principles of brain based psychotherapy that all coaches should become familiar with:
Find a Therapist

Principle 1: Both genetics and the environment interact in the brain to shape the individual. Both nature and nurture are equally capable of modifying brain structures;

Principle 2: Experience transforms the brain. New experiences, creating new neural pathways, can physically change the brain.

Principle 3: Memory systems in the brain are interactive. Memories are not a perfect account of what happened; they can be constructed at the time of retrieval in accordance with the method used to retrieve it. The sense of well-being and the development of personality and emotions are clearly tied to the capacity to store and retrieve information;

Principle 4: Cognitive and emotional processes work in partnership. There can be no knowledge without emotion. Emotional feelings and memories are interactive;

Principle 5: Bonding and attachment provide the foundation of change. The therapeutic relationship between coach and client can have the capacity to help clients modify neural systems and enhance emotional regulation;

Principle 6: Imagining activates and stimulates the same brain systems as does real perception;

Principle 7: The brain can process nonverbal and unconscious information. Unconscious processes exert great influence on thought, feelings and actions. It is possible to react to unconscious perceptions without consciously understanding the reaction;

In the past decade, coaching as a profession has grown significantly to the point of being the second fastest growing profession next to IT. Organizations such as the International Coaching Federation have attempted to establish uniform principles and standards to underpin coaching practices, but coaching remains an unregulated profession with a wide range of training programs and coaching practices.

As a trainer of coaches entering the profession or sharpening their skills, or in assisting executives in augmenting their coaching skills, I have been struck by the prevalence of the basic lack of a fundamental understanding of the principles of human behavior and human performance by many. Anyone who is serious about becoming a coach or practicing their coaching skills would be wise to become knowledgeable about the most recent developments in neuroscience, such as the seven principles described above.

Investigations show lead in tap water causes brain damage

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) public water cannot exceed .015 mg/liter in more than 10% of tap water samples.  The EPA also claims lead in tap water can cause mental deficits in learning and attention span in children. (1)

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) states 10 micrograms (ug) per deciliter (dl) is an elevated lead level within blood. (2) In a  1998 sample of 19 states, the CDC found that 7.6 percent of children tested had elevated blood lead levels (BLL). In Ohio, some counties had BLLs in 27.3 percent of tested children.(2)
The affects of lead poisoning can be gradual as lead builds up and is stored in the body's kidneys. A wide range of lead related symptoms, temporary or longer term brain damage is reported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).(3) These potential affects of lead are lowered IQ, difficulty concentrating, learning dysfunction, seizures and coma.

Mary Beth St. Clair and Sandra A. Zaslow of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service have claimed in a study of water quality and waste management that lead free water is an unenforceable goal. This is in part due to the lack of maximum lead level allowed in tap water by the EPA.(4)

In a 2004 Washington Post investigation, it was discovered multiple cities throughout the United States had tampered with municipal water lead level results. This was later confirmed by a congressional report on the CDC's use of bad data to assess D.C. water contamination levels according to Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press.(8) Among the highest polluted water supplies was that of Washington D.C., and it is believed that both the EPA and city water suppliers may have been avoiding enforcement and costly repairs to the water systems.(5)

In an article published by, blood lead levels below the EPA action level are stated to have negative affects of brain functioning. Moreover, the article references a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which claims there is evidence that shows lead in levels below 10mcg/dl have adverse affect on children's brains.(6) This is further confirmed by a Medical Medscape Medical News report citing evidence from tests using Magnetic  Resonance Imaging (MRI)(7)

So how much lead is in municipal drinking water supplies nationwide? This question may be harder to answer if similar practices to that reported by the Washington Post continue to occur. Since only 'action' rather than elimination of lead is required by the EPA when water lead levels reach a certain amount, there may indeed be no immediate way to reduce lead levels in municipal water supplies. In such cases,  at home water lead testing kits can be obtained for between $10 and $40 and steps can be taken to reduce lead exposure. These steps involve removing lead from household sources of lead be they plumbing fixtures, paint or water.

Brain fitness

TOP: Leona Begrand (left) and Eileen Forrieter are participating in a brain fitness exercise during a Brain Fitness and Enrichment class at the University of Regina's College Avenue's campus.; BOTTOM LEFT: Pam Bocking (left) and Lillian Langford build a house of cards during a Brain Fitness and Enrichment class; BOTTOM RIGHT: Marjorie Will (left), Sally McCallion (centre) and Evelyn Gay paint during a class.

TOP: Leona Begrand (left) and Eileen Forrieter are participating in a brain fitness exercise during a Brain Fitness and Enrichment class at the University of Regina's College Avenue's campus.; BOTTOM LEFT: Pam Bocking (left) and Lillian Langford build a house of cards during a Brain Fitness and Enrichment class; BOTTOM RIGHT: Marjorie Will (left), Sally McCallion (centre) and Evelyn Gay paint during a class.
At 91, Gladys Whyte still appears to be sharp as a tack.
"I want to keep as alert as I can right to the end," she insists.
"If there's something I can do to help myself be brain active, I will."
So she works to keep active -- both mentally and physically -- doing whatever she can to prevent age-related cognitive decline.
Whyte is one of 32 students -- ranging in age from their 50s to their 90s -- in a new Brain Fitness and Enrichment class offered through the University of Regina's Seniors Education Centre. The course explores ways to retard memory loss and age-associated slowdown.
Your brain -- like your body -- needs a good workout to stay healthy and fit, says Holly Bardutz, the University of Regina neurolinguistics prof who was recruited to teach the brain fitness class to seniors.
Brain fitness requires more than just doing copious Sudoku and crossword puzzles. While that might make you good at doing puzzles, it won't help all your other cognitive functions, Bardutz points out.
So she incorporates brain fitness circuit training into her class.
Variety is the key.
On the fourth week of the two-hour class, participants were divided into two groups: the right hemisphere group and the left hemisphere group. Why? Because people learn differently. The right side of the brain is more visual and processes intuitively, holistically and randomly. It's used to do art and creative activities. The left side of the brain -- used for math and language skills -- processes in a logical and sequential order.
Most people seem to have a dominant side. When we're learning something new, difficult or stressful, we prefer to learn a certain way, Bardutz explains. In brain fitness circuit training, participants are challenged to venture outside their comfort zone.
"It has to be challenging for the brain, or why bother," insists Bardutz.
As part of their brain workout, Bardutz sent one group to a room where its members focused their attention on meticulously painting figurines -- an enjoyable, easy task for the artistically inclined, but an activity that proved challenging, and sometimes frustrating, for those who aren't.
When they finished painting, participants were challenged to build a house with playing cards -- not an easy feat, as many soon discovered.
Others got a physical workout -- throwing sticky balls and catching them with round bats, or hitting a small ball back and forth with paddles.
Next, they worked on a written exercise.
"There's a good assortment of activities," 61-year-old Pat Rivera said. "I enjoy the variety."
While Bardutz admits there are no guarantees that exercising your brain will prevent you from getting dementia or Alzheimer's, she says there are specific mental exercises that benefit the older brain. And she points out that it was recently discovered that "the brain can actually grow new brain cells even in mature and older adults."
"As long as you are requiring new brain cells, you will make new brain cells," she says, adding that this is contrary to the common belief that people only have the brain cells they're born with.
Terry Leahy, a member of the U of R Seniors Education Centre's education committee, recruited Bardutz to teach the brain fitness and enrichment class.
"Not enough seniors challenge themselves," he suggested.
So he signed up Bardutz. Then he signed himself up for her class.
Rather than exercising and honing what you already know, it's important to challenge yourself and learn something new, Leahy insists.
And although he describes some of the brain fitness activities in Bardutz's class as "very silly and menial", Leahy is quick to add that he can see the sense and science behind them.
"She's trying to challenge us all the time," he says of Bardutz.
"By doing novel activities, their brains are calling for reinforcement. So we need new brain cells," Bardutz explains.
Think of your brain as a muscle." If you use your muscle, you're going to keep building your muscle. If you don't, you won't," Bardutz says.
Staying physically active, mentally active and socially engaged go hand-in-hand, she says.
"In order to keep the brain functioning and fit and healthy, there has to be a socialization part. And it has to be fun. And it shouldn't be too stressful. You have to walk that fine line between being challenging, but not to the point that you're stressed," Bardutz explains.
Exercising the brain isn't restricted to the classroom. Bardutz recommends the following at-home activities:
- Drink water. The brain works less efficiently if dehydrated.
- Eat healthy fats everyday, such as fish and nuts. Good nutrition is vital.
- Exercise three to four times a week, especially aerobically. This can mean just going for a walk.
- Try meditating for 20 minutes every day.
As a result of the overwhelming response to the first brain fitness and enrichment class, the Seniors Education Centre is offering another session beginning in June. It's open to anyone age 55 and up. For more information, visit or call 585-5816.
Brains need exercise, Bardutz reiterated.
And as the Seniors Education Centre motto points out: "It's never too late to learn."

Bullet in brain, revenge in mind

After a strange detour into World War I for "A Very Long Engagement," Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French di rector of "Amelie," is back to more lighthearted whimsy with the delightful "Micmacs."

The setting (again) is Paris, where Bazil (Dany Boon) is a video clerk who is happily watching Howard Hawks' "The Big Sleep" when a stray bullet from a nearby shooting lodges in his brain.

Addled after surgeons decide on a coin's toss not to remove the bullet, Bazil becomes obsessed with its manufacturer, whom he identifies as also being responsible, coincidentally, for a land mine that killed his father.

By this point, Bazil is living in a junkyard with a band of eccentric, gadget-oriented street people who help him with a convoluted plan to embarrass the arms dealer (Andre Dussollier).

Among Bazil's confederates (and possible love interest) is the contortionist Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), who hides in a package the gang smuggles into the dealer's apartment, which our hero monitors by way of microphones lowered into his fireplace.

There's also Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), an expert lock-picker; Buster (Dominique Pinon), who tries to top his long-ago record as a human cannon ball as part of the plot; and Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), whose math talents are summed up by her name.

Giant magnets, ropes, pulleys, fishing poles and other low-tech devices are employed by Bazil, who sort of fancies himself as a reincarnation of Philip Marlowe, the private eye played by Humphrey Bogart in "The Big Sleep."

Jeunet employs generous helpings of music from the older movie, as well as pieces of other scores by the great Max Steiner. Influenced by Jacques Tati, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton -- as well as the British "Carry On" slapstick farces -- this film has long stretches without any dialogue at all.

"Micmacs" will appeal to older children, despite the film's ridiculously inappropriate R rating.

Brain Volume alleged to be changing in people with Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder faced due to obsessive fear of gaining extra weight. If an individual may be underweight and continue starving, this may affect physiological systems throughout the body, including the brain tremendously. Though unclear, it has been observed that the volume of the brain reduces in this disease. Now according to the study undertaken by the Columbia University Center for Eating Disorders, improved treatment can possibly help regain the grey matter volume of the brain. With the help of MRI the investigators scanned the brains of 32 adult female AN patients and 21 healthy women. The AN patients were already present in a controlled room and the healthy women displayed no psychiatric bad health.
Christina Roberto, MS, MPhil from Yale University team leader shared, “Anorexia Nervosa wreaks havoc on many different parts of the body, including the brain. In our study we measured brain volume deficits among underweight patients with the illness to evaluate if the decline is reversible thought short-term weight restoration.”

It was made known by these scans that there is less grey matter brain volume in AN patients than the healthy women. It also seemed to affirm that patients, who were underweight and faced the illness for the longest time, suffered the greatest reductions in brain volume.
Roberto commented, “The good news is that when women with Anorexia Nervosa received treatment at a specialized eating disorders inpatient unit at Columbia University which helped them gain to a normal weight, the deficits in brain volume began to reverse over the course of only several weeks of weight gain. This suggests that the reductions in brain matter volume that results from starvation can be reversed with appropriate treatment aimed at weight restoration.”
Although the investigators claim that underweight adult patients with AN have reduced brain volumes that increase with short-term weight restoration, there are many facts that are still unknown to them. They are unable to determine how brain volume deficits impact functioning, the specific regions of the brain that are most affected or if these deficits are linked to then how do the patients respond to treatment.
The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

For alcohol related brain damage

woman in hospital with doctr.jpg
For alcohol related brain damage(Getty Images)
The dietary supplement CDP-choline, that acts as a brain-boosting agent and under study for stroke and traumatic brain injury, may prevent skull and brain damage resulting from alcohol consumption early in pregnancy, according to a new research.

Dr. Erhard Bieberich, biochemist in the MCG Schools of Graduate Studies and Medicine, reported that during pregnancy, alcohol consumption increases levels of a lipid called ceramide - which can harm brain and skull development.

Resulting neural crest damage the formation process of the brain.

"There is just a little window," Bieberich said, about four weeks after conception when neural crest cells emerge for a few days before morphing into other cell types that help form numerous organs.

MCG researchers found high levels of ceramide both in mouse cells and pregnant mice exposed to alcohol along with a five-fold increase in apoptotic, or dying cells. "There is a clear correlation," he said.

They also found that during the critical period, there were defects in the fibrous joints that connect the skull.

Alcohol prompts the body to produce more ceramide from the brain lipid sphingomyelin, a major component of cell membranes. They found that CDP-choline pushes back toward producing less ceramide, preventing damage providing the drinking stops.

"Ceramide can be bad or good," notes Bieberich, who has shown, for example, ceramide's role in helping early stem cells evolve into embryonic tissue - as long as the alcohol consumption stops.

"Hopefully we can rescue some of the cells by triggering or signaling the back reaction," Bieberich said.

He also wants to see if CDP-choline affords the same protection in pregnant mice that it does in laboratory cells.

The report appears in Cell Death and Disease .

Researcher studies ‘earworms’ for insight into brain

Andréane McNally-Gagnon wants to put earworms in other people’s heads, earworms that belt it out like Gloria Gaynor or croon like French pop stars.
“Yeah, I know that’s mean,” the PhD candidate at the University of Montreal says with a light laugh. “But the point of doing that is to be able to study it, with MRI or some other kind of imaging technique, to see what’s happening in the brain.”
McNally-Gagnon is in her second year of her PhD in neuropsychology and studying the old phenomenon of getting a song stuck in one’s head. She suspects earworms may do more than stimulate auditory regions in the brain — they may also light up regions similar to those activated by people with pathologies like obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If that’s the case, earworms might one day give researchers new insight into disorders.

The term “earworm” was popularized by University of Cincinnati marketing professor James Kellaris, who started researching the phenomenon of unwelcomed songs that play on repeat in one’s brain in 2000.

Earworms are widespread, with 98 to 99 per cent of the population catching a musical bug at some point. McNally-Gagnon says most people have them every day or every week.

For her, the subject was a marriage of her two favourite things, psychology and music. When she isn’t studying the brain, she plays violin and sings in a choir.

In an early study, she asked French-speakers to rank 100 pop songs according to their ability to be compulsively repeated. The winner was “Ça fait rire les oiseaux” by Caribbean pop band La Compagnie Créole, with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in second and third place.

Next, she and thesis director Sylvie Hébert, professor at the University of Montreal school of speech therapy and audiology, asked 18 musicians and 18 non-musicians to carry recording devices and sing the catchy tunes that were playing in their heads throughout the day.

While the musicians did not have more earworms than the non-musicians, they had more difficulty getting rid of the songs than the non-musicians. Both groups were skilled at replicating songs in terms of speed, pitch and key.

They also reported getting the songs stuck when they were in a good mood and busying themselves with non-intellectual activities such as walking.

“There’s a strong link between music and mood, of course,” says McNally-Gagnon. “Usually when we listen to music it makes us happy.”

The researchers, working at the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, were also successful an inducing earworms in about half of the participants — that is, intentionally infecting them with specific songs. McNally-Gagnon hopes to be able to do this with higher success rates in subsequent studies that will also involve examining the brain with magnetic resonance imaging or transcranial magnetic imaging.

McNally-Gagnon says her peskiest earworm at the moment is Stromae’s “Alors en danse,” a “very annoying” pop song that is often on the radio in Montreal. But she is also aware of a certain occupational hazard.

“When I started doing the study I always had all the participant songs on my head,” she says — a problem that is only likely to continue.

Violent video games touted as learning tool

NEW YORK — You're at the front lines shooting Nazis before they shoot you. Or you're a futuristic gladiator in a death match with robots.
Either way, you're playing a video game — and you may be improving your vision and other brain functions, according to research presented Thursday at a New York University conference on games as a learning tool.
"People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition," said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester.
Bavelier was a presenter at Games for Learning, a daylong symposium on the educational uses of video games and computer games.
The event, the first of its kind, was an indication that electronic games are gaining legitimacy in the classroom.
President Barack Obama recently identified the creation of good educational software as one of the "grand challenges for American innovation," and the federal Department of Education's assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Jim Shelton, attended Thursday's conference.
Panelists discussed how people learn and how games can be engineered to be even more educational.
"People do learn from games," said J. Dexter Fletcher of the Institute for Defense Analyses.
Sigmund Tobias of the State University of New York at Albany said an Israeli air force study found that students who played the game "Space Fortress" had better rankings in their pilot training than students who did not.
He added that students who played "pro-social" games that promote cooperation were more likely than others to help out in real-life situations like intervening when someone is being harassed.
Bavelier's research has focused on so-called first-person shooter games like "Unreal Tournament" and "Medal of Honor," in which the player is an Allied solder during World War II.
"You have to jump into vehicles, you have to crouch and hide," said Tammy Schachter, a spokeswoman for game developer Electronic Arts Inc.
Bavelier said playing the kill-or-be-killed games can improve peripheral vision and the ability to see objects at dusk, and the games can even be used to treat amblyopia, or lazy eye, a disorder characterized by indistinct vision in one eye.
She said she believes the games can improve math performance and other brain tasks.
"We are testing this hypothesis that when you play an action video game, what you do is you learn to better allocate your resources," she said. "In a sense you learn to learn. ... You become very good at adapting to whatever is asked of you."
Bavelier believes the games will eventually become part of school curriculums, but "it's going to take a generation."
Schachter said the purpose of "Medal of Honor" and other games is to have fun, and any educational benefits are a bonus.
"Through entertainment these games test your memory skills, your eye-hand coordination, your ability to detect small activities on the screen and interact with them," she said.
Not everyone is a fan.
Gavin McKiernan, the national grassroots director for the Parents Television Council, an advocacy group concerned about sex and violence in the media, said that when it comes to violent video games, any positive effects are outweighed by the negative.
"You are not just passively watching Scarface blow away people," McKiernan said. "You are actually participating. Doing these things over and over again is going to have an effect."
Bavelier said games could be developed that would harness the positive effects of the first-person shooter games without the violence.
"As you know, most of us females just hate those action video games," she said. "You don't have to use shooting. You can use, for example, a princess which has a magic wand and whenever she touches something, it turns into a butterfly and sparkles."

Bone marrow and mental illness

The study was in mice
“Bone marrow transplants cure mental illness – in mice”, reports The Guardian. It says “scientists in the US claim to have used a bone marrow transplant to cure mental illness in a study that could have profound implications for patients with psychiatric problems”.
The research involved genetically engineered mice that were lacking a gene called Hoxb8. These mice groom themselves so excessively that they remove patches of fur and develop sores. This condition is similar to a human condition called trichotillomania.
The researchers found that a type of immune system cell called microglia could be responsible for the mouse behaviour. These cells develop in the bone marrow and migrate to the brain. When the Hoxb8 mutant mice were given bone marrow from normal mice, the excessive grooming lessened and in some cased stopped.
These findings are of particular interest as they suggest an unexpected link between behaviour and a type of immune system cell. They do not mean that bone marrow transplants can cure mental illness in humans. Further research is needed to determine whether these cells play a role in humans with trichotillomania.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Utah. One of the study authors was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell.
The Guardian provides a good account of this research, and the headline reports clearly and early on that the study is in mice.

What kind of research was this?

This research was in genetically modified mice that lacked the Hoxb8 gene. These mice groom themselves so much that they remove their fur and cause skin wounds in some areas. The reason behind this behaviour is unclear, but the researchers say it is very similar to that seen in the human condition trichotillomania, a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder where people compulsively pull out their hair. Here, the researchers were looking for a biological explanation for the mice’s behaviour.
This type of animal research is used to further understand the biological basis of human disease. Improved understanding of which cells are involved in the development of a disease may eventually help treatment for human conditions, but this process usually takes considerable time. Because of the differences between species, developing exact animal models of human diseases can be difficult. For this reason, findings in animal disease models ideally need to be confirmed in humans.

What did the research involve?

In this study, the researchers used genetically engineered mice that lacked the Hoxb8 gene. These mice display excessive grooming of themselves and their cage mates, and they have an altered perception of noxious chemicals and heat. The study aimed to determine which cells are involved in the development of these symptoms.
Expecting that the brain would be involved, the researchers began by looking at the brains of normal mice to identify the cells in which the Hoxb8 gene was active. They found that in the brains of normal mice the Hoxb8 gene was active in immune system cells called microglia. At least some of the body’s microglia develop in the bone marrow and then migrate to the brain. It was within these bone marrow-derived microglia cells that the Hoxb8 gene appeared to be active. To test the effects of the lack of Hoxb8 on microglia in the brain, the researchers compared the number of these cells in the brains of normal mice and in mice lacking Hoxb8 .
To further investigate whether defective microglia cause the excessive grooming in the mice without Hoxb8, the mice were given bone marrow transplants from either normal mice or other Hoxb8-lacking mice. The theory was that a bone marrow transplant from normal mice would allow mice lacking in Hoxb8 to develop normal immune cells with active Hoxb8. If these cells were involved in this behaviour, the transplant might counteract the excessive grooming.

What were the basic results?

The researchers found that in the brains of normal mice, the only cells where the Hoxb8 gene was active were immune system cells called microglia. Adult mice lacking Hoxb8 had fewer microglia in their brains than normal mice.
When Hoxb8 mutant mice were given a bone marrow transplant with normal bone marrow cells, the amount of excessive grooming and hair removal lessened. Some mice fully recovered. The Hoxb8 mutant mice’s noxious chemical and temperature-sensing abnormalities were not corrected by the transplant. Mice that lacked Hoxb8 and received a transplant of bone marrow cells from other mice lacking Hoxb8 did not stop their excessive grooming and hair removal.
The researchers found that if they genetically engineered mice to be missing the Hoxb8 gene in their bone marrow only, they developed the excessive grooming behaviour but not the noxious chemical and temperature sensing abnormalities. However, if they genetically engineered mice to lack the Hoxb8 gene in their spinal cords only, the mice developed the noxious chemical and temperature-sensing abnormalities but not the excessive grooming behaviour.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers conclude that the compulsive behavioural disorder seen in mice lacking the Hoxb8 gene is associated with microglia – a type of immune cell located in the brain. This directly links mouse behaviour with the function of immune cells developed from bone marrow.


This type of animal research is used to further understand the biological basis of human disease. Improved understanding of which cells play a role in the development of a disease may eventually help treatment for human conditions, but this may well take a long time.
This research may give clues as to what type of cells may be involved in trichotillomania in humans, and is likely to spur on further research into the link between the immune system and this condition. Until this research has been completed, it will not be clear whether drugs targeting microglia might be a new way of treating this condition. As such, these findings do not have any immediate implications for treating trichotillomania.
The current study does not suggest that bone marrow transplants can cure mental illness. Bone marrow transplant was simply one of the techniques used to study which cells were involved in the mice’s trichotillomania-like condition. The findings are of particular interest because a link between immune system cells and these behavioural symptoms was unexpected.