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4 Exercises To Sharpen Your Brain
Think of your brain as a muscle: It gets stronger with exercise. Your everyday mental tasks are like walking, but how about a real workout? Try these simple exercises to boost your brain power and clear away the fog of forgetfulness.
1. Use your non-dominant hand
Tackling new tasks improves brain capacity in younger people and has a restorative effect on mental faculties that are declining. Boost your brain power right now by performing everyday activities with your non-dominant hand. If you're right-handed, use your left hand to eat, drink, comb your hair, and brush your teeth. Try writing your name with your non-dominant hand or put your mouse pad on the other side of the keyboard.
Aluminum And Alzheimers Disease
Large amounts of aluminum are usually found in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer's. This has led others to think that the disease is caused by using aluminum cooking pots and pans or ingesting oral antacids or antiperspirants containing aluminum.
It's a nice thought but one with no scientific basis. Professor Luigi Amaducci of the Department of Neurologic & Psychiatric Sciences at the University Of Florence said other patients with Alzheimer's don't have aluminum plaques in the brain which rules out this metal as the cause of the disease.
"There has been some concern in recent years that dietary aluminum may lead to Alzheimer's disease or senile dementia in older people. This concern arises from the fact that greater levels of aluminum are found in brain tissue of people dying from Alzheimer's disease than in brain tissue from people dying from other causes," according to Dr. Myron Winick, director of the Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in The Columbia Encyclopedia of Nutrition.
Be A Brain Scientist
"To think is to practice brain chemistry." - Deepak Chopra
Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, I'm no brain scientist¦"? Quite recently I had lunch with a friend while he was on a break from work. When he ordered a beer I raised my eyebrows in mock astonishment. He replied "It's not like I'm performing brain surgery later."
But we are all brain scientists. Our thoughts really do affect our brain chemistry. And we can be like surgeons in our ability to carefully excise negative thoughts from our gray matter.
Our patterns of thought are simply habits, but they are grounded in rich neural circuitry. Like deer in the woods, our thoughts form paths that will most likely be retread unless we consciously set out to find a new way. The first step to that new way is to be aware that thoughts can either be unconscious or conscious.
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Gene Therapy May Replace Depression Medication
Researchers at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Centre have identified a gene that plays a key role in major depression. The researchers studied the activity of the P11 gene in a small part of the brain that is the center for reward and pleasure. This part of the brain is significant in depression because depression sufferers lose the inability to enjoy and gain satisfaction from normally pleasurable activities in life (called anhedonia).
The researchers discovered that P11 is needed to bring receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin to the surface of nerve cells to allow the brain chemical to bind to them. One of serotonin's key functions is to regulate mood, and most modern depression medication works by regulating levels of serotonin in the brain. "We potentially have a novel therapy to target what we now believe is one root cause of human depression," said a member of the research team, Dr. Michael Kaplitt. Kaplitt is an associate professor and vice chairman for research of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and a neurosurgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Centre.
Gene therapy is a technique for correcting or replacing defective or missing genes to treat disease. In most gene therapy, a "normal" gene is inserted into the patient's body to replace a faulty disease-causing one. Although the technology is still considered experimental, it is showing promise in a great many areas, including treating cancer, cystic fibrosis and blindness. The same team of scientists has been testing a gene therapy technique in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients, which they could say could easily be adapted to treat depression.
When the scientists disabled the P11 gene in mice, the mice showed symptoms of depression. But when they inserted an active P11 gene, the depressed behaviors were reversed. They also studied the brains of deceased depression patients and non-depressed people, and found significantly lower levels of P11 in the brains of the depressed patients. The team is now collaborating with a team from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct further studies on monkeys. Interestingly, Kaplitt has already formed a company and licensed the intellectual property rights to the p11 gene therapy for behavioral disorders.
Depression is so prevalent in North America that it is sometimes referred to as "the common cold" of mental illness. Over 13 million American adults are diagnosed with depression each year, and almost 27 million Americans are taking antidepressant drugs, with around 165 million prescriptions written annually. The antidepressant medications Wellbutrin (and Wellbutrin XL) and Effexor (and Effexor XR) are two of the top-selling prescription medications in the world.
The social and economic impacts of 13 million depressed Americians are staggering. Untreated depression leads to suicide in about 15% of cases. The direct and indirect costs of depression including healthcare costs, prescription antidepressant medication, lost time from work and lost productivity are estimated to be over $30 billion a year. While the research team believes that depression is a complex disorder that probably involves a number of brain functions and circuits, they are hopeful their discovery will open the door to the possibility of using gene therapy to combat the illness.
By: Lynn Woods
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