Naked Medicine

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Category: Brain

Mind, Matter, Mind Over Matter

gif_anatomy_02.gif Welcome to this carnival edition of Brain Fitness, where is a guest host. Those of you familiar with my carnival styles will know that I weave entries with my own comments and wherever possible, create a theme for a cohesive reading experience. Thus you will not find a mere listing of entries here, nor will you find every single entry that has been submitted to the carnival. Be assured that even if all entries are not selected for this carnival, I personally visit and read each article.

According to Rich, power naps help you reap the benefits of sleep in about 20 to 30 minutes without migrating into the “sleep inertia” zone that can render you sluggish and tired. Psychologist Deb Serani had also written about the benefits of power napping previously on I’m curious whether power naps have the same level of benefit for someone who gets enough sleep each day. I know this is a rarity – most of us seem to be sleep deprived on way or another – both on a quantitative and qualitative sleep level, but it will make an interesting experiment.

I also knew there is a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation on why multitasking is a myth! Now, if we can get the corporate world to stop embracing multitasking like it’s a virtue instead of the dangerous assumption that it is. Dr. JC also notes a NYT article that discusses the multitasking myth.

This a really interesting looking exercise for balance and posture. I have pretty good balance, but my posture can use a lot of work.

gif_runner5.gif Caroline at Sharp Brains said that the 4 essential pillars for a healthy brain are: 1) Physical Exercise, 2) Mental Exercise, 3) Good Nutrition, and 4) Stress Management. I like the way this included a “if you could only do one thing, do this…” For physical exercise – do something cardiovascular. For mental exercise – learn something new every day. For good nutrition – eat more green, leafy vegetables. For stress management – take 5-10 minutes each day and breathe deeply.

Greg’s article on the physical aspects of brain aging is a good primer for those interested in understanding how their brain physically ages, and what may be done to manage the aging process. You’ll find this article complementary to Caroline’s article on brain fitness.

Mind Over Matter.
Dave Johnson claims that We Are Smart Enough To Make Ourselves Sick and cited a Stanford Neuroscientist who observed that baboons are good models for humans in self-induced stress. Given that baboons lead an otherwise idyllic life, one would be surprised that find that baboons can work themselves up into a stressful frenzy anyway. What is even more surprising is that it’s not only the “loser baboons” – those with low social ranking – that get stressed out. The type A baboons also get stressed out because they are threatened very easily. Another cited study looked at the linkage that can be formed between a concept and emotions associated with that concept; what is interesting is how easily this linkage may be manipulated to cause unfounded feelings (thereby eventually behaviors) of “like” and “dislike”. This is why I’m a big proponent of understanding how you truly think.

Now, if those baboons had read TherapyDoc’s essay, When the Little Things Go Wrong, they will realize that life is good, relatively speaking. The loser baboons will learn new things that can make them mentally smarter (per Caroline’s earlier advice). The type-A baboons can put things in perspective and realize that while the higher you go, the harder you may fall, at least you get the opportunity to go high enough to fall. Plus, from the looks of enlightened loser baboons, life looks enjoyable.

Hueina’s article on self-love is a comprehensive first look at what she calls “the most important relationship in your life”. What Hueina calls “gremlin messages”, I know first-hand. I even have an old book that personifies these critical self talk as gremlins (I forget the author’s name). What’s important to realize is that developing this relationship with yourself is going to take your commitment, which means it is going to take time and effort. This also tends to be most difficult when you most need it – for example – when you aren’t feeling good about yourself, you aren’t inclined to sit down and do exercises that develop your loving feeling toward yourself – yet this is when you need it the most.

gif_people-208.gif Henrik shared a list of 14 ways to live a more relaxing life. My favorite tip is #7, watching your favorite TV show. I never used to watch King of the Hill when it was running, but now I watch re-runs of the cartoon. There’s something about a well-adjusted chubby kid and stoic work ethics (Hank Hill will not leave 10 minutes early on a Friday even if there are absolutely no customers, nothing to do, and a car full of friends waiting outside for him) that makes me feel like all is right with the world. I’d like to suggest a tip #15: “The World Will Go On, and So Will I.” I find this very effective on those nights when I toss and turn from lists of things I should have done and still have to do. I have to remind myself repeatedly that what I deem as critical from the filters of my stressed out mind won’t stop the world on its tracks, and that twenty years from now, I probably wouldn’t deem it as important, either.

Thank you, Alvaro, for the opportunity to host this carnival. The next Brain Fitness carnival will be hosted by Idealawg on May 21, 2007. Please support this upcoming edition with your posts!

Until next time – take care of yourself and your gray matter.

Target for Addictions Identified Deep in the Brain

“Man becomes cigarette smoker. Man suffers from stroke. Man completely loses urge to smoke.”

This sums up the neon lights that have been blinking nonstop in the media around the scientific paper, “Damage to the Insula Disrupts Addiction to Cigarette Smoking” that was published in the January 26, 2007 issue of Science magazine (pages 531-534). The magazine also ran a commentary, “Brain Damage Sheds Light on Urge to Smoke” on the paper.

The key? A brain region called the insular cortext, or insula, deep within the cerebral cortex. This region has been implicated in other addictions, including cocaine addiction. Signals that trigger this region has been linked to the stimulation of addictive desires. This means insula is a potential therapeutic target – in other words – drugs or treatments that affect insula’s ability to stimulate addictive desires become a therapy for addiction. (more…)

Benefits of Power Napping

By Deborah Serani, Psy.D.

I am the Queen of napping. I can nap anywhere, anytime.
It’s one of my many talents.

Most often, at around 2:30 everyday, I am at rest. I am Semi-conscious, not sound asleep but not fully awake. I can ease out of this wonderful place without a jarring effect. And when I emerge from my catnap, some 20 minutes later, I feel so good.

The benefits of napping have been well documented. Research has shown that a nap can promote physical well-being, improve mood and memory, sharpen senses and revitalize a person. The neurons in brain functioning get to rest and recuperate from the day’s stress. Intellectual performance improves from the boost a midday nap provides and accuracy in performance increases too. MRI’s of nappers show that brain activity stays high throughout the day with a nap. Without one, it declines as the day wears on.

Research also says that taking a nap of 30 minutes a day is better than sleeping 30 minutes later in the morning. And from another psychological perspective, falling into a light sleep can feel meditative (like my semi-conscious experience). As you nap, the dreams and streams of thoughts you experience may offer insights you may not be able to grasp at night when you are in a deep sleep.

When you sleep under normal circumstances, your brain cycles through several different stages of Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma sleep waves. You drift from one stage of sleep to another – from light sleep to deeper sleep to REM sleep to wakefulness and so on. Delta and Theta sleep, also known as Sleep I and Sleep II stages, are light stages of sleep. So, the key to napping is to not fall into the deeper stages of sleep. That is why a 15 to 30 minute nap is recommended. Napping more than that, and you’ll find yourself waking up cranky or groggy. (more…)

Personal Perspective of Manic Depression

By Tom Pauken II

“A Personal Perspective of Manic Depression: This reporter gives a first-hand account about the bipolar disorder” reprinted with permission from Mr. Tom Pauken II.

Bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression, affects 0.3 percent to 3.7 percent of the world’s population. Fifty percent of them seriously considered or attempted suicide. Forty-five percent of Americans with bipolar disorder believe this sickness made a high negative impact on their lives. Seventy percent of those same respondents assume the public doesn’t understand their condition.

These statistics were compiled by a Global Survey for World Mental Health Day 2005 (Oct. 10) also posted on the Web site. Are these statistics important? Do you know somebody afflicted with manic depression? Well, I consider these statistics important because I suffer from this ailment.

I make this revelation not to grab attention for myself. I’m more passionate writing about geo-political issues of the East Asia-Pacific region. I shun diaries and anticipate never using first person voice in future articles.

Nevertheless, I feel an obligation to my readers. I want those suffering from mental illness to feel inspired during their moments of darkness because I might be manic depressive but I’ve taken great strides to overcome my difficulties. (more…)

Interview on Self-Injury

Dr. Jane Chin: What are the biggest misconceptions or “myths” people have about self-injury?

Dr. Deborah Serani: I’d have to say that the biggest misconception about self-injury is that most people think that those who cut or self-injure are suicidal. Though any behavior that puts a person in harm’s way requires clinical evaluation, the basic reason individuals cut or self-harm comes from the wish “to control” or to “numb away feelings.”

Dr. Chin: Why is cutting or self injury such a difficult subject for people to talk about?

Dr. Serani: There is a lot of shame associated with this behavior. Seeing the scars or scabs serves as reminder to the person that they cannot find a better way to move through pent up feelings. They feel like they have failed or are flawed in some way, which exacerbates there negative feelings even more. (more…)

Neurodevices Target Depression

By Zack Lynch

From this month’s Neurotech Insights investment newsletter focused on the depression market:

While drugs to treat depression have proven effective for millions of individuals there exist a significant number of patients who do not respond to antidepressants. Treatment resistant depression, or refractory depression, is a condition that affects an estimated 4 million people in the U.S. and 11 million worldwide. Until recently, there were no options for these individuals beyond treatment with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which commonly induces memory loss among other issues. Today, several neurodevice approaches for the treatment of refractory depression are emerging including Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS).

The first neurodevice to be approved by the FDA for depression was Cyberonics’ VNS Therapy system. On July 15, 2005, the FDA approved Cyberonics’ VNS Therapy as a long-term adjunctive treatment for patients 18 years of age or older with chronic or recurrent treatment-resistant depression in a major depressive episode that have not responded to at least four adequate antidepressant treatments. Chronic treatment-resistant depression is defined as being in the current depressive episode for more than two years. Recurrent treatment-resistant depression is defined as having a history of multiple prior episodes of depression. The approved indication for use includes patients with unipolar or bipolar depression in a major depressive episode. (more…)

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