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brain fitness
Old 12-12-2007, 10:40 AM   #1
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brain fitness

as i've almost obsessively noted by now (i am after all an admitted momma's boy), mom amazed me in many ways. one of the most remarkable aspects was how she seemed to show a sense of self all the way through alzheimer's disease even until her brain became so destroyed that it shut her organs down and she died.

i remember at the time thinking that during the decade or more of seeing this disease destroy her, especially towards the end, it was like watching her move herself in advance of the destruction to remaining sections of her brain to keep functioning as well as she did under such circumstance.

she could reach in and out even while her brain was being decimated by alzheimer's to continue such loving contact that it still brings tears to my eyes today. i've related this before, but it is relevant here as it exemplifies the point, that one day in her very last months, after she had lost the ability to use words, she was very busy mumbling to me with such a serious face that i said to her: "mom, i can't understand you. i can tell you have something important to say but when you talk it is just sounds, not words." she had the sound of sentence structure but no words that could be deciphered, just unintelligible garble. i said "i'm so sorry this has happened to you."

i could see the struggle in her face as she gathered what strength she could muster and spoke like i hadn't heard in such a while and would never hear again real words fall from her lips: "i'm...sorry...for you," she said. i started to cry and then she went back into her garbling.

but mom was still there. still racing the advancing & inevitable destruction.

i happened to catch the other night a good program being run this month on pbs on brain fitness and neuro-plasticity.

here is a trailer
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Old 12-12-2007, 11:08 AM   #2
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i happened to catch the other night a good program being run this month on pbs on brain fitness and neuro-plasticity.

here is a trailer

I caught just the tail end of this program. Was sorry I missed the rest. Fascinating. I wonder if PBS will rerun it soon.
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Old 12-12-2007, 01:12 PM   #3
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I just read a book you might like Lazy. It is, "The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older," by Elkhonen Goldberg, a neuropsychologist at NYU. He talks about brain structure and memory and how certain learning (primarily ingrained patterns) can be protected from the ravages of age related brain deterioration.
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Old 12-12-2007, 02:02 PM   #4
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i could see the struggle in her face as she gathered what strength she could muster and spoke like i hadn't heard in such a while and would never hear again real words fall from her lips: "i'm...sorry...for you," she said. i started to cry and then she went back into her garbling.

but mom was still there.
Your mom sounds like she was an amazing woman. I'm missing my mom, too.
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Old 12-12-2007, 04:26 PM   #5
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as i've almost obsessively noted by now (i am after all an admitted momma's boy), mom amazed me in many ways. one of the most remarkable aspects was how she seemed to show a sense of self all the way through alzheimer's disease even until her brain became so destroyed that it shut her organs down and she died.

i remember at the time thinking that during the decade or more of seeing this disease destroy her, especially towards the end, it was like watching her move herself in advance of the destruction to remaining sections of her brain to keep functioning as well as she did under such circumstance.

she could reach in and out even while her brain was being decimated by alzheimer's to continue such loving contact that it still brings tears to my eyes today. i've related this before, but it is relevant here as it exemplifies the point, that one day in her very last months, after she had lost the ability to use words, she was very busy mumbling to me with such a serious face that i said to her: "mom, i can't understand you. i can tell you have something important to say but when you talk it is just sounds, not words." she had the sound of sentence structure but no words that could be deciphered, just unintelligible garble. i said "i'm so sorry this has happened to you."

i could see the struggle in her face as she gathered what strength she could muster and spoke like i hadn't heard in such a while and would never hear again real words fall from her lips: "i'm...sorry...for you," she said. i started to cry and then she went back into her garbling.

but mom was still there. still racing the advancing & inevitable destruction.

i happened to catch the other night a good program being run this month on pbs on brain fitness and neuro-plasticity.

here is a trailer
I always enjoy readying your posts and when you post about your mom, your love for her and her struggles with alzheimers, I can't help but think how lucky she was to have had a son like you. I can only wish for myself that my children will be half as caring as you were to your mom. I don't know if you're superstitious but there's an old saying that if you treat your parents well, you get lots of blessings.
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Old 12-13-2007, 07:12 PM   #6
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robert, it was on again here last night, maybe repeating in your area.

don, checked out a few pages on amazon. looks right in line with the pbs special. will study further.

twinkle, ain't they the best. "i'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles, my mammy."

letj, thanks for saying so, too kind. now just when will all those blessings begin exactly?

what struck me poignant was the plasticity of our brains. that mom only had weeks of brain left, just enough to keep her heart beating and lungs breathing, that with most of her brain already destroyed that she was still able to not just connect her vocal center, but to be able to show that not only was she aware of her condition but that she was aware of how her condition effected me. that's pretty advanced thinking for someone in very late stage alzheimer's.

many alzheimer's patient do not even recognize themselves in the mirror. yet mom not only knew me, but even under these conditions, she could still shower me with sympathy. that woman didn't just give me life; she takes my breath away.

to her credit, mom did a lot of the things mentioned in the pbs special on keeping the brain functioning well. it didn't prevent alzheimer's disease, but it probably helped her through it.

interesting to me and mentioned in the pbs report is how plasticity works both ways. meaning that the brain and our personalities can become rigid just like they can become flexible. this might help to explain a bit about curmudgeons.

always doing the same thing, even if you are very good at it, creates a trough of rigidity. whereas the brain becomes more flexible when we mix things up, when we are learning.

according to this theory, playing golf everday, even if you are slightly improving your score, does little to help your brain and actually advances rigidity. learning a new sport, making the body work in other ways than your everyday golf swing, helps keep the brain healthy.

early retirement can lead to rigidity or flexibility regarding plasticity of the brain. we can become comfortable in a way of life which does not increase our learning. or we can challenge ourselves in so many ways like learning new lifestyles or a new sport or a new language.

that all bodes well for what i've in mind considering extended travel, so that i will have to learn how to survive everyday life in different cultures. perhaps i will finally learn conversational spanish. i'm considering sailing and will have to learn everything that goes with that. now that i think of it, i might even take up juggling. it's good for the brain.
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Old 12-13-2007, 07:29 PM   #7
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This really touched me. One reason I want to retire early to to spend more time with my mom. I'm lucky to have a mother I both love and like as a person. She is 78 and in overall good health. I took several weeks off work last year to help her through hip replacement surgery. This was the best use of my time and sick leave I can imagine and the experience drew us even closer. It also influenced my decision to retire early and spend my time and energy on what is really important.

Once I retire in a couple of weeks, I look forward to spending much more time with her. Your message reminds me of how love is so much more important than the shallow relationships at work. Be proud of being a "momma's boy". I can tell you shared much love with this wonderful lady and she sure was lucky to have you. I'm so sorry you lost her to alzheimer's. A good friend of mine lost her husband this way and I learned how heartbreaking it is. Even though she is gone, she will always be a part of your soul.
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Old 12-13-2007, 08:33 PM   #8
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Blessing comes in many ways Lazy; it's not financial - it's health, it's happiness, peace of mind and good friends. You also have a great capacity to love and to deal with loss which are blessing in and of themselves.
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Old 12-13-2007, 10:56 PM   #9
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Has anyone played Brain Age for Nintendo DS? It is the only game system I have wanted in recent years, and only because of this particular game. It takes you through exercises and instead of a high score, you are presented with what "age" it thinks your brain is. The goal is to get it lower and lower, until you are in the prime years of 18 or so.
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:07 AM   #10
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I played Brain Age--it really does sharpen your wits. I got my brain age down to 26. Then I lost my Nintendo Ds ... damn it ... old age strikes again.
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:14 AM   #11
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Had grandparents with Alzeimers. I think that I'd rather be hit by a bus than to go through those last stages, and I'm sorry for your loss. Sounds like she was a great gal.

I didn't see the PBS special so maybe this is already old news. A while back I had a case of the blues that came out of nowhere that I couldn't seem to shake. As a result, I decided to see what I could do about it myself. I didn't want to go to the family doc. The reason is that I never want to put on an insurance or other questionaire that I had seeked medical care for depression. That can get costly and is unnecessary if you're like me and believe that you're dealing with a common relatively low grade depression. As an added bonus, the route that I took also seems to be one that is effective for the prevention and slowing of the progression of Alzheimers.

After spending plenty of time on the internet doing research, I began taking a fairly large dosage of salmon oil. It tastes like what I imagine hell might taste like, but I started feeling much better and less lethargic, and as a strange side effect, my normally dry skin softened up a bit and my hair actually got thicker.

I've also began taking some ginkgo biloba, St. Johns Wort, and a b-vitamin complex daily. I'm feeling very good at this point, but as to their individual merits it's tough to say since I started taking them within weeks of one another. I haven't noticed any ill effects at all. The most noticeable and kind of fun side effect is that my dreams are way more vivid (not bad) and I remember most of them now. I also seem to be sleeping slightly less and yet awakening with more energy.
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:59 AM   #12
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Had grandparents with Alzeimers. I think that I'd rather be hit by a bus than to go through those last stages, and I'm sorry for your loss. Sounds like she was a great gal.

I didn't see the PBS special so maybe this is already old news. A while back I had a case of the blues that came out of nowhere that I couldn't seem to shake. As a result, I decided to see what I could do about it myself. I didn't want to go to the family doc. The reason is that I never want to put on an insurance or other questionaire that I had seeked medical care for depression. That can get costly and is unnecessary if you're like me and believe that you're dealing with a common relatively low grade depression. As an added bonus, the route that I took also seems to be one that is effective for the prevention and slowing of the progression of Alzheimers.

After spending plenty of time on the internet doing research, I began taking a fairly large dosage of salmon oil. It tastes like what I imagine hell might taste like, but I started feeling much better and less lethargic, and as a strange side effect, my normally dry skin softened up a bit and my hair actually got thicker.

I've also began taking some ginkgo biloba, St. Johns Wort, and a b-vitamin complex daily. I'm feeling very good at this point, but as to their individual merits it's tough to say since I started taking them within weeks of one another. I haven't noticed any ill effects at all. The most noticeable and kind of fun side effect is that my dreams are way more vivid (not bad) and I remember most of them now. I also seem to be sleeping slightly less and yet awakening with more energy.
How much salmon oil are you taking? I have a problem with dry skin, too. I try to eat salmon routinely, but don't really like it.

DH got a bad case of "grumpy old man" several years ago and I give him St. John's Wort at the recommended dosage...for about 3 months, I think. He returned to his normal charming self.
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:25 PM   #13
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How much salmon oil are you taking? I have a problem with dry skin, too. I try to eat salmon routinely, but don't really like it.

DH got a bad case of "grumpy old man" several years ago and I give him St. John's Wort at the recommended dosage...for about 3 months, I think. He returned to his normal charming self.
I take the recommended dosage of a liquid, but the levels are much higher than what I had found in pill or capsule form. I'm sorry, I made a mistake, the fish used in this potion isn't salmon, its anchovy and sardine but I think that it is all about the same level of disgusting but good for you anyway. BTW, I didn't really notice full effect on the skin until about 6 weeks, but then again, that isn't what I was looking for in the first place. The amounts on the bottle per daily dosage of one teaspoon are...

deodourized fish oil concentrate...4550mg
omega-3 fatty acids...2383mg
EPA...980mg
DHA...545mg
Vitamin D3...200IU
Vitamin A...2500IU

I'm Canadian, and so is this product, so I doubt that this particular one is sold in U.S., but I'm sure that something similar is sold there. Good luck!

There seems to be lots of evidence to support the skin benefits. You might want to google "omega 3 dry skin" and read up on it.
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:59 PM   #14
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there's a ginkgo biloba tree on the north side of the capital building in washington. only time i ever saw one. i've read so much in both directions on ginkgo that i'm not convinced either way. i do take omega 3 supplements and alpha lipoic acid which are supposed to be good for the brain.

i also have bouts of depression and have a family history of manic depression. i tried st johns wort and was amazed at how effective it seems. but then i read that there is eye danger when combining the wort with sunlight and as i live in florida i decided it wasn't worth the risk. so now when i'm down i just ride it out, knowing that this too shall pass. and in knowing that i can often control to a great extend the duration & extent of the depression.

the point that i take from brain training is that there is a lot we can do without supplements to effect our brains. though with my family history, i'm gonna try to cover all the bases. but that will power can be (at least) as potent as a drug. that the brain, out of which arises mind, can think thoughts which physically alter the brain, again, out of which arises mind so that we can actually remake ourselves as we think and change the physical structure of our brains in a spiraling evolution of mind.
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Old 12-16-2007, 01:04 AM   #15
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I wish that I had to concern myself with sunlight. Presently sun up at 8:45 and down at about 4:45, and way to cold to spend much time outside.

Moderation is key although with the supplements it is always a bit of an experiment.

When I slipped into a blue funk a few yrs back I tried 5-HTP. That product is supposed to increase seratonin production. It was a short lived experiment. Even at recommended dosage, if I went outside into the sun, within 15 min. I'd feel very dizzy and a nauseous. Very similar feeling to heat stroke.
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Old 12-16-2007, 10:05 AM   #16
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I'll go a few months when I think my mind is really deteriorating. Realize at the end of a movie that came out only a few years ago, that I'd already seen it. Unable to remember the name of someone that I see pretty regularly etc.

Then, there'll be a period when I feel like I'm as sharp as ever.

Can't figure out whether there's a real difference, caused by exercise or activities, or whether it's just my perception that changes.
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Old 12-16-2007, 10:18 AM   #17
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Can't figure out whether there's a real difference, caused by exercise or activities, or whether it's just my perception that changes.
If our perception is changing then how will we know when a temporary slump has turned into a permanent decline?

More importantly, at that point in our lives will we want to do anything about it, or just hang on for the ride?

We all talk a brave game about the 9mm sleeping pill (or whatever one's preferred method may be) when we've had enough. But I'm not convinced that many actually take that step.
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Old 12-16-2007, 01:11 PM   #18
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Aging with Grace

Wonderful post Lazy. Your mom was a remarkable woman, and she was lucky to have such a caring son.

Has anyone read the book "Aging with Grace" by David Snowdon? It's about the Nun study.
Bookreporter.com - AGING WITH GRACE by David Snowdon, Ph.D.

"One of the most striking discoveries was the correlation between a low rate of Alzheimer's and a high ability in written and oral expression. Snowdon was fortunate to find essays describing their home lives, written by the women while in their late teens as an exercise conducted upon entry into the order. Those who were able to write in complex sentences clearly expressing related thoughts without breaking sentences into simple declarative form were the least likely in later years to develop the debilitating symptoms and, ultimately, the disease. Avid readers and individuals who remained involved in community affairs were also less likely to develop Alzheimer's than the more reclusive members of the order. Heredity, diet, and exercise were also found to be major factors in avoiding dementia or Alzheimer's."

Use it, or lose it!
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Old 12-21-2007, 03:55 PM   #19
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Wow. Thank you for sharing such a poignant memory, Lazy.

I'm new here, but this post caught my eye since I did see that PBS special. I'm glad others are reacting to the show, too...We should definitely be talking about brain plasticity issues more often.

Olav23 mentioned Brain-Age...I looked into them after seeing their advertisements, but I couldn't find any study-based evidence to prove that the game will be effective. That's something you have to consider with these kinds of programs, I think. Which is why I'm really taken with Posit Science (their founder, Dr. Merzenich, was a main speaker on the PBS special)—the effectiveness of their program has been established by real research by the Mayo Clinic and other reputable groups. I believe the research says the program improves memory by ten years! Neat data. Still, a brain fitness program is probably just one of the many things we can do as we age to keep our brains in shape. It's a day-to-day commitment. Like retirement.
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Old 12-21-2007, 06:11 PM   #20
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This really touched me. One reason I want to retire early to to spend more time with my mom. I'm lucky to have a mother I both love and like as a person. She is 78 and in overall good health. I took several weeks off work last year to help her through hip replacement surgery. This was the best use of my time and sick leave I can imagine and the experience drew us even closer. It also influenced my decision to retire early and spend my time and energy on what is really important.

Once I retire in a couple of weeks, I look forward to spending much more time with her. Your message reminds me of how love is so much more important than the shallow relationships at work. Be proud of being a "momma's boy". I can tell you shared much love with this wonderful lady and she sure was lucky to have you. I'm so sorry you lost her to alzheimer's. A good friend of mine lost her husband this way and I learned how heartbreaking it is. Even though she is gone, she will always be a part of your soul.
This is the main reason we retired early. In early '99 I was deep into computer crime investigations and was working on a MS in information systems intending to get a big-bucks job with one of the defense contractors. My wife was with FDA doing funds administration on bioterrorism research. Had we stayed we are confident that by now our income would be at or near $300K - not bad for an ex-street cop and a bookkeeper. In Jan. '99 my mother died, in June her mother died.

In a short while I thought "Y'know, I am spending WAY too much time in front of a computer screen". Wife was exhausted every evening and weekend, I hated the traffic, and was frustrated at work because funding for training & equipment was hard to come by in that fast-moving field.

So we pulled the plug three years later. Friends & relatives say we both are much more relaxed than when we were working. Wife was happy to have all the time she wanted when her dad had hip-replacement surgery. Last summer we repainted his living room, dining room, and kitchen, which hadn't been done for over 20 years. We're doing a lot of other minor maintenance stuff on his house that has been deferred for years. He's a nice guy, just one of those with zero mechanical abilities. If it can't be fixed with a scotch tape or a worn-out screwdriver he's overwhelmed. I was overhauling engines at 14 & have five cabinets of tools in the basement.

Absent hitting the lottery (maybe I should buy a ticket once in a while) I'll never own that $90,000 acrobatic airplane I wanted, but the serenity and free time we have with each other and family is worth the trade-off.
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