Bob Lawrence’s journey with Metastatic Melanoma Cancer

February 18, 2012 by  
Filed under BRAIN, VIDEO

Bob Lawrence's journey with Metastatic Melanoma Cancer
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Dad Gives Son Medical Marijuana Battling Brain Cancer corrupt Governments Criminalizing Healing

January 15, 2012 by  
Filed under BRAIN, VIDEO

Dad Gives Son Medical Marijuana Battling Brain Cancer corrupt Governments Criminalizing Healing
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Battling the Lizard Brain

January 15, 2012 by  
Filed under BRAIN, VIDEO

Battling the Lizard Brain
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Scott Norton Inspirational Video

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under BRAIN, VIDEO

Scott Norton Inspirational Video
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Get An IQ Boost! (Health Guru Tip)

March 19, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

Tired of being shown up by know-it-alls? Boost your IQ – fast – with these natural tips! Get more great health tips :

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

The teenage brain and how it works

February 16, 2011 by  

Just as nutrition in the early childhood years is crucial to a schoolchild’s IQ, the experiences of the adolescent brain can affect behavior as adult.

It was always assumed the brain is fully mature in adolescence. Recent research evidence however shows this is not so. According to Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Frances Jensen, “adolescent brains “are only about 80 percent of the way to maturity.” Full maturity is reached in the mid-20s or even later.

The adolescent brain (according to a report in Newsweek):

These properties of the adolescent brain explain risky behavior, insensitive remarks and other signs of thoughtlessness.

In the same period, the impressionable adolescent brain is high susceptible to environmental influences, especially peer pressure. It is during this period that strong relationships and social connections help navigates the so-called growing pains.

According to Dr. Mitch Prinstein, professor and director of clinical psychology, at the University of North Carolina in  Chapel Hill:

“The most potent predictors of why adolescents engage in all kinds of health-risk behaviors—substance use, sexual behavior, even recently, self-cutting—is very much related to how much they perceive that their close friends are doing the same thing, or someone that they consider very cool and popular is doing the same thing.”

Unfortunately, risk behavior in adolescence can have consequences in adult life. Those exposed early to high levels of alcohol will have the risk of having alcohol problems later in life.

A Harvard study found that kids who smoked pot before age 16 had more lifelong cognitive problems than those who started smoking after 16.

Other types of stressors, including bullying and abuse can reflect as posttraumatic stress in adult life and can even be passed on to the next generation. Peer rejection as teenager, for example, may translate into depressive symptoms.

Fortunately, strong relationships and coping skills can counterbalance the negative stressors: Examples of such coping skills are anticonformism and dabbling with delinquency without crossing the boundaries.

And the good news is that, despite our most susceptible brains at adolescence,  most of us – more than 90% in fact – turn out fine and outgrow the delinquency.

Love as painkiller?

February 14, 2011 by  

Happy Valentines’ Day, everyone!

Love eases all pain. Sounds like a really cliché even on this day of hearts. But surprise, surprise. There is actually science behind this. No less than researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine who tell us – love can be a strong painkiller. Even as strong cocaine!

According to Dr. Sean Mackey, chief of the Division of Pain Management:

“When people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain. We’re beginning to tease apart some of these reward systems in the brain and how they influence pain. These are very deep, old systems in our brain that involve dopamine — a primary neurotransmitter that influences mood, reward and motivation.”

The research was actually a collaboration between 2 scientists with seemingly contrasting fields of study. One specializes in pain, the other one.

The researchers had the perfect place for conducting their research. The university setting is full of undergraduates who are “in that first phase of intense love”. In other words, there was no shortage of willing and eligible volunteers. The prerequisite: the subject must be in the first 9 months of a romance.

“It was clearly the easiest study the pain center at Stanford has ever recruited for” said Dr. Mackey.”When you’re in love you want to tell everybody about it.”

The study entailed that each subject should take photos of their beloved person as well as photos of attractive acquaintances. The subjects were shown the photos while attached to a thermal stimulator that simulated mild pain. At the same time, an MRI took a photo of the brains of the subjects.

The results indicate that feelings of love when looking at photos of a loved one significantly reduces pain. The part of the brain in question was the “nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction center for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse. The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this.”

Which relates to another cliché – that love is like an addiction. Indeed, the areas of the brain activated by passionate love are the same areas targeted by analgesic drugs to reduce pain and feel good.

“When thinking about your beloved, there is intense activation in the reward area of the brain — the same area that lights up when you take cocaine, the same area that lights up when you win a lot of money.”

Your child’s diet and her/his IQ

February 10, 2011 by  
Filed under OBESITY

What your child eats can have an effect on his or her IQ. And the earlier you start them on the healthy diet, the better. Results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children show that what a 3-year old toddler is eating now would be partially determinant of his or her cognitive performance 5 years hence.

The early years are the years when the brain is developing very rapidly and the fastest growth rate occurs during the first 3 years of a person’s life. In these formative years, the brain needs all the right nutrients it can get.

Foods packed with vitamins and minerals are good for the brain. Foods rich in sugar and fat as well as processed food on the other hand are IQ destroyers.

Okay, so toddlers are notorious for being fussy with their food. But the eating habits of many kids improve as they grow older. How does this improvement affect IQ? Well, according to the study, this helps a bit but the healthy-eating toddler still keeps the head start.

According to the authors

“This suggests that any cognitive/behavioural effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes to dietary intake.”

The Avon Study is following up “the long-term health and well-being of around 14,000 children.” This part of the study was conducted by asking the parents to fill up a questionnaire on diet and by asking the kids to take an IQ test. The authors found a strong correlation between dietary scores and IQ levels.

“Every one-point increase in the study’s dietary pattern score – a record of processed fat intake – was associated with a 1.67-point fall in IQ.”

With the increasing trend of childhood obesity, the results of this study underscore an urgent need for drastic measures to improve diet in early childhood. It is not only the body that suffers but the mind as well.

According to Michael Nelson, the School Food Trust’s director of research:

“Given that around 23% of children start school either overweight or obese, it’s absolutely clear that healthy choices as part of their early development will stand children in good stead – not only for keeping a healthy weight as they grow up, but as this evidence suggests, improving their ability to do well at school. These findings also demonstrate the importance of helping everyone involved with children’s early development to get the information and advice they need on good nutrition.”

Under evaluation: vagus nerve stimulation against tinnitus

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under HEARING

Battling hearing loss is a topic that I sadly neglected in 2010. I aim to correct this by sharing at least 1 post per mo nth this topic.

Let us start 2011 with a short report on tinnitus, a poorly understood condition characterized by a persistent noise in the ear. It usually “comes in the form of a high-pitched tone in one or both ears, but can also sound like a clicking, roaring or whooshing sound.”

Millions of people of suffering from some form of tinnitus. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for tinnitus. Therapies to ease the symptoms include reducing the persistent sound or simply learning to ignore it. However, studies indicate that tinnitus adversely affect quality of life.

“…it is known to be a sign that something is wrong in the auditory system: the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, or the parts of the brain that process sound. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus, but it can also arise from a number of health conditions. For example, when sensory cells in the inner ear are damaged from loud noise, the resulting hearing loss changes some of the signals in the brain to cause tinnitus.”

Conditions associated with tinnitus include “allergies, high or low blood pressure, tumors and problems in the heart, blood vessels, jaw and neck.”

A research study led by Dr. Michael Kilgard at the University of Texas at Dallas and Dr. Navzer Engineer at MicroTransponder, Inc indicates that tinnitus is not only in the auditory system but in the brain itself. The research team tried to find a means to reverse tinnitus by essentially “resetting” the brain’s auditory system. They did this by electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve (VNS) of lab rats using a tone. Through VNS, they could induce release of chemicals responsible for changes in the brain using different tone frequencies. By monitoring the neural responses in the rat’s brain auditory cortex during the test, they could determine that VNS plus tone stimulation restored responses to normal level – an indication of the absence of tinnitus. They were also able to demonstrate that VNS could reverse tinnitus even in noise-exposed animals.

“The key is that, unlike previous treatments, we’re not masking the tinnitus, we’re not hiding the tinnitus. We are retuning the brain from a state where it generates tinnitus to a state that does not generate tinnitus. We are eliminating the source of the tinnitus.”

This technique has a great potential in brining relief to tinnitus patients. Testing the method in humans is being planned.

This is not the first clinical application of the of VNS. The technique is already used in treating depression and epilepsy.

Depression in MS patients

July 7, 2010 by  

As if pain and impaired mobility are not enough, multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are also plagued by another comorbidity – depression. It is estimated that people with MS have up to 50% lifetime risk for developing depressive symptoms. However, very little is known about the causes and influencing factors of MS-related depression. In a way, this type of depression is quite puzzling. It can occur at any stage of the disease and is not related to the severity of the symptoms. Scientists think that depression in MS patients is not simply a normal reaction to the debilitating symptoms but has a neurological reason.

According to lead author Dr. Stefan Gold

“Depression is one of the most common symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. It impacts cognitive function, quality of life, work performance and treatment compliance. Worst of all, it’s also one of the strongest predictors of suicide.”

Thus, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) decided to investigate the cause(s) of MS-linked depression. Their hypothesis is that it is not a simply psychological problem but rather due to structural changes in the brain, i.e. “atrophy of a specific region of the hippocampus, a critical part of the brain involved in mood and memory, among other functions.”

The researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the MS brain and found three key sub-regions of the hippocampus that were smaller in people with MS when compared to those without MS. This observed atrophy was also linked to the hyperactivity of three interacting glands of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This axis plays a role in the regulation of reactions to stress other physiological processes. In depressed MS patients, the HPA axis released excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.  The researchers believe that this hyperactivity results in dysregulation and atrophy of the hippocampus that leads to the development of depressive symptoms.

The researchers found similarities between MS-linked depression and depression in people without MS but these should be further investigated in future studies.

According to co-author Dr. Nancy Sicotte

“Interestingly, this idea of a link between excessive activity of the HPA axis and reduced brain volume in the hippocampus hasn’t received a lot of attention, despite the fact that the most consistently reproduced findings in psychiatric patients with depression (but without MS) include hyperactivity of the HPA axis and smaller volumes of the hippocampus….So the next step is to compare MS patients with depression to psychiatric patients with depression to see how the disease progresses in each.”

Does mom’s flu increases baby’s schizophrenia risk?

March 15, 2010 by  

Flu and pregnancy had a hot topic since the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza last year. Health authorities lament the fact that the public has been very sceptical of the H1N1 flu vaccine and only very few of the high-risk individuals which included young children and pregnant women were vaccinated.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill investigated the effect of flu infection to the unborn child. They tested the effect of mild flu in pregnant rhesus monkeys and monitored the babies’ development.

12 rhesus macaques were infected with a mild influenza A virus in the early part of its 3rd trimester, 1 month before the due date. 7 pregnant monkeys who were not infected served as controls. The babies of flu-infected mothers were born healthy and did not differ in terms of weight, gestation length and neuromotor, behavioral and endocrine responses compared on babies of non-infected mothers.

After 1 year, the babies were monitored using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans and their behaviour observed. Their results showed that babies exposed to flu infection in utero had smaller brains compared to non-exposed babies. The scans also detected reductions in the amount of gray matter in the cingulate and parietal lobe and of white matter in the parietal lobe. The structural changes observed were very similar to changes observed in humans with schizophrenia.

According to researcher Dr. John Gilmore, professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine

“The brain changes that we found in the monkey babies are similar to what we typically see in MRI scans of humans with schizophrenia. This suggests that human babies whose mothers had the flu while pregnant may have a greater risk of developing schizophrenia later in life than babies whose mothers did not have the flu. Normally that risk affects about 1 of every 100 births. Studies in humans suggest that for flu-exposed babies, the risk is 2 or 3 per 100 births.”

The study results confirm previous reports from similar studies using rodents. In those studies, flu infection during pregnancy increased the risk for schizophrenia in the rodent offsprings.

According to lead author Sarah J. Short

“This was a relatively mild flu infection, but it had a significant effect on the brains of the babies. While these results aren’t directly applicable to humans, I do think they reinforce the idea, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that pregnant women should get flu shots, before they get sick.”

Diet and Alzheimer’s disease

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

BrainLow-fat, low-calorie diets are not only good for cardiovascular health. It may also delay the onset or progression of dementia. Many epidemiological studies have presented evidence that diet plays a role in the clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease. Diet low in fat and calories and rich in fruit, vegetables and fish seem to be best for the brain.

Currently, there is cure or preventive therapy for AD. Many research studied looked into how nutrition can affect brain damage by dementia, hoping a certain type of diet can lower the risk, delay the onset, and slow down the progression of the disease.

Evidence suggests that high intake of saturated and trans fats can increase the risk for AD whereas a Mediterranean diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and reduced risk for AD.

In a more recent study using laboratory animals, a team of researchers from Europe and North America reported that a diet rich in protein may lead to shrinkage of the brain. The researchers tested four different diets on mice, namely:

The purpose of the study was to look at plaque development but one of the results came as a surprise: mice fed with a diet of high protein and low carbohydrate had brains which are 5% lighter that mice with other diet regime. Mice on diet with high fat/low carb had higher levels of plaque proteins but no effect on brain mass.

The results of the study highlight the necessity of more studies on the effects of diet on the brain in prospective randomised double blind clinical diet trials.

According to lead researcher Sam Gandy, a professor at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City

“Given the previously reported association of high protein diet with aging-related neurotoxicity, one wonders whether particular diets, if ingested at particular ages, might increase susceptibility to incidence or progression of AD. This would be a challenging undertaking but potentially worthwhile. If there is a real chance that the ravages of AD might be slowed or avoided through healthy eating. Such trials will be required if scientists are ever to make specific recommendations about dietary risks for AD.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Alcohol: brain damage in 6 minutes

June 18, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

alcohol-bottleEver heard of the expression “letting your drink get into your head?” This figure of speech may actually have some literal truth in it. Alcohol does get to the brain. In just SIX MINUTES. That is how fast it takes for alcohol to travel from the mouth, to the stomach, to the blood, and then to the brain. This is the result of a study by German researchers at the University of Heidelberg. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques, the researchers looked at how fast alcohol is absorbed by the body to affect the brain. Consumption of 3 glasses of beer or 2 glasses of wine is enough to reach the blood alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.06%, the level which many countries consider as the blood alcohol content that impairs the ability to drive. (Mind you, there are some countries with lower alcohol limits for drivers). At this level, the researchers also observed the following changes:

  • The brain reacts very quickly to alcohol. It takes six minutes from the glass to the brain.
  • The harmful effects of alcohol also set in rapidly.
  • The level of creatine, a compound essential in energy metabolism and provides protection to the cells, decreases as the concentration of alcohol increases.
  • The level of choline, which is a component of cell membranes, also decreases.

According to Dr. Armin Biller of the working group for cerebral metabolism at the Department of Neuroradiology at Heidelberg University Hospital

“Our study provides evidence for alternative energy utilization upon alcohol ingestion, i.e. the brain uses an alcohol breakdown product instead of glucose for energy demands…That [choline reduction] probably indicates that alcohol triggers changes in the composition of cell membranes.”

Is the damage to the brain caused by alcohol permanent? Thankfully not. The researchers found that the damage caused by moderate drinking is actually reversible and would be gone by the next day. This means, we can still enjoy a glass of wine every now and then without fearing for our brain cells.

However, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to irreversible damage not only to the liver but to the brain, too.

Dr. Biller continues

“we assume that the brain’s ability to recover from the effect of alcohol decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases. The acute effects demonstrated in our study could possibly form the basis for the permanent brain damage that is known to occur in alcoholics. This should be clarified in future studies.”

The researchers also demonstrated that the effects of alcohol on the brain are not dependent on gender. Males and females are affected in the same way although other factors may play a role, e.g. body mass, stomach contents, as well as individual differences.

So next time you hold a drink in your hand, remember what I’ve just shared with you. Know your limit. That way, you can avoid permanent brain damage.


Photo credit: stock.xchng

Your brain needs good cholesterol, too!

June 11, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

brainIt is well-known that high blood cholesterol levels are not good for the heart. Is is also quite known that high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) – the bad type of cholesterol – can build up and block arteries and adversely affect cardiovascular health.

What is not so well-known is the fact that low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) – the good type of cholesterol – is linked to memory loss and increased risk for dementia. This is according to a study by European researchers.

It seems that cholesterol levels are important not only for heart health but for brain health as well.

The study followed up 3,673 people as part of the long-term Whitehall II study involving British civil servants. The results showed that low levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with diminished memory by age 60. No link was found between memory loss and levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides. The use of statins to manage cholesterol levels did not seem to have an effect.

According to lead author Dr. Archana Singh-Manoux of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM, France) and the University College London (UK)

“Memory problems are key in the diagnosis of dementia. We found that a low level of HDL may be a risk factor for memory loss in late midlife. This suggests that low HDL cholesterol might also be a risk factor for dementia.”

The mechanism behind this link between HDL cholesterol and dementia risk is not so clear but the following hypotheses are proposed:

  • HDL cholesterol blocks the formation of beta-amyloid.
  • HDL cholesterol may affect memory in relation to its role in maintaining vascular health.
  • HDL cholesterol could influence memory through its -inflammatory and antioxidant.

HDL cholesterol… serves several vital biological functions. It helps clear excess cholesterol from the blood; assists nerve-cell synapses to mature; and helps control the formation of beta-amyloid, the major component of the protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Dementia usually occurs in people 65 years or older. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. In the developed world where a large proportion of the population are elderly, dementia is becoming a major – and costly – health concern. The monitoring of HDL cholesterol (and not only LDL cholesterol!) should therefore be encouraged – for the heart as well as for the brain.

Photo credit: stock.xhcng

The link between dementia and “ministrokes”

June 25, 2008 by  

Is there a link between dementia and ministrokes? This seems very likely, according to researchers who conducted studies on several people with dementia or cognitive impairment.

What is dementia?

Dementias are a group of neurological disorders characterized by progressive decline of cognitive and brain functions. Dementias take different forms. The most well-known and most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other types include Lewy Body dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Parkinson’s disease. Some of these types can co-occur together resulting in a condition called mixed dementia.

Our mental capabilities decline as we grow older. However, in case of dementia, this mental decline can occur even in younger people and goes abnormally fast. In its later stages, the disease renders its victims incapacitated and incapable of carrying out normal daily activities.

What are “ministrokes?”

Ministrokes are also called transient ischemic attacks or silent strokes. The symptoms of transient strokes are temporary and often go away. Silent or asymptomatic strokes happen without the patients being aware of their occurrence and are associated with brain abnormalities are aneurysms. Hypertension and diabetes may also cause ministrokes

Because of their transitory or asymptomatic nature, ministrokes are more common than initially thought. Though they do not manifest in serious symptoms, multiple ministrokes present a real danger because “the cumulative effect reaches critical mass” and brain damage occurs.

Where is the link?

In one study, Dutch and American researchers discovered aneurysms, benign brain tumors and asymptomatic strokes using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 2000 older adults. Their results indicate links between silent strokes, symptomatic strokes and dementia.

In another study, researchers of the University of Washington autopsied brains of patients with dementia and found evidence of damage to the small vessels in the brain which is indicative of injuries probably brought about by multiple small strokes.

Unlike previous studies on dementia, this recent study included patients from different ethnic groups and from a large range of educational and professional levels. It ran for over ten years, from 1994 to 2006. The study followed up 3400 participants with or without dementia or cognitive impairment. About a third of the patients died during this period and 221 autopsies were performed.

The study concludes that

small blood vessel damage caused by hypertension and diabetes may be among the leading causes of dementia.”

These recent developments indicate a need for people to be more aware of the dangers of ministrokes. Most often, “silent” strokes may not be necessary silent. We need to recognize the symptoms, no matter how mild.

According to the American Stroke Association, signs of a potential stroke include:

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.