Brain Health and Development Readings
Welcome to TheCognitiveReserve.com! The CognitiveReserve.com system consists of three programs: Clear Mind; Healthy Diet; Sound Body. In the Clear Mind program, you will practice exercises specifically designed to stimulate your brain. You will also see articles similar to this one that will teach you important things about building and maintaining cognitive reserve. We place a high priority on teaching you about your brain because this will give you the tools you need to implement reserve-building changes in your lifestyle. Building reserve is about more than just brain games. It is about examining your entire lifestyle and making important changes.The Healthy Diet program is one of the things that makes this program unique. Few brain fitness programs teach you how to modify your diet to protect your brain, and even fewer provide you with specific meal plans that are delicious and easy to implement in your everyday life. The meals that you find here follow the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to better brain health. We've provided you with a grid to plan your meals for the week, tasty recipes, food guidelines, and a shopping list.The Sound Body program will help you build cognitive reserve in another important way. Research has shown that physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to slow the aging of your brain while also helping you grow new brain cells and new brain connections. Yes we said it! Your adult brain can grow new brain cells! You will learn more about how this happens and ways that you can enhance this process.Be sure to log in every day to build your brain healthy meal plan, to coordinate your physical exercises and to learn about, and stimulate, your brain. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Welcome to TheCognitiveReserve.com!
Studies have shown that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fish and poultry, fruit, nuts and olive oil appears to be protective against the development of cognitive deficits. Such a dietary pattern is commonly referred to as the Mediterranean diet as it is based on the dietary patterns common in Greece and Southern Italy in the nineteen sixties. The Mediterranean diet was first brought to world attention by Dr. Ancel Keys in the mid-1940's. It wasn't popularized, though, until approximately fifty years later by Harvard University's Dr. Walter Willett. In the Mediterranean diet, about 30% of calories come from fats (as compared to approximately 40% in the typical American diet), and 90% of those fats are said to be unsaturated (or "good fats"). Olive oil, which is consumed every day, is the major source of dietary fat and should be used for cooking and dressings in place of other types of oil or butter. The major source of dietary protein in the Mediterranean diet is from plants instead of from animals. This is helpful because it lowers the amount of saturated fat, which is common in animal fat. Leafy green vegetables, legumes (such as beans, peas and chickpeas), whole grain breads and pastas, unrefined cereals and fresh fruit are heavily represented in the Mediterranean diet and are consumed daily. Animal protein in the form of fish, poultry, cheese, and yogurt are eaten in moderate amounts, while red meats are consumed in only small amounts. Fish, seafood and eggs are to be eaten two to three times per week, poultry once weekly and red meats once or twice per month. Fresh and dried fruits are eaten on a daily basis as desserts and snacks. Low to moderate amounts of red wine are also a feature of this dietary pattern. (Needless to say, alcohol consumption should never be excessive and should be avoided completely in pregnancy and when it would cause other health problems.) If you have not tried out any of the delicious recipes contented in TheCognitiveReserve.com, we encourage you to get cooking! View more Brain Health and Development Readings: The Mediterranean Diet
To test your mental acuity, answer the following; the full set of questions, including answers, can be found at forbes.com. Be sure to give yourself a minute, because the answer may be more obvious than you think.Johnny's mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child's name?, A clerk at a butcher shop stands five feet ten inches tall and wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?, Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?, How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?. Read on at forbes.com View more Brain Health and Development Readings: 10 Brainteasers to Test Your Mental Sharpness
It's a loaded question - who's smarter? Men? Women? Those who are older, those with more education? Aggregate results from our memory and lifestyle test indicate:women perform better on our memory test, not surprisingly, the more education you have, the better your memory (one more reason to never stop learning!), age isn't terribly relevant - there are smart teenagers and smart octogenarians. Take our memory and lifestyle test and find how your memory, diet, and health rate against your peers in just a few minutes.Next up:Who Eats Better - Teens or Adults?, Who is Healthier - Men or Women?. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who is Smarter - Men or Women?
When it comes to diet, age, gender, and education impact what you eat in surprising ways. Aggregate results for our memory and lifestyle test indicate:women eat slightly more healthy diets then men, the more education you have, the better you eat. Our research indicates those without high school diplomas have the worst diets, while those with doctoral degrees and professional degrees have the healthiest diets. as people age, they eat better, though it levels off quickly - once you get out of your teen years, diet improves and stays about the same over the years. Take our memory and lifestyle test and find how your memory, diet, and health rate against your peers in just a few minutes.Next up:Who is Healthier - Men or Women?, Who is Smarter - Men or Women?. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who Eats Better - Teens or Adults?
Our memory and lifestyle test digs into how active people are. We aggregated the results and found:men are more active than women, younger folks are more active, level of education doesn't have any notable impact, at least not according to our measure. Take our memory and lifestyle test and find how your memory, diet, and health rate against your peers in just a few minutes.Next up:Who is Smarter - Men or Women?, Who Eats Better - Teens or Adults?. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who is Healthier - Men or Women?
The brain and the body are very closely connected. Although it is the most complex of the bodily organs, your brain is like the other organs in your body in that its proper functioning depends upon the maintenance of your general health. Health problems in pretty much any other organ system such as the heart, circulatory system, lungs, kidneys, and liver can all compromise the functioning of your brain. To ensure optimal brain function, you must pay careful attention to your overall health. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Managing your Physical Health
Clearly, general health has a strong influence on brain health and brain function. The combination of hypertension, hyperlipidemia and family history of Alzheimer's disease puts a person at significant risk for the development of Alzheimer's disease later in life. Some factors, like a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's disease or heart disease, remain out of our control. The good news is that you can lower this risk by keeping high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes under good control through diet, exercise, lifestyle modification and the appropriate use of medications as directed by your physician. By working closely with your doctor and living the brain healthy lifestyle provided by TheCognitiveReserve.com, you are working to keep your brain in top form!If you have not had your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked in a while, then it is probably a good time to schedule a visit to your doctor. We also recommend that anyone starting a new exercise program consult with a physician, so this way you will be killing two birds with one stone. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Time for a Check-up!
The importance of a healthy heart and blood vessels to brain function can't be overstated. The brain is supplied with oxygen and nutrients by the blood that flows through the arteries that arise from the heart. Unlike the cells in say your arm that can survive when deprived of blood flow for a short period of time, brain cells begin to die very quickly without a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients from the blood. When the heart and blood vessels are no longer able to do their jobs adequately and supply blood to the brain, the brain no longer functions properly. A reduction in the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, as may occur after one or more heart attacks or in congestive heart failure, may result in an insufficient quantity of blood being delivered to the brain. As a result, the brain becomes deprived of oxygen and nutrients, and a deduction in the brain's reserve occurs. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Heart Disease
The arteries that supply the brain with blood branch into smaller and smaller vessels forming a network that is sometimes referred to as the arterial tree. Because these blood vessels are so tiny, they are particularly susceptible to injury caused by the effects of hypertension (high blood pressure). This occurs when the blood coursing through the vessels is pumped with too much pressure. Exposure to that very high pressure damages the delicate small branches at the very ends of the arterial tree. The body attempts to heal that damage, and that results in scarring of the arteries. (This is also known as arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.) The damage from high pressure can cause little tiny strokes to occur, which is referred to white matter disease that slowly reduces reserve. As you have been learning, when the cognitive reserve is depleted below a certain threshold, such as by the accumulation of these little stokes and other "reserve depleters," dementia can set in. Scarring or hardening also increases the risk of bigger strokes, that causes permanent brain cell death, and may result in the permanent loss of one or more brain functions. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: High Blood Pressure
High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) can lower reserve because cholesterol deposits that build up inside the arteries can narrow, and eventually block, these blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the brain. The blood flowing through the arteries when they are full of plaque is similar to water flowing through a partially clogged drain. This means that the brain is not getting all of the blood flow that it requires to function properly causing short-term interruptions in functioning and depleting reserve over time. Plaque in the arteries resulting from high cholesterol also increases the risk of strokes. As you learned in the reading on high blood pressure, the tiny branches of the arterial tree that extend deep inside our brains are much smaller than the arteries in other parts of our bodies. If a piece of plaque lining the inside of a larger artery, say closer to the heart, breaks off, it does not cause much of a problem floating around in the larger tube or larger artery. But if this piece of plaque makes it up to the small capillaries of the brain, it can cause an "ischimic" stoke, because it blocks the artery and doesn't allow any fresh blood from reaching the brain cells beyond that point. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: High Cholesterol
Diabetes can have both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, high blood sugar can reduce thinking and the ability to perform simple tasks. This happens because high blood sugar makes the red blood cells too fat to fit into the very tiny branches at the end of the arterial tree. If blood sugar remains elevated for prolonged periods (as in inadequately controlled diabetes), these deficits may become permanent. Chronically elevated blood sugar can also contribute to hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and increase the risk of stroke. Kidney damage and retinal damage caused by uncontrolled diabetes can also lower cognitive reserve. While the impact on the brain is more indirect, the mechanism of this damage from diabetes is the same. The brian is not the only place in the body that is fed by the tiny capillaries of the arterial system. The other major locations of these tiny capillaries are the tips of the fingers and toes, the kidneys and the eyes. So when the red blood cells become engorged when blood sugar is too high, these parts of the body lose blood flow and break down over time as well. As you may know, kidneys are important for filtering out toxins from our blood. If toxins build up in the blood from poorly functioning kidneys, the brain suffers from a condition called toxemia. Cognitive reserve is also dependent on the brain receiving consistent stimulation in order for the circuits of the brain to remain active, well connected to one another and thus remain alive. Therefore, maintaining good vision is an important source of sensory input to the brain. If the retinas are damaged by chronic high blood sugar caused by diabetes, then cognitive reserve is lost. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Diabetes Effects on the Brain
Food, thoughts and memories have long been felt to be connected. Who, after all, has not heard the expression "You are what you eat," or is not familiar with the idea that the taste and smell of a particular food item can trigger an old memory? Brain research has now demonstrated a link between mental function and our diets. We now know that our levels of cognitive reserve and what we eat are intricately related. As you've been learning, the concept of cognitive reserve is the idea that our brains can resist the effects of the little injuries of daily life that turn into the accumulated effects of aging and rob us of our mental powers. People who have higher levels of cognitive reserve can weather these accumulated deductions to a greater degree than those with lower levels of cognitive reserve, drawing upon the extra brainpower they have stored in the bank to keep their minds functioning in top form despite the advancing years. Each of us has a different level of cognitive reserve and, therefore, a different level of resistance to the development of dementia. The good news is that our levels of cognitive reserve can be enhanced through lifestyle changes, therefore giving us some control over the aging of our brains. Diet is one of the important lifestyle elements that appears to play an role in building and maintaining cognitive reserve. We felt a program without a brain healthy diet would be incomplete. That is why we included the Mediterranean Diet in TheCognitiveReserve.com program. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Diet and the Brain
In today's world, we are quite busy and attempt to do more and more in less and less time. We multi-task, eliminate the inessential, skip meals and forego sleep in an effort to accomplish our assigned tasks and achieve our goals with ever increasing degrees of efficiency. Lack of sleep, through a variety of effects on cognition, serves to compromise our efficiency, rather than to enhance it.Although generally thought of as a mere period of physical and mental inactivity, sleep is actually a highly complex and carefully orchestrated collection of states of brain and bodily activities. Called stages, each sleep associated brain state is characterized by a distinct EEG (brain wave) pattern and by different physiologic features. The first three stages of sleep are the non-REM stages, in which there is progressive slowing of the EEG frequencies. REM is the stage in which the EEG pattern is most similar to that of the waking state, but in which there is a complete loss of muscle tone and in which rapid, side to side oscillatory eye movements are seen. Dreaming occurs during REM sleep, and there are four REM periods per night that become progressively longer in duration as the night goes on. Sleep appears to function in the consolidation of memories. Consequently, getting too little sleep could be expected to (and does) impair the encoding of memories. REM sleep is associated with the consolidation of spatial and procedural memories. (These memories allow for the recall of the manner in which things are arranged in space as well as the manner in which tasks are performed.) The deeper stages of non-REM sleep (characterized by slower frequency EEG rhythms) are associated with declarative memory. (Two subsets of declarative memory exist. One, called episodic memory, deals with the encoding of specific life experiences. The other, known as semantic memory, encodes specific facts.) When sleep is interrupted, or the ability to achieve specific stages of sleep becomes impaired, memory consolidation ceases to function normally.Sleep deprivation has indirect effects on cognition in addition to direct effects on memory consolidation. Daytime sleepiness is an inevitable consequence of sleep deprivation, and results in impaired vigilance and alertness. When sleepy, we are less able to pay attention to the world around us, to others and even to our own thoughts. This compromises our abilities to think, to plan and to remember in quite a striking, even if indirect, manner. General health is also strongly related to experiencing normal sleep patterns, and general health has an undeniable influence on brain function. Hypertension, stroke, obesity and congestive heart failure are all more common in those individuals who suffer from sleep deprivation. These conditions impair physical brain function through metabolic and vascular effects, ultimately resulting in lower cognitive reserve and over time impaired cognitive function.
View more Brain Health and Development Readings: The Benefits of Adequate Sleep
Is it true that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Perhaps or perhaps not, but it is now known that always working and playing in the same location without the ability to experience different cultures and ways of thought that travel affords certainly makes Jack an inflexible thinker. Studies conducted by behavioral scientists (a group whose principal objective in life is to torment undergraduates) have shown that greater creativity in problem solving is exhibited by those who have experienced life in foreign cultures. In one series of experiments conducted at Indiana University, the mere mention of a location distant from campus served to make undergraduate subjects tasked with listing means of conveyance think more broadly, creatively and inclusively.In studies conducted by members of the faculties of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management the European based international business school INSEAD, the ability to solve problems creatively was highly correlated with having lived abroad.Why should this be so? What does travel have to do with creative thinking? The answer appears to have to do with the act of having negotiated life in another culture. Those who have traveled and lived abroad and have experienced different cultures appear to exhibit greater degrees of cognitive flexibility than those who have not because those who have encountered similar human behaviors under starkly different cultural circumstances. This appears to afford and enhance the open mindedness needed to see that a single idea or action can have different meanings and consequences depending upon cultural context. Similarly, similar or even identical objects can have different uses in different cultural settings.The development of mental flexibility is a key component of the development of cognitive reserve. By traveling, experiencing new cultures, new mindsets and new uses for old objects and ideas, new mental associations are formed, new cognitive (and perhaps even new neuronal) connections are established and the mental armamentarium against which one may draw in the battle to stay off cognitive decline becomes enhanced and enriched.
View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Go on that Vacation!!
While meditation is often thought of as a practice limited to Eastern mystics, it is really much more widespread than that. We have all experienced meditative states while participating in some activity that allows us to ignore the passage of time and to focus exclusively on the present. Sports, hobbies, reading and playing with our kids can put us into a meditative state. And while meditation is often thought of as a means of achieving a higher spiritual state, it is also a mechanism for producing states of sustained attention.Are there cognitive benefits to achieving that profoundly attentive state? Recent research suggests that there are. In studies on the effects of meditation on mood and cognition, researchers at The University of North Carolina have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can not only enhance mood but can also enhance that ability to perform mental tasks that require that several pieces of information be kept in mind simultaneously. That is to say, meditators appear to be better at paying attention to many things at once.Mindfulness meditation is a meditative technique in which the meditator is taught to focus on present bodily sensations or on some external stimulus in an effort to promote sustained attention to the present moment. The sustained attention induced by mindfulness meditation appears to have clear neuropsychological and neurophysiological correlates.In classic studies of experienced meditators, EEG patterns are shown to change during meditation. A shift toward high amplitude alpha activity, an EEG pattern associated with quiet attentiveness and concentration, is seen. With the advent of functional MRI (fMRI) it has become possible to study brain activity more directly. This tool has been employed to examine brain activity in the setting of particular behavioral states and task related conditions. During meditation, activity in the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia appears to become enhanced, while activity in the occipital gyrus and anterior cingulate cortex becomes inhibited. These findings correlate well with the expectation that meditators will be better concentrators, as the basal ganglia function in the facilitation of behaviors and precise movements that are needed for particular tasks and situations while also functioning in the inhibition of other behaviors and movements that are not appropriate for that situation. The anterior cingulated cortex functions in pain perception (a phenomenon that changes dramatically under the influence of meditation) and the prefrontal cortex plays a role in attentiveness, insight, emotionality and in the sharpening of mental attention. Based on these fMRI findings, classical EEG studies of meditators and the daily experience of those who routinely engage in mindfulness meditation, this practice may be employed to enhance mental focus and attention and thereby enhance learning and memory, leading to better and more efficient cognitive functioning. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Meditation and Cognition
If the ability to perform a mentally demanding task is considered a sign of intellectual power, the ability to switch back and forth between two complex and related mental activities must surely be considered a sign of intellectual prowess. In fact, the efficiency with which one is able to switch mental "sets" is felt by neuroscientists to reflect the efficiency of one's cognitive executive control system. The more efficient one's executive control system is, the better one is at multitasking. So, if you want to be a better multitasker, you'll have to enhance your cognitive executive control system. An excellent way to do that, it turns out, is to learn (and use) another language.The connection between bilingualism and efficient multitasking may not be immediately obvious, but has been demonstrated in scientific studies. Ellen Bialystock and her colleagues were able to show that individuals who were able to speak more than one language were better able to concentrate and to deal with distractions than were people capable of speaking only one language. The better executive functioning of bilinguals, as compared to monolinguals, also appears to resist aging. In a study of normally aging bilingual and monolingual people, bilingual individuals performed better on executive control tasks than did monolinguals. This suggests that being able to speak more than one language helps to protect against the loss of this important cognitive capacity.Furthermore, language ability may help to enhance cognitive reserve in other ways as well. In a 2010 study published in The American Academy of Neurology's journal Neurology, bilingual individuals were found to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease five years later than their occupationally and cognitively matched counterparts. In fact, this protective effect of knowing two or more languages is present even in those with limited formal education.So there you have it! Acquiring fluency in more than one language helps to enhance executive control, allowing for more rapid and efficient switching of attention between mental tasks, to promote successful multitasking and to enhance cognitive reserve thereby potentially delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Start your language studies today, and you may make your next overseas trip much more fun, in addition to experiencing great cognitive benefits. Bon chance!! View more Brain Health and Development Readings: The Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning
One of the more difficult parts of any exercise plan is sticking to it. There's always an endless variety of reasons not to exercise: dinner needs to be cooked, dishes await being washed, or my favorite excuse as of late: the Olympics are on. It doesn't matter that I don't care for sports, or the thick irony of watching Olympians compete when I should be exercising myself -- I just don't want to exercise. Sites like TheCognitiveReserve.com aim to make exercising easier by providing structure and suggested exercises. If you need an extra push, it can help to schedule exercise times, and have family or friends join you. If schedules or distance don't allow for easy pairing with friends, look into the Fitbit. This little device is basically a pedometer that connects to facebook, allowing you and your friends to see each other's daily steps, stairs taken, and miles traversed. This social exercise will have you measuring your activity as compared to your friends, and hopefully stepping up your activity lest you fall behind.I purchased a Fitbit at the start of summer, and have found it remarkably motivating. You can see my activity here, which I share with you and a couple friends. Most notable are two friends from my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. While the average American walks about 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day, these two friends easily double that, promptly making me feel (and look) like a slouch. In response, I found myself walking the dog for longer stretches, and jumping back into my exercise routine with renewed vigor. You can decide how much information you want to record and share, including the ability to log additional exercises and meals. All logged information is private by default, a smart move prompted by the accidental reveal of their user's sexual liaisons. Too bad Google didn't exist in the age of Masters and Johnson, as it would have saved them quite a bit of time!Regardless of how much you share, a little social support can be the key to successfully sticking to your exercise routine, and overcoming all the excuses. That said, dinner still needs to be made, but at least you'll be rewarded by all the steps needed to cook up a meal! Want to learn more? Read a full review of the Fitbit here. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Putting the Fit in Fitbit!
Dr. Darrin Thomas offers the technological background that allows the cognitive reserve program to be made available online. He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, earning his Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage. His Ph.D. in Management Information Systems was earned from the University of Illinois at Chicago. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who is Darrin Thomas, Ph.D.?
Dr. Sanford Sherman has practiced General Neurology at Northwest Neurology in the Chicago suburbs since 1988, and sees patients with a wide range of neurological conditions including dementia, memory loss and cognitive impairment. He has been treating patients who present with various diseases, but now he has helped to develop a program aimed at lifestyle management and disease prevention. The Cognitive Reserve is a comprehensive program aimed at cognitive preservation and memory enhancement. It will help individuals to maintain their full intellectual potential.Dr. Sherman was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his Medical Degree from Rush University Medical School. He interned in Internal Medicine at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center and he completed his residency in Neurology and Fellowship in Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He helped develop and is the Physician Director of the award winning stroke program at St. Alexius Medical Center, and serves as a member of the Neurosciences Advisory Board of the Alexian Brothers Health Network. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who is Sanford Sherman, M.D.?
Dr. Jeffrey Farbman has had longstanding interests in both neuroscience and in remembering where he parked his car. This combination prompted him to join forces with other neuroscience professionals to develop the lifestyle management program that The Cognitive Reserve employs to help keep your mind sharp.Board certified in Neurology by The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Jeff maintains an active general neurology practice in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He has a decade and a half of experience in practice, served his residency in Neurology at The University of Chicago and is a graduate of The Rush Medical College in warm and sunny Chicago, Illinois!Prior to attending medical school, Jeff earned a B.S. at Brooklyn College where he was involved in scientific research aimed at understanding the physiology of the vertebrate retina. He continued his scientific endeavors at Northwestern University where he was involved in electrophysiologic studies of the mammalian visual cortex and where he earned his M.S. degree in Neurobiology. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who is Jeffrey Farbman, M.D.?
Dr. Neil Pliskin is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Neurology, the Director of the Neurobehavior Program, the Director of the Neuropsychology Service, and the Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine, all at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a board certified neuropsychologist with years of experience directing Neuropsychology and psychology training programs. Dr. Pliskin is involved in educational and clinical practice issues at the national level through his work as Director of Continuing Education for the International Neuropsychological Society and Chair of the Practice Advisory Committee of the American Psychological Association's Division of Clinical Neuropsychology.After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Pliskin went on to earn his Ph.D. in Psychology at the Chicago Medical School. His internship was at Washington D.C.'s Saint Elizabeth's Hospital, residency at the National Institute of Mental Health, and his Postdoctoral Fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology was completed in 1988 at the University of Oklahoma. View more Brain Health and Development Readings: Who is Neil Pliskin, Ph.D., ABPP-CN?