Friday, December 31, 2010

Noted Neuroscientist Plotting Next Generation of Nintendo Brain Age

 More on the brain fitness game front.   Noted Neuroscientist, Ryuta Kawashima, has just released the title of the next generation of Nintendo Brain Age:  Brain Age 3Ds.  Those of us reading the tea leaves are pondering whether this means just a 3D version of Nintendo Brain Age or whether there is more to it.

Dr. Kawashima specializes in mapping regions of the brain to faculties such as emotion, language, memorization, and cognition and using this information to help people improve their faculties. 

He has done work regarding eye contact and eye motion and its mapping to the amygdala,  andother areas in the limbic system, namely, the left insula and cingulate cortex, GO/NOGO decisions (critical to understanding ADHD), time, and memory.  It will be interesting to see how his research will influence his next generation game.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Post Op Sinus Surgery: Anything in French Always Sounds Better

I am amazed at how you can use a dollop of French to make anything sound better than what it is.  When we want to talk about our backside in a delicate fashion, we use the word derriere.  When we want to show off abit and talk about sea sickness, we use "mal de mer".  "Adeiu" carries more weight than good-bye.  "Decollete" can be used for a really low cut dress. "Pret a Porter" for everyday clothing.  And so on.

My Bete Noir (pet peeve) is in Post Op Sinus Surgery.  My good surgeon wants to ensure good results by removing all guck than can accumulate up my probiscus (nose) so he has me perform nasal lavage twice daily.  Nasal Lavage, what a term!  Lavage is from the French word, laver, to wash.    Lavage sounds like something  that I would go to a spa and have done to me while I was wrapped in sea weed with cucumbers on my eyelids. Lavage sounds like something that I'd find in a very cute bottle with a ribbon on it and lots of other French words inscribed on it.

Nasal Lavage somehow sounds grander and more refined than another term, nasal irrigation.  Irrigation sounds very agricultural and very earthy.  I think of irrigation ditches or maybe pipes with holes in them and water spurting out.  Irrigation might more properly describe the actual goings on of hydrating a very dry area  but social custom wins out, and we call our procedure, lavage instead.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Navy Wants Mobile Brain Training

Karl Pribram and colleagues have presented evi...Image via WikipediaHigh on the Navy’s just-released wish list for designs from small businesses is a “brain-fitness training program” that sailors can use to sharpen their cognitive skills. It’s got to work on an “ultramobile platform” like an iPhone or a netbook. According to a solicitation released yesterday, the Navy wants it to produce measurable improvements in “working memory, attention, language processing and decision making,” not just in “new recruits” but aging captains, admirals and senior enlisteds.
Think of it like a souped-up adult education app. With something of a twist.

Any business that wants the Navy’s cash must demonstrate that its learning program will actually change sailors’ brains. Among other criteria, pilot programs have to actually “quantify brain-tissue growth.” Not to be overly literal, but some recent neuroscientific studies posit that adult brain cells expand and contract in response to stimuli, a process known as neuroplasticity.

What “growth” in this context actually means is a faster brain, where synapses fire electrical impulses more rapidly in response to stimuli. That’s what the Navy wants to witness.

But it’s far from clear how it would work. Presumably, the Navy wouldn’t perform biopsies on its sailors to study expanded brain functions. The solicitation just says generically that the “cognitive gym” should “remotely monitor” sailors’ progress.

This already exists with Lumosity apps ( and also, if Posit Science would also develop more iphone apps (they have one for face recognition at ). 
 My problem with the SBIR is that it should stimulate next generation technologies not just push what's out there a little further along.  That's what regular government procurement programs can do for the military.  This is a simple mod to already existing technology.  Nothing new here.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dance Revolution and Me

I just went back to trying Dance Dance Revolution (DDR).  I have gotten the hang of it and can function at the beginner mode.  I am doing it a bit lightly.... it more depends on my husband's TV viewing schedule.  The WII is hooked up to the downstairs TV and the Xbox with DDR is in the bedroom.  If hubby is downstairs "locked on tube", the WII is thus unavailable and I do DDR.   My plan is to finish Brain Fitness in the next two weeks and figure out where I am planning to plateau with the WII.  When I reach my plateau, I will switch off and do DDR.   I may put off DDR and tackle it after I get orthotics.  I haven't decided yet.

When I first got DDR, I didn't have much luck with it so I put it aside. But this time, I have figured out how to set the mode for each dance to Beginner and to slow down the beat.  I have been "Walking Like an Egyptian" and dancing to "Apache" and "I Like the Way She Moves".    Kind of reliving my adolescence.  Next thing you know I'll be putting up Michael Jackson posters in my bedroom. Controller for Dance Dance RevolutionImage via Wikipedia

On a more serious note, I am interested in DDR as an adjunct to the Interactive Metronome therapy I've done.  I don't think DDR can replace IM because:
  • The pace of  IM can be adjusted to suit individual needs and DDR can't. 
  • IM provides a sequential, logical learning hierarchy and critical feedback for timing, DDR does not.
  • IM is beat is rhythmic and predictable which is critical to motor planning, DDR is not.
But i think it will help keep the skills I've learned with IM.  Annecdotally, other people have had luck gaining similar benefits from DDR as they have received from IM.   I think the balance work  both with the WII and the other exercises that the doctors have been giving me that I've been doing is paying off.

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Talking Brains

Found an interesting blog entry on conference proceedings on  hearing, speech and the brain.

The influence of background noise (continuous scanning) shouldn’t be underestimated. If background noise simply increases global brain signal (i.e. an increase in gain), it shouldn’t have impacted the results. But background noise can interact with behavioral factors, and results in spatially constrained patterns of univariate signal increase (including left temporal cortex, e.g. Peelle et al. 2010b).

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Brains are Weight Lifting

During the big snow when there's not much else to do (we are getting about 1 foot of snow here), my husband and I are gutting it out in our bedroom exercising our brain with Posit Science's Brain Fitness. Recreated :File:Neuron-no labels2.png in Inksc...Image via Wikipedia

I am going great guns with the "Hi Lo" game which is supposed to improve brain processing speed.  I have progressed from 102 milliseconds down to 29 milliseconds which is much better than most people.   I guess the old synapses are just firing away!   Zit-Zit! or whatever sound synapses make!

Brain Fitness has increased the speed of the sounds  I am doing OK matching syllables -- nothing special to remark on.  According to the forum that Posit Science sponsors, a number of us are having difficulties distinguishing Dah Gah and Sheh Cheh.

But I am doing better at following instructions:  I have moved up from 4 instructions to 5 quite consistently and I have even attempted 6 instructions. 

Hubby is doing Brain Fitness, too, in the hopes that he will score better on a standardized test he wants to take later this year for a professional credential.   He is going a little gagga over Dah Gah as well.

Well, we are both pooped out from our workout and are going to curl up in bed for a nice afternoon nap on a snowy day.  Maybe put on our friend, Andrew, for some relaxation.  

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

How Exercise Can Boost Kids' Brainpower... And Yours, Too

There are a number of exercises such as "crossing the midline" that really help with both cognition and physical fitness that are often used for both autism and ADHD.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Yoga and Sensory Defensiveness

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of yoga on adults with sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness is considered a larger reaction to and less tolerance of typical levels of sound, touch, smell, light, and movement in the environment that the majority of other people would find harmless. Some examples of this are experiencing discomfort in crowded areas with lots of people or objects (i.e., while in a large store or shopping mall), cutting tags out of clothing because they irritate the skin, heightened sensitivity to loud noises, tendency to avoid rides at an amusement park, or avoiding activities one wants or needs to do to get though a typical day.
Helen yogaImage via WikipediaThomas Jefferson is recruiting adult participants to study Yoga and Sensory Defensiveness.

The aim of this study is to:
  • Understand the role of yoga in decreasing sensory defensiveness;
  • Understand how sensory defensiveness can impact social participation;
  • Determine if individuals with sensory defensiveness experience more anxiety;
  • Determine if yoga is an effective intervention for decreasing sensory reactivity and improving participation for adults with sensory defensiveness.
Current Upcoming Studies

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Maybe All We Need is Love

The Christmas Eve homily at midnight mass got me thinking about neurodiversity and our need for a bit of understanding and love.    I went over to Princeton for the service.  It was a beautiful mass with great music.  The priest gave a great sermon about God's love and included this little annecdote:A Love waveImage via Wikipedia

Apparently, he was waiting in the checkout line at one of the big-box stores and people were a bit grumpy. Until they reached the checkout counter, that is.  Then they started to smile.  When it came to his turn at checkout, he understood why.  There was a little sign near the cashier that said:

"I was made with love.   Please treat me accordingly."

Maybe what we need to look at neurodiversity through a different lens:

The concept of neurodiversity is timely in that it respects recent research suggesting that what we call disabilities exist on a continuum with normal behavior. [9] But instead of viewing Ratey's "half-empty glass" (more people are disabled than we previously thought), it takes a "half-full" glass perspective (individuals with"disability labels"are more closely linked to "normal" people than we thought). It also gives us a context for understanding why we are so frequently delighted with Calvin's ADHD behavior in "Calvin & Hobbes" in the comics, amused by Tony Shalhoub's OCD super-detective "Monk" on television, and inspired by Russell Crowe's performance as Nobel-Prize winner/schizophrenic John Nash in the movie "A Brilliant Mind."
The use of the term neurodiversity is not an attempt to whitewash the suffering undergone by neurodiverse people, nor to romanticize what many still consider terrible afflictions (see Peter Kramer's attack on so-called romanticizers of depression). [10] Rather, its use seeks to acknowledge the richness and complexity of human nature, and specifically, of the human brain. The more we study the brain, the more we understand that it functions, not like a computer, but more like a rainforest (see Gerald Edelman's work in this regard). [11] The "brainforest," in fact, may serve as an excellent metaphor to use in the neurodiversity field to talk about how the brain responds to trauma by redirecting neurological pathways, and how genetic "flaws" may bring with them advantages as well disadvantages. Disorders such as autism, ADHD, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, and dyslexia have been in the gene pool for a long time. There must be a reason why they're still there. The work of evolutionary psychobiologists and evolutionary psychologists represent a key component in exploring this fascinating question.
The implications for special education are enormous. Instead of wallowing in the current "disability discourse," both regular and special educators have an opportunity to step "out of the box" and embrace an entirely new trend in thinking about human diversity. Rather than putting kids into separate disability categories and using outmoded tools and language to work with these students, a perspective based on neurodiversity invites educators to utilize tools and language from the ecology movement as a key to helping kids succeed in the classroom. If we apply the same kind of diversity model to children as we do to the flora of the world, then we should be in much better shape than we are now.
Consider the issue of inclusion in education. Regular classroom teachers are far more likely to want a "rare and beautiful flower" or "an interesting and strange orchid" included in their classroom than a "broken" or "damaged" child. The use of ecological metaphors suggests an approach to teaching as well. Individual species of flowers have specific environmental needs regarding sun, water, soil conditions, and so forth. Similarly, neurodiverse children will be seen as having their own differing ecological thriving factors, and it will be a key role for a neurodiversity specialist to understand each child's unique needs for optimal growth. The goal will not be to try and "cure" "fix" "repair" "remediate" or even "ameliorate" a child's "disability." In this old model, such kids are made either to approximate the norm (especially for national accountability tests), or helped to cope with their disabilities as best they can (the phrase "she can learn to have a successful and productive life despite her disability" comes to mind here).
In the new model, there is no norm. [12] Rather, the neurodiversity-based educator will have a deep respect for each child's differences and seek ways to bring together an optimal joining of nature and nurture, finding the best ecological niche for each child where his assets are maximized and his debits are minimized. This, of course, represents an enormous challenge for public schools, since they are not known for their flexibility in creating a variety of learning eco-systems. [13] Hopefully, schools will be forced to change by the sheer variety and force of their student population's neurological organization.
To this end, the neurodiversity-inspired educator will strive to educate others (parents, administrators, colleagues, students) about "differences, not disabilities" through diversity programs that are similar to those used in schools and the workplace for gender and race. These programs will include information on the abilities of neurodiverse people, showcase examples of neurodiverse individuals who have achieved success, and help people discard old disability-based ways of thinking in favor of a new neurodiversity discourse (not with the intention of being "politically correct," but of being "neurologically accurate.") Finally, educators who are engaged in research projects will have a new avenue of exploration in identifying the strengths, talents, abilities, multiple intelligences, and other assets of neurodiverse people. Such research is very much in line with contemporary psychology's new approach to "positive psychology" and will be fundamental in changing the attitudes and outlook of people toward children in special education programs. [14Neurodiversity and Ecology

Maybe because God created us with love, we should be treated accordingly.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

My Brain Gives Me An Early Xmas Present

I thought I'd take a little victory lap.

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia
I've been doing Brain Fitness, the software program by Posit Science, that sharpens the auditory system of the brain for faster thinking, sharper focus, and better memory.  I have mastered their first game, "Hi Lo" and have got over 20,000 points.   "Hi Lo" whoops at you with sweeps of sound starting from high to low and vice verse.  I am doing the extra credit part with bursts of sweeps.

Also, I have made a lot of progress with the Wii.  I started to pay attention to the center of balance.  My Center of Balance is typically too far to the right and back.  I am making it a shift my weight to the left and forward by realigning my hips in relationship to my feet.  This has paid off.

I have scored "Personal Best" in the  Balance Bubble where your avatar is in a bubble floating on a river.  You have to keep your bubble from bursting by making sure it doesn't crash into the riverbanks of a winding river.

Another "Personal Best" in Soccer Heading,  where you headbut the soccer ball.  I am finally getting my coordination in sync with the rhythm in which the ball is being kicked at me.

Another "Personal Best" in Ski Slalom, where you try to ski between the slalom gates.  This has always been really challenging for me as I have gone to fast for my sense of coordination and have banged into the slalom gates.

I have also gotten much better at the Rhythm Parade.  Hubby really smokes this one with a score in the 500 range.  He gave the tip of waiting till the circles turn pink before flicking my wrist. 

In the extra balance exercises, I am doing much better at keeping my center of balance where it should be.  I can see the squiggles converge much closer to the center of the circle.

Somehow I think my neurons just snapped into place a bit more and are giving me an early Christmas present.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Your Brain and Gift GIving

Tis the season to give!  We give for a variety of reasons.  Around Christmas time, we are exhorted to give gifts not only to our loved ones.  During these uncertain times,  we also give to charity. Why?

A new initiative at the University of Notre Dame called the Science of Generosity is looking into just that. It’s uniting researchers across a wide range of disciplines including economics, social psychology, neurology, anthropology and biology to study why people are generous, how people express their generosity, and the impact of giving on both donors and recipients.

Among the initiative’s publications is a comprehensive review of more than 500 studies on why people give. from Evidence Based Living

Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993–1996)Image via Wikipedia
 Dr. Harbaugh, professor of neuroeconomics at    , finds that we get pleasurable feelings from both "pure altruism", giving no matter what the source or intent (whether you give becuase it's mandatory, as in tithing), and "warm glow", giving you want to on a voluntary basis.  Both types of giving elicit neural activity in areas linked to reward processing.

Neural responses to taxation and voluntary giving ... [Science. 2007] - PubMed result

He also conducted an experiment  where participants were given 100$; they could keep them and leave or give some money to FoodBank (charity that distributes food to the homeless).

- conditions were such that no-one would know how much they kept or spent, but they’d give the data anonymously to a lab assistant on a USB stick later
- then there were different variations in the amount of the money given that would actually reach the FoodBank [FB], from “given 15-> 45 to FB” to “given 45 -> only 15 to FB”.

 the result was what Harbaugh called the “altruistic supply function”, as of the 80% of  participants who gave some money the pattern was such that they gave less money if it was expensive to give to the FoodBank and more if it was cheap. While this is not selfish behavior, it is still rational.
Yet the question arises: Why do they give anything at all? To check on this, Harbaugh modified the experiment again, this time simply “taxing” the participant 15dollars for the FoodBank. As there is no choice involved, it of course does not allow much in terms of a conventional analysis. Yet Harbaugh overcame this problem by connecting the participants to an iMRI scan to see how the brain reacts to the different conditions.

What he found firstly matched with Tania Singers findings that the areas for self-rewards was active as well when the reward went to others (“warm-glow”), and secondly that these areas were even active (if to a lesser degree) when they did not even make the decision themselves (tax-scenario and “pure altruism”).

The problem in the real world is however that if we act in a large economy, it is easy to help someone if you’re the only one around, but if there’s a thousand other people people around as well, we tend to hope that someone else helps. Harbaugh therefore advocated warm-glow altruism, as although it seems more egoistic it motivates other too to help.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"How Do you Incorporate Balance Training into Your Clients' Workouts?"

Some clients—usually athletes, individuals who are in postrehabilitation and the elderly—understand that they need balance training. With them it’s acceptable to block out 15–20 minutes of each workout to specifically train balance. With athletes we will probably work on the beam and wobble boards doing sport-specific drills and a lot of single-leg exercises. For clients in postrehabilitation for low-back injury, we might spend that time working on foam rollers, stability balls or other unstable apparatus to train posture and stabilization. With seniors I like to do a lot of dual adjustable pulley work from standing. We add steps to their pushing and pulling exercises. We also do multidirectional mini lunges and walk through drills on the agility ladder. 
Name of model: Isokinetics Deluxe Balance BoardImage via Wikipedia
For other clients the workout goal is to look better. They need balance training as well, but they aren’t really interested in it. So I sneak balance work into the program. We might warm up for 3–4 minutes by walking and moving on the beam. The clients’ focus is on carrying themselves with their best-looking posture, but my focus is on making sure they get in some balance work. Then, before we do squats, we might do one warm-up set without weights on the balance board. We might do abdominal work on the stability ball that day as well. While their focus is on the “fashion” gains from these exercises, I’ve slipped in some “function” in terms of balance.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Consciousness and Christmas Wishes

Christmas 2003: The NativityImage by DUCKMARX via FlickrYou know,  at times during the course of this year, I have been laying around with not much energy as I have been waiting for time to pass as the body heals.  The Beethoven piece about Thanksgiving during Convalescence that I blogged about recently really sums up that wait stage.  It's kind of like Advent...waiting for birth of a new me. 

So, I have thought on and off about "What is the point of getting all my senses: ears, eyes, balance, feet, hands, smell all working?"  All this therapy begs the question, "To What End?".   As each day progresses, my world changes as my perceptions of that world change.  At times, I really haven't been able to do much other than lump about in bed as I have been quite tired.  At other times, I'm not so tired mentally as I am physically.  During these times, I can be a bit bored.  To pass the time, I meditate or pray or I listen to podcasts.   I have been too tired to read so listening to a podcast is a nice way of kicking back and occupying the mind as the body recovers.

Since I am all things neuroscience these days but I can only take so much of the neurology of binocular vision, balance, and hearing and I am wondering about the greater meaning of all this, I have turned to  iTunes  UC Berkley course on Consciousness by John Kihlstrom.  Kihlstrom steps you through daydreaming, hysteria, sleep and dreams, introspection, explicit and implicit consciousness, and the mind-body problem.  As Kihlstrom walks through these alternative states of consciousness, he is pointing towards a cognitive unconscious that executes automatic processes but lacks the complex mechanisms of repression of a purely psychological (emotional) unconsciousness. I am thinking that there is perhaps a bit of an interplay between these two realms-- that there is a cognitive unconsciousness that exists purely but that there are parts of this cognitive unconsciousness that react to and influence a purely emotional unconsciousness. 

So what does this mean to me and what about Christmas?  I'm coming to that in a very longwinded way.  Bear with me.

It's pretty obvious that my senses haven't been feeding accurate information about my world around me for quite sometime and that the world isn't exactly as I have been seeing it.  Since the beginning of therapy, my world changes every 3 days to every couple of weeks.  What has been so is not set in concrete and will not be for some time.  For the most part, this is a pleasant discovery of the world around me as I see or hear new things.  On the other hand, it is a bit jarring to run your daily errands and suddenly stumble across the fact that the awnings on Applebee's actually have apple images on them!  I mean, you know, you really want to take some things for granted  in your day to day living and not be disrupted!  With all these changes in your day to day environment, you really do want some sort of roadmap to the universe around you and also the universe inside you.  And this pondering of how the world is organized starts to lead you down a path of the new laws of science, that structure the universe:  string theory, quantum mechanics, the physics of cosmology, ecology and biophysics/biochemistry.  Biophysics  and biochemistry is where the rubber starts meeting the road in terms of exactly what happens physically during consciousness.  As I am gathering wool, I also note that there is a lot that is being talked about as we discuss consciousness that overlaps how philosophical and religious thinkers start to think about structuring our minds and knowledge both abstractly and how we relate to the world around us.  From a variety of disciplines, thinkers are grasping for the "grand theory of everything".  As these various thinkers start to bring these thoughts to bear on a peaceful relationship with our physical, emotional and social world, I can't help but think of the Christmas message of "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men".

There are a variety of translations of the Hebrew word, Shalom.  Shalom can be peace in the absence of war. Shalom can also mean "wholeness", "fullness", "totality", "completeness". Shalom means wholeness in the sense that no component part is missing, impaired or damaged. It means also that all parts are in harmony, order and unity.  This search for the "grand theory of everything" is perhaps unconsciously (lol!) motivated by a desire for harmony, order and unity.  As we change how our conceptions of how the physical universe is ordered from the revolution of the heavenly bodies, through evolution of our planet, and the workings of our bodies, minds and souls, we change our ideas of what it is to be whole and complete. 

When we ponder anew the ancient questions of "Who Am I?"  and "Where Did I Come From?" in light of these new scientific  discoveries, we are rewriting our narrative.  As we look anew at the marvels of the universe, we can't help but be struck with gratitude for living in a world filled with physical wonders. As I look at the intricate wiring of the brain, I can't help but feel a sense of awe at what God has wrought.  When I think about the capacity of human beings to respond to life both human and not, I can't help but think of ourselves as "Gifts of the Universe".  We are Gifts each and everyone of us as individuals and we can Gift each other and our planet through acts of love and kindness.  As we gift, we create our identity and  answer the questions of "Who Am I?": "our deep identity - an accumulation of freely given gifts from the immensity of the Universe through the intimacy of Earth to us, as us." 

As a Christian, this is what I believe the message of the Christ Child.  That we are connected to each other, to the Heavens where the Angels Sing, to Nature as Shepherds tended their flocks by night.   That we are connected to God and we when take the time to think of our connections that we can't help but praise his glory.   Because there exists these feelings across geographies and time and peoples and disabilities where people can't get completely accurate reads of their environment, I can't help but think that there is an unconscious cognition that recognizes these connections built inside us. 

Merry Christmas!  Peace on Earth and Good Will to All!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Good, Good Good Vibrations

In a little local rag that advertises all things healing and new age,  a little notice about the healing power of sound caught my eye, or maybe hummed my chakra, so I went off to check it out.  A local massage practice was starting up and had an open house advertising their services, one of which was the healing power of vibroacoutics.

So what is vibroacoustics therapy?  It is a therapy that uses sound to produce mechanical vibrations that are applied directly to the body.  Speakers or transducers are placed in a massage table to vibrate at the same time music is played through headphones.  You can also wear special eyeglasses that will display lights that will dance about in sync to the music.

It's kinda of fun... nice new age music and a humming motion.  Is it therapy?  I don't know.  I could just say , as Fox News does:  I report,  you decide.

Or, I could take the 60's approach, if it feels good, do it.

Or, I could just decide not to scramble my brains and let others go first.
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Menage a Trois with Andrew

I have a confession to make.  My husband and I have company in bed.   Sometimes a third person just makes it so much better.  We just feel more relaxed and soothed with Andrew as his magic touch runs up and down our bodies.  Andrew's calming presence just takes the edge off whenever we feel the need for a little more relaxation

Relaxation Image by m.khajoo via Flickr
However, it's not what you think.   Andrew is an app, or rather a series of apps on the Iphone.  There is a whole series of apps called Relaxing with Andrew and they range from just straight relaxation through falling asleep, visualizing success, creativity and more energy.  There are apps for losing weight and stopping drinking.

Andrew also has an app called Social Phobia.  I wish he had another name for the app but it is a great app to have when you have to walk in and face someone who is going to be unpleasant to you.  Andrew reminds you that the other person is operating according to his version of reality and that "You Know the Truth".   Very useful in keeping things in perspective.

I also like his apps for visualizing success and healing.   I haven't tried his energy app but I think I will.
His "Move On" app is also quite nice for picking yourself up and getting on with life.

He has just come out with an app to stop procrastinating.  I am going to try that app as well.

The Andrew in the app is Andrew Johnson,  a Scottish hypnotherapist,  relaxation coach, Reiki Master/Teacher and all round old hippie.  The apps start out with breathing and mindful focus traveling from your feet through your body and up to your head.  He then does a countdown from 10 to 1 getting you to relax further.  Then Andrew starts with some gentle suggestions along the theme of the app.  Then he counts forward from 1 to 10 as he encourages you to wake up as you keep his suggestions in mind.  Then you are awake. 

Andrew's apps are wildly popular on the iPhone app store with over 150,000 downloads.  My husband loves the apps so much he listens to them almost daily on his commute to New York City.  He gets so relaxed that he falls asleep in the middle of app.  I fully expect sometime I will get a frantic phone call from hubby begging me to come get him when he has overslept his stop  and has ended up in the train yard!

My only criticism of Andrew's apps is that I can get too relaxed with him and just too snuggy.  I really have to balance his relaxation apps with the apps invoking more energy.   On the Sensory  Integration and Praxis Test,  I rate as "low registration", i.e. high sensory thresholds and a passive self regulation strategy.  In other words, I don't notice what my senses (ear, eyes, body, smell) are telling me, it takes a lot more than most people to get a response from me and I'm a bit oblivious to what's going on around me.  I just let things in my environment occur... I don't actively seek out stimulation.  On one hand, I can tolerate a lot of pain, which is good when a medical professional wants to poke me.  On the other hand, I am not always aware of what's going on in my body.   So, I need "waking" type of activities to modulate my energy.  I started talking to Jean, my Occupational Therapist, about incorporating some of these activities in my daily routine, aka a "sensory diet" involving stimulation of the five senses.  So, I very much need to balance Andrew with energetic, "up" type of activities.  For more info on Sensory Integration and Processing.

If you don't have an iphone and want a taste of Andrew, there's a  Youtube Video.

He also has a CD on Amazon,  Deep Relaxation and he has also posted some mp3s:

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Survey of Tinnitus Relief

Dr. Mezernich is one of the major neuroscientists.  His thoughts on the direction of  tinnitus relief is:

How can we suppress a tinnitus? Scientists have tried a number of solutions. One strategy has been to aggressively adapt hearing sensations in the frequency range of the tinnitus. This approach, still under intensive study, has been mildly successful. A second approach has been to mask the tinnitus with continuous noise, or to trained adaptive adjustments to noises in an attempt to teach the sufferer to control the loudness of the ongoing tinnitus. These crude noise stimulation/adaptation methods are probably the most widely applied therapeutic approaches, and are often helpful for the tinnitus sufferer. A third approach has been to magnetically (or directly electrically) stimulate the brain, either to directly suppress responses in the stimulus-generating cortical zone(s), or to excite plausible sources of cortico-cortical feedback that have been shown to suppress activity in these zones (\for example, to suppress the hearing of your own voice as you talk). A fourth, novel approach described by Professor Christov Pantev at the meeting engaged the patient in about 1 hour/day of active music listening, during which time the music was filtered to exclude stimulation in the tinnitus-frequency range. The goal was to progressively competitively weaken the tinnitus frequencies, by competitively advantaging other more-distant sound frequencies. Moderate, but quite consistent and persistent tinnitus suppression was recorded in these patients. Sixth, other scientists (including my own research group) has attempted to train individuals to make sharper distinctions about sounds in these non-tinnitus-frequency ranges. This seems to help some but not all patients. Similarly, some patients that have been engaged in active listening with our “Brain Fitness Program” have recorded strong tinnitus suppression; others have received little or no benefit from such ‘competitive listening’ training. Seventh, we have been studying the potential use of a ‘reverse (negative) conditioning (training)’ method to try to directly weaken the neurological representation of the offending sound. We do not yet know if this very promising approach will be successful. Eighth, a former doctoral student from my laboratory, Michael Kilgard, has been able to create a model of tinnitus in an animal (rat), then shown that it can be broken down (strongly cross-coupled neurons that appear to be generating the tinnitus can be weakened) by a particular form of electrical stimulus-assisted plasticity. If their strategy (being pursued by a small startup company, MicroTransponder, Inc.) can be applied in humans, it may provide the most effective method up to this time for suppressing a tinnitus.

Because of the traumatic brain injuries suffered by our troops in combat,  there's a lot of money flowing into tinnitus these days.  Let's hope one of these strategies will pan out.
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10 Best Brain Blogs

A CT of the head years after a traumatic brain...Image via WikipediaJust a nice little round up of blogs dealing with the brain.

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Happy Belated Birthday to Beethoven!

Thursday was Beethoven's birthday and I just want to give a shout out to Ludwig Van B. I have been listening a lot to the Beethoven marathon on WRTI which was nice because I haven't been listening to Beethoven in quite some time. One of the nice things about the classics is that they are old friends. You can listen to them for a while and then come back and pick up the friendship and deepen the connection as you travel together through time.

I just heard a really nice piece by Beethoven that has a lot to do with recovering from an illness. What makes Beethoven really great is how he can come back and strip a music idea down to the bare essence. Beethoven was critically ill from all kinds of tummy troubles and they thought he might die. He wrote a very nice piece called "A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity".

It is basically two themes: a hymm and a "feeling of strength". The hymm is performed very slowly. If you picked up the tempo it would sound like something you could hear in church. Yet, Beethoven sets it to a very slow tempo such that you capture each note moment by moment. This is what you do when you are very ill and you are waiting for yourself to come back. You live moment to moment. You don't have the strength to do much else. I have often felt this way each day during certain phases of therapy. I would do my therapy and then come home and go to bed. I wasn't tired enough to fall asleep but I was too tired to do much else. Not even read or cruise the net. So, at times like these, I would say some prayers or meditate and try to join a larger part of the universe even as I couldn't really engage in my smaller part of the world. I would say my rosary or I would just try to control my breathing and become very still and quiet and one with God. After sinus surgery, I can take big gulps of air and there is a richer and deeper connection just simply as I breathe deeper than what I had been able to do before.

As with a lot of Beethoven's music, there is conflict and then there is resolution and there is often some transcendence to a higher order of the universe or with God. This is true in his second theme of Feeling Strength. You get the first feeling of strength and the beginning of joy of overcoming something very difficult. Beethoven repeats the alternating of these two themes but makes the hymm shorter and shorter with each repetition until there are only two notes ascending to heaven. In this work, he starts with a hymn and dwells on his personal sufferings but calls on his inner strength and healing. Also the composition of this piece is like the path that healing takes: it is not straightforward but relies on an ebb and flow of the need to rest and just wait for time to pass and the body to heal and the realization that the body has healed and you are stronger.

The structure of the piece is:   hymm, "feeling strength", hymm, "feeling strength", and hymm. But the hymm is not repeated exactly the same. It loses notes going from 8 to 5 to 3 to 2. As it loses notes, it becomes a fugue with many voices in the string quarter transposing the theme. So as the theme simplifies, the voices transpose higher and higher bringing you closer to God and also a need to create at the end of the piece. Maybe this is what illness can bring you that very quiet time to be spiritual. To stop as time stops for you and to bring you an awareness of the very simplicity of the universe.

In a bit of leap of imagination, this also makes me think about Advent.  You know, Advent is a time of waiting.  Waiting for the Christ child.  I love the Advent wreaths with the candles  counting down the time before  the Christmas.  The sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent talks about waiting for Christ as the Healer:  

the blind receive their sight,
the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have good news brought to them.

As the days get shorter and shorter as the Winter Solstice approaches, we wait for the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings.  We wait for Christmas and the rebirth.  I think Beethoven catches some of this eternal hope for healing in the final part of his Thanksgiving piece.

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