I was fortunate to take part in a staff development with a presenter who focused on Neuroscience, Understanding Normal Aging and Neuropathologies Associated with the Aging Process with Martha S. Burns, PhD.
She is a dynamic speaker who has an amazing grasp on the topic and is able to bring it down a few notches (language wise) so that the ‘typical’ person understands what she is talking about. She uses very technical words/terms at times and I almost needed to pull out my medical dictionary, but then she would use humour to make the topic understood.
Personally, I am fascinated with neuroscience and neuroplasticity, have read quite a bit on the subject, stay up-to-date as much as possible to enhance my own learning process, but it also keeps my brain active and this is good for us to help ward off disease as we age.
The human brain has been studied for years and the technology which allows us to see and learn about the brain continues to change. The newest technology allows researchers and physicians to see the brain network, to study the various sections of the brain in much more detail.
The newest research coming out of Japan related to Alzheimer’s by Makoto Higuchi and his team, involves the development of a class of radioactive molecules that can be used to image live brains and expose one of the two proteins in the brain, Tau. Amyloid Beta (AB) is what has been researched and studied over the past 10-12 years with medications created and designed to target AB protein in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s and they do not appear to be working. Now the Tau protein is a focus and a new round of research and medications will begin!
These proteins cause inflammation in the brain which leads to symptoms that we recognize and witness in one affected by an illness or disease that attacks the brain (Parkinson’s, MS, Dementia, Autism).
Martha Burns is a clinician who studies the brain, but is also a speech pathologist and has worked extensively with post-stroke individuals. She was able to demonstrate visually the nuances of a post-stroke individual affected by aphasia (inability to speak), lack of visual-spatial skills, Theory of Mind (ability to think about others thoughts), social skills, and more.
She then focused on the newest research material, trends, possible treatment options and ended with how to assist ‘senior’ clients to enhance their cognitive function. Diet, exercise, meditation and cognitive stimulation were discussed in more detail.
Diet-whole grain products, avoiding saturated fats, incorporating essential fatty acids, lean proteins into the diet along with a plethora of colourful and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Exercise-30 minutes a day minimum. walking, exercise equipment, walking up and down stairs, etc.
Meditation- types of relaxation
Cognitive Stimulation- the importance to learn and do something new each day.
Sleep-the time our body and mind recharges-very important.
She also discussed ‘hubs’ of the brain and how music, art, writing and navigation are very important to our brains. Navigation is not my thing, but all the creative things are…..think about how you are affected by music, theatre, art, and crafts of pottery, weaving, knitting, crocheting, quilting, jewelry making, stained glass, etc.
When it comes to navigation we tend to be creatures of habit-walking or driving the same way each day. Turns out it is good for our brains to walk a different route and drive another route to arrive at the same destination. We use and activate sections of the brain that then stimulates other sections of the brain and this is a good thing!
I walked away with a lot of information and motivation and I hope you do as well after reading this post!
Victoria Brewster, MSW