EXERCISING—AND NEUROFEEDBACK—FOR A BETTER BRAIN
WHAT DOES THE “NEW 40” LOOK LIKE? How about the “new 50”? The “new 60”?
As life expectancy continues to climb, there’s more and more emphasis on fitness, staying in shape as we get older with exercise, taking supplements to enhance physiological function and learning new skills, such as a foreign language. All these have one thing in common: a significant effect on neuroplasticity, the capacity of the brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections in response to the environment, injury, neural processes, and behavior. These connections happen at the level of the synapse, the structure that permits one nerve cell to pass a chemical or electrical signal to another nerve cell.
Physical exercise is one thing that can turn on the brain’s ability to grow and rewire itself, and as it turns out, some exercises are better than others. A 21-year study on seniors led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine several years ago, found that dancing frequently led to the greatest reduction of dementia of any activity studied. While reading reduced the risk by 35% and doing crosswords by 47%, dancing reduced the risk by a surprising 76%. Bicycling, swimming and golf, meanwhile, reduced the risk by…0%.
The study’s authors suggested that dancers were more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserves and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Rapid- fire response was preferable to rote memory. They stressed the importance of keeping as many pathways active, while also generating new pathways to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses. This also explains why learning a new language may forestall Alzheimer’s disease.
Another exciting way to increase neuroplasticity is through neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a sophisticated but easy-to-use brain exercise system for both the younger and the older brain. Used by NASA for pilot training, it is a non-invasive, non-drug, cutting-edge approach to addressing neurological disorders resulting from tension on the nervous system caused by trauma, drugs, toxins, a subluxated spine, stress, or poor nutrition. Using neurofeedback enables the nervous system to retrain itself to create new more appropriate wave patterns in the brain and to break the cycle of NDS (Neurological Dysregulation Syndrome), resulting in the alleviation of symptoms, such as migraines, insomnia, memory and concentration-related issues (ADD, ADHD), and stroke-related symptoms.
To indicate where the patient’s neurological deficits lie, a “brain map” known as a QEEG is performed, and based on the results, a protocol is chosen. An animated game or a movie only plays when the patient is producing the correct brain wave. If the patient’s brain stops producing the desired brain wave, the game or the movie stops playing. As the nervous system reorganizes itself based on this information, the patterns begin to normalize. Over the course of 20 to 30 training sessions, the brain modifies itself to begin producing the appropriate brain waves at the appropriate times, resulting in an alleviation of the symptoms.
Neurofeedback, as well as other mental and physical activities, can give you a jump-start to maintaining good brain balance and neuroplasticity that keep you vital and engaged. So consider neurofeedback—then put on your dancing shoes and impare l’italiano! .
Dr. Keri Chiappino, DC DACNB, a chiropractor in NY, is an authorized BrainCore neurofeedback provider, specializing in non-drug therapies for brain-based disorders. Her therapies bring balance to the brain and body, helping patients live their lives to the fullest. Visit her website at www.newlifechiropractic.com.
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