Monday, July 30, 2012

Special Olympic Edition: Mental, Physical Training for Olympic Volleyball

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Beach-volleyball star Kerri Walsh-Jennings and her teammate Misty May-Treanor who have dominated the sport for more than a decade, capturing gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.

What I found interesting in the article was that Ms. Walsh-Jennings started a brain-training program from Los Angeles-based Neurotopia in preparation for this year’s Olympics. "My training has always focused on physical agility but brain training helps sharpen my mental agility as well," she says.

According to the article, the company says it has had more than 1,500 athletes complete an evaluation, which identifies an athlete's strengths and weaknesses, and about 25% have completed a full training program. Over the past 18 months, "we have evaluated 61 Olympians and we anticipate 10 individuals and several teams to be competing in London," says Neurotopia Chief Science Officer Leslie Sherlin.

The article states that Ms. Walsh-Jennings, who started using Neurotopia earlier this year, does a double session, which lasts 90 minutes, two times a week. While wearing a brain wave sensor headset, she controls a videogame with her brain. A technician monitors her brain activities and may provide coaching or adjusts thresholds to continually challenge her. “It’s a lot less physical than my other workouts, but in some ways equally challenging,” she says.

This sounds a lot like the NeuroSky Technology that I wrote about on July 9th in which one plays a video game by merely using your brain, i.e. no joy stick, as the technology  “…translates brain waves into digital information and beam it wirelessly to computers or other devices.” See

Here a link to the nifty Wall Street Journal article by Jen Murphy

And here’s a link to Neurotopia’s website:

Friday, July 27, 2012

ABTA Patient & Family Conference Survivor Stories

You are all invited to listen to the “Stories of Courage” panel discussion moderated by Moderated by Mary Lovely, PhD, RN, CNRN, Senior Advisor, National Programs and Services, American Brain Tumor Association (gosh she has a lot of education and titles).
There are four panelists and I’m looking forward to hearing three of the four:

JoAnne G. Colucci, Parent/Caregiver/Advocate

John Kerastas, Brain Tumor Survivor

Jean Mathew, Brain Tumor Patient Brian

J. Olson, Brain Tumor Survivor & ABTA Board Member

The panel is from 10:00 – 11:15 AM in the Renaissance Ballroom of the Marriott Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel.

If you come, don’t be afraid to say “hi!”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Google’s THINK QUARTERLY: Lumosity, Neurotopia, BodyWave

Google’s THINK QUARTERLY provides “insights and outlooks on the digital future.” It’s current theme is “The Play Issue” and in that issue it focuses in on Lumosity, but also talks about Neurotopia and BodyWave.

The first two paragraphs of the article does a nice job of describing the landscape: “In the US, patients with neurological conditions, professional athletes, and anyone interested in improving the way their brain works are increasingly being given a prescription to play.

Welcome to the contentious field of cognitive training.
Proponents claim that a daily dose of computer games can make you more focused, boost memory and processing speed, quicken your decision-making, and improve your problem-solving ability. “Outrageous hyperbole,” say cynics for whom the notion that brain performance can be altered through play is a frivolous misreading of the facts.“

Here’s link to the article written by Ian Wylie:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Webinar: The Aging Brain: What's New in Brain Research, Treatment, and Policy

Interested in the aging brain?  What you can do to achieve higher cognitive function as you age? Here’s a link to a webinar posted to the Chicago area Brain Network by Magdalene (Maggie) Rouman, M.A. The webcast was the inaugural event in the Neuroscience and Society Series, presented by the AAAS and the Dana Foundation.

The first speaker is Marilyn S. Albert, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The second speaker is Reisa Sperling, M.D., M.MSc. She is a neurologist, specializing in dementia and imaging research and an Associate Professor in Neurology at the Harvard Medical School. The third speaker is Richard J. Hodes, M.D., the Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

If my notes from the Ms. Albert are correct, there are four factors that can lead to higher cognitive function as we age:

Physical activity
Mental activity
Social engagement
Vascular risks

I won’t even try to summarize a teeny bit of the Dr. Sperling’s presentation because I didn’t understand any of it.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you won’t understand it.  Here’s the link and see for yourself:

The third presentation is policy-oriented, i.e. now that we know about the aging of our US population and the increase in dementia, what should we or can we do about it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

ABTA Patient & Family Conference: Do Complementary Therapies Work?

Here’s another ABTA breakout session that I want to attend, Do Complementary Therapies Work?

I guess the title is a bit of a clue, i.e. “complementary” therapies. If it said something like “voodoo therapies” or “desperation therapies” I can imagine what would be said.

Having had acupuncture, I have found that it has helped me with a bum kneed.  I also felt that acupuncture helped me recover faster than I would have without it from my first operation.

As best I can tell, though, it’s not a substitute for radiation or antibiotics or chemo.
The title of the session says “acupuncture, herbs and others.” Since my sister is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, I understand what acupuncture and herbs are.  I’m less clear on what “others” are…and am interested in what that could be.

If you interested, the session will be led by Scott Woodworth, ND from Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The session will be held on Saturday, July 28th from 2:15 pm to 3:05 pm in the Author Room of the Marriott Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

B12 or Be Forgetful

According to an AARP article, new study links vitamin B12 deficiency to brain shrinkage and memory problems in older adults.

Brain shrinkage? That can’t be good. I need all the brainpower I can get.

Christine C. Tangney, PhD, associate professor in the department of clinical nutrition at Rush University Medical Center, was the lead author of the study. .According to the AARP, the study “…found those who had the markers linked to vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to have the smallest brains and the lowest scores on tests measuring short-term memory, concentration and other thinking processes.”

Foods rich in B-12 include fish, meat, especially liver, milk, eggs and poultry are usual sources of vitamin B12.

Yes, you read that right: liver and onions. I guess my Mom was right when she made us eat liver and onions as kids.

Here’s a link to the Rush University Medical Center press release:

And, as an added bonus, should you be inspired by this mouth-watering picture, here’s a link to Emeril Lagasse recipe for Calf's Liver with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Sherry (shown above):  

PS – No, I didn’t think about the Beetlejuice movie scene in which his head gets shrunk.