Thursday, March 31, 2016

SharpBrains Debunks the Top 10 brain and brain health myths

If your brain has been compromised or injured or you somehow you seem genetically prone to Alzheimer’s, you may be confused by all the information and mis-information surrounding brain health, brain training and cognitive improvements. I know I am.

Luckily, the whiz-bang scientists at SharpBrains have recently posted this helpful article that debunks brain training and health myths. You can read their original post here:

Or you can read the following excerpt from that posting::

Myth 1. Genes deter­mine the fate of our brains.
Fact: Life­long brain plasticity means that our lifestyles and behaviors play a significant role in how our brains (and therefore our minds) evolve physically and functionally as we get older.

Myth 2. We are what we eat.
Fact: We are what we do, think, and feel, much more than what we eat. (Even if, yes, nutrition plays a role)

Myth 3. Medication is the main hope for brain health and enhance­ment.
Fact: Non-invasive inter­ven­tions such as aerobic exercise and meditation can have comparable and more durable benefits, and free of side effects.

Myth 4. There’s nothing we can do to beat Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
Fact: While nothing has been proven to prevent the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, there is abundant research showing we can delay the onset of symptoms for years.

Myth 5. There is only one “it” in “Use it or Lose it”.
Fact: The brain presents many neural circuits supporting a variety of important cognitive, emotional, and executive functions. Not just one. (Which is one of the reasons we should stop thinking about magic pills and silver bullets)

Myth 6. Intervention XYZ can help reverse your brain age 10, 20, or 30 years.
Fact: The concept of “brain age” is a fiction. Some brain functions tend to improve, and some to decline, as we get older. Nothing can be said to “reverse brain age” in a general sense.

Myth 7. There is a scientific consensus that brain training doesn’t work.
Fact: A group of scientists did issue such a statement, which was promptly contradicted by a larger group of scientists. Consensus…that is certainly not. Brain training, when it meets certain conditions, has been shown to transfer into real-world outcomes.

Myth 8. Brain training is primarily about video games.
Fact: Evidence-based brain training includes some forms of meditation, cognitive ther­apy, cognitive training, and bio/neurofeedback. Interactive media such as videogames can make those interventions more engaging and scalable, but it is important to distinguish the means from the end, as obviously not all videogames are the same.

Myth 9. Heart health equals brain health.
Fact: While heart health contributes significantly to brain health, and vice versa, the heart and the brain are separate organs, with their respective functions and relevant interventions. What we need is to pay much more systematic attention to brain health, so it can advance as much as cardiovascular health already has.

Myth 10. As long as my brain is working fine, why should I even pay attention to it?
Fact: For the same reasons you add gas to your car, and change the oil regularly– so that it works well, and for a long period of time.”

Copyright: <a href=''>gajus / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Thursday, March 24, 2016

SharpBrains “Pervasive Neurotechnology Report

Got a brain problem? Wondering if some bright Silicon Valley startup company has a solution or is at least working on a solution?

Or maybe you just want to know what’s next from brain/neurotechnologists and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes.

If so, the folks at SharpBrains has a report for you entitled: Pervasive Neurotechnology. 

Here’s a link to the description on their site:

Still not sure what this means? Have a look at this infographic (I love infographics).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Brain Tumor Art: Morbid & Fascinating

Art is often used to deflect, diffuse and otherwise help us make emotional sense of horrible events. Examples include memorials at traffic accidents, war memorials and art for domestic violence survivors.

This, however, is the first example I’ve found of the visual art of brain tumors. According to Corrine Segal a PBS News hour post - - “…that’s the surprising beauty of ‘Connecting Narratives,’ artist Dr. Immy Smith’s project to bring new attention to brain tumors and the dangers they pose.

Smith, who studied biomedicine before earning a doctorate in pharmacology, is a artist-in-residence at the Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. There, she worked with the lab scientists to develop an exhibition visualizing the often-unseen issue of treating brain tumors.”

Segal goes on to write that “The exhibition, currently on view at the Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth, (UK) consists of two parts. For the first, Smith created 121 paintings to represent the more than 120 types of brain tumors that exist. She used two colors meant to symbolize the two types of cells, neural and glial, from which brain tumors can arise. ‘Just as you can make many patterns from just two colors of ink by blending them in different ways or in different amounts, there are many types of brain tumors arising from differential expression of genes in just two cell types,’ she said.”

Her next step was, I thought, quite smart and moving.

“Then, she created large-scale ink drawings to which visitors can add their own lines using white-board markers. Both pieces comment on the complexity of brain tumors, providing a visual reminder of why they are so difficult to treat…”

Here’s her great summary of the cruelty and complexity of brain cancer:

“They’re really devastating diseases. They’re one of the only cancers that can directly affect your cognition and personality…”
Have a look:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


I applaud the American Brain Tumor Association for their series of webinars on brain tumor related topics. For many victims, caregivers, family members and friends of brain tumor-impacted folks, jumping in a car and driving to a seminar at some far away (or even near) location is often not an option. So the insight of providing relevant and important information through webinars that you can view at home is great.

This is the blurb on their upcoming webinar entitled “Caring for the Caregiver”:

“Learn more about caring for the caregiver, including:
Challenges faced by caregivers, such as fatigue, serious role changes, depression and grief related to the trajectory of a brain tumor
  • How to cope with their loved one’s sudden or significant neurological and functional changes
  • Short- and long-term strategies to manage these challenges
  • How to find educational, financial and emotional support
  • Ask our expert, Vicki Leff, MSW, LCSW, ACHP-SW, questions and get the answers you need"

Copyright: <a href=''>iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

U.S. President Jimmy Carter Stopping Immunotherapy Treatment

Here’s the good news, ABC News reports that “Just months after finding out he had metastatic cancer, former President Jimmy Carter announced this weekend that his doctors have said he no longer needs cancer treatment thanks in part to a groundbreaking new kind of medication that trains the immune system to fight cancer tumors.” For the full story see
This adds more evidence to the theory/findings/belief that immunotherapies are the next best weapon for fighting cancers of any kind.

According to Gillian Mohney, who wrote the posting on the ABC News website, “Carter announced that his doctors are stopping his immunotherapy treatment called pembrolizumab after they saw no signs of tumors over a period of three months. While he has no evidence of the disease, doctors will monitor Carter closely to see if the cancer reoccurs, a representative for the former president said.”

She goes on to write that The drug works as a ‘checkpoint inhibitor,’ altering certain pathways in the immune system so that the antibodies can identify and fight any tumors in the body the way they might fight a virus or cold, experts said. The medication is much less toxic than chemotherapy, but it can react in colon, liver or lung inflammation, according to published studies. Researchers are still trying to determine how long the medication can prompt the immune system to keep fighting.”

I’ve written about immunotherapies and their potential before. If you’re interested in more information, Google immunotherapies, or watch the ABTA webinar on immunotherapies for brain tumors: