Basic Neurology 101
Nov21

Basic Neurology 101

The Nerve Center The central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system make up the signaling conduits of the body. Neurotransmitters are sent from the brain to reach different organs of the body. The central nervous system operates through the spinal cord while the peripheral nervous system goes directly from the brain to the different parts of the body. When the central nervous system is impacted, it leads to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Neurological disorders can include: Loss of coordination Seizures Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder Autism Alzheimer’s disease Obsessive compulsive disorder Causes of Neurological Conditions Poor coordination is related to the brain. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls movement. Seizures are also related to excessive activation and functionality of the nerve cells. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neuro-developmental psychiatric disorder whose causes are still not clear. Autism is related to the way that the nerve cells transmit information to each other. Its cause is also not yet fully clear, with a few theories being proposed involving environmental factors. Alzheimer’s disease occurs when the structure of the neurons is impacted by age leading to impact in functionality. Parkinson’s disease is also caused by neuro-degeneration. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is related to the mind and not to the nervous system, but it is linked in some cases to an injury to the nervous system. A neurologist will be equipped to treat all of these disorders except OCD; that is fully in the realm of psychiatry. Number of neurological illnesses The signaling of the neurons takes place via junctions known as synapses. Neurotransmitters that are released in the brain travel through the nerves and achieve actions that are related to the way that the body maintains its posture and the mind responds to different situations such as danger or stress. The number of disorders that the nervous system can present is more than 600. For this interested in this ever-changing field, The World Congress of Neurology has just concluded its 22nd edition. It is held every two years. The next Congress is scheduled to be held in Japan in 2017. Ever-active nervous system While we have seen so far neurological conditions that are related to the conscious state, the nervous system is also active during the unconscious state. This can be both when we are awake and when are asleep. This is how the heart rate is regulated and how digestion is controlled. Another aspect of the nervous system is the way that it controls the body’s reactions to sensations from the body. This can happen when you are out in the cold and the nervous system gets...

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Sleep Positions and Your Brain
Oct19

Sleep Positions and Your Brain

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for survival. Good, consistent sleep keeps your immune system functioning properly, reduces the risk of disease, and keeps your brain sharp. Think about all the nights when you lost a few hours of sleep. Your brain was deprived of valuable sleep and it was obvious as you struggled to think clearly and do other things such as driving, working, or even walking. Not only is a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep one of the best things you can do for your brain, but the way you sleep can also affect your brain health. Positioning for Good Sleep   A majority of sleepers have a “tried and true” sleeping position. Whether you sleep on your back, stomach, or side, it’s likely you have slept in that position your whole life. Sleep experts recommend side sleeping for better posture and less back pain, but recent research suggests that side sleeping also benefits your brain. When we sleep, our brain clears its glymphatic pathway of toxins more efficiently than during the waking hours. Scientists found that mice, who slept on their sides (a natural sleeping position for humans and animals), had better functioning glymphatic pathways.   Side sleep helps to filter out damaging proteins, that lead to brain diseases, that build up around the spinal and brain cord. When toxins build up in the brain, neurological conditions such as Alzheimers or Parkinsons. Additionally, side sleeping is often a more “sound” sleeping position. The fewer sleep disturbances may mean fewer issues in brain health such as memory loss. Stay on Your Side, Stay Asleep   Proper sleep positioning can help you sleep longer and without interruptions that can keep your glymphatic pathway working. According to researcher, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, many types of memory issues are linked to sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep. The increase of sleep disturbances can result in greater chance of memory loss, hence the importance of having a restful night of sleep.   What if you’re not a natural side sleeper? It may take some time to acclimate to side sleeping, but over time you may notice the benefits. If you’re worried about shifting to a different sleeping position in the middle of the night, put a pillow behind your back to prevent easily rolling onto your stomach or back.   Falling asleep or staying asleep are issues that many not-so-sound sleepers face on a nightly basis. If you struggle with sleep, check out these natural sleep solutions for a better night’s sleep and for a healthier...

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Cell Phones: An Inevitable Addiction
Sep19

Cell Phones: An Inevitable Addiction

The use of cell phones has altered the way many of us function on a daily basis. Whether it’s our transportation, how we work, and managing our personal life; these devices have become an unescapable addiction.   Admittedly, most apps have made life easier as we plan, order, and communicate. With this kind of an ease of use the world is at our fingertips. Although convenience has played a significant part in the use of the cell phone, the world around us is also enduring changes in order to accommodate our addiction to convenience. But what are some of the repercussions of constantly being wired to these devices?  One of the major changes that our society has made has been that of the everyday commute. Walking and texting. Seems simple enough, right? It’s got to beat texting and driving, in any case. But planners and designers around the world are toying with a new idea for wired-in pedestrians: special lanes for people who wish to text while walking.   Most implementations of texting lanes have been stunts of one kind or another: the Belgian company who made a lot of noise earlier this summer with the “textwalk” lanes they spray-painted onto city sidewalks were accused of “graffiti” by Antwerp’s mayor; the National Geographic’s text and talk lanes were an advertisement for an exhibit on brain science; and the similar lane in China was part of an amusement park. The most recent newsmaking texting lane, on a Utah college campus, is primarily “looks and laughs.”   But the idea does raise some serious issues regarding texting and walking. Walking is a more complex process than you might think, and people who text are often walking in unpredictable public spaces. What could go wrong? Vision Texting pedestrians often miss out on their surroundings. According the National Geographic brain science project involved in the DC text lane, texting while walking can reduce your vision to “less than one tenth of [its] normal range.” They produced a short video showing texters missing out on a newspaper-reading gorilla not ten feet from where they walked. (The video is funny but informative, and can be viewed in the linked text above.)   The take-away is clear: if you can’t see what’s around you, you should stop moving. It may sound funny, but walking recklessly is a serious problem; 21% of reported pedestrian accidents in Hawaii over the course of five years lead to traumatic brain injury, according to Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner. “Text Neck” Too much texting can have other serious effects on your body. The problem getting lot of attention lately is called “text...

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What’s the Real Deal with Coffee & Your Brain?
Aug05

What’s the Real Deal with Coffee & Your Brain?

Walk past a coffee shop in any city throughout the U.S. and it’s apparent that we have an unbridled love for coffee. Why shouldn’t we? It’s delicious, it’s stimulating, and it’s beneficial to our health. A cup (or two) of coffee a day may even result in a healthier you. From a better heart to a boost in cognitive health as well as lowering the risk of certain cancers and diabetes, coffee seems to be nature’s wonder drug. However, in true fashion of all things related to health, scientific evidence surrounding the things that are “good for us” can also get a bad reputation. What Does Coffee Actually Do To Your Brain? When we pour our first cup of coffee in the morning, just the smell can make us feel more awake and many coffee lovers won’t even attempt doing anything before having their first cup. Whether you are a veteran coffee drinker or are trying it for the first time, coffee does have an affect on your brain and the results are different with each individual. While some people don’t feel awake until they’ve had at least 2 cups, others feel “buzzed” and ready for the day after just half a cup. One cup of coffee (about 75 mg of caffeine) will affect your brain and may: Improve performance of people under 40 who may be sleep deprived Improve memory performance particularly with tedious tasks Trick an individual to be “dependent or addicted” to coffee, but it’s habitual (not addiction) Negatively affect sleep, particularly if consumed later in the day Decrease developing Parkinson’s Disease Drink More? Drink Less? Each time coffee is mentioned as a preventive or treatment for another health issue, coffee lovers everywhere sigh in relief and until recently, coffee seemed to be the ticket in preventing Alzheimer’s. Recently, in the Journal of Alzheimer’s, a study (Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging and were ages 65 to 84-years-old) reveals that a significant increase of coffee consumption can actually increase  the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is the precursor to Alzheimer’s and dementia; previous studies revealed that one to two cups of coffee a day could decrease the risk. Participants in the study that were not regular coffee drinkers or increased their consumption by about a another cup were at greatest risk of developing MCI.   So, as coffee drinkers, what do we do? Do we need to stop coffee drinking all together in fear of memory loss related issues? Like everything, moderation seems to be the key. If you have been drinking a cup or two a day consistently, you are most likely reaping the...

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