If music be the food of health, play ON!


How is music processed?
How might we use it to support memory & brain health?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Source: MedicalNewsToday

Music and Physical Health

In last week’s post, an original Tallis Steelyard tale from author Jim Webster, we saw how music awakened the soul of a woman who was struggling with dementia, barely alert until called by the song.

As I noted at the end:
Music has been well documented to remain in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients long after other memories and much of their Executive Functioning capabilities have faded.

Patients often retain memories of well-loved songs, which gives them a great deal of pleasure, and some can still play instruments. The description of life flooding back into formerly vacant eyes in response to music has been reported repeatedly.

Medical researchers have long noted that listening to or playing music can result in changes in our bodies, regardless of our age or current state of mental alertness, however.

For example, lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been observed in the presence of music. Better sleep and a lowered heart rate are associated with listening to music as well.

Even when you are a bit out of sorts, don’t you feel better immediately when a song comes on that reminds you of a particularly happy memory?

Science rings in

Dr. Charles Limb is a musician and surgeon who specializes in cochlear implants at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He has been researching how our brain makes that happen. He and his team analyzed neurological responses to a variety of music, especially jazz and hip-hop.

In studies with magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], they have been particularly interested in finding out which areas of the brain “light up” when jazz musicians are improvising or rappers are “freestyling.”

The Universal Language?

They observed that the areas of the brain activated when jazz players are improvising are actually the language centers of the brain (the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior superior temporal gyrus).

When rappers were freestyling with their eyes closed within the MRI scanner, the researchers observed major activity in the visual and motor coordination areas of the brain.

  • Connection to movement centers certainly makes sense, if you think about it. Since rappers are usually moving when they rap, those areas are likely to be brain-linked.
  • But the visual areas?  Hmmmmmm . . . neurolinked to a video perhaps, or choreography?

Seeing when you listen

Haven’t you noticed that when you listen to music your brain sends you visual information as well — a flash of the club where you first danced to the tune, or the face of your partner when it came on the radio, right before you kissed for the first time?

Some people imagine scenes of their own private movie as they hear certain orchestral arrangements. Others report seeing abstract colors and shapes that flow and change with any music they hear. Maybe you see a few moments of a particular marketing video?

I challenge anyone who’s ever watched one of Michael Jackson’s music videos to listen to that track on the radio without at least a flash or two of a moving image!

Even in a Scanner

The brain seems to call upon its language, visual and motor coordination mechanisms when imagining and responding creatively to music both, even when the participants are lying still, eyes closed, and within a scanner.

In fact, Dr. Limb’s team found that the areas of the brain that were formerly associated with interpreting music – the angular gyrus and the supra marginal gyrus, which process semantic information (meaning, vocabulary, etc.) – are deactivated while musicians are improvising.

So what does that indicate about memory and healthy brain aging?

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Reaching the Boiling Point


We still have some time
but we have to act – NOW

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections from the Executive Functioning Series

The content I am revisiting is an edited & condensed version of
probably the most important information I have ever shared
(in over 500 information-dense articles).
It applies to every single person living.
I hope those of you who missed it on Monday will
take the time to read it all this weekend – and tell your friends.

ABOUT Boiling Frog Syndrome

In a recently posted article from the Executive Functioning Series [How well do you REALLY function?], I explored the tendency to accommodate an accumulation of difficulties until we are struggling to cope and practically desperate — whenever things decline gradually.

UNFORTUNATELY …

The water temperature is perilously close to reaching the boiling point where global health is concerned.

We are ALL likely to be cooked to death if we don’t act together to turn down the heat – no matter how young or old we are currently.

According to U.S. statistics, in 1960 5% of the GDP** was spent on health care.

By 2010, that figure had increased to 18%
  over three and a half times higher —
and continues to increase.

It is projected that by the year 2040 — unless things change significantly — over 40% of the gross GDP** of the US alone will go into health care.

~~~~~~~~~~
**GDP [Gross Domestic Product] is the total value of everything produced by all the
individuals, companies and corporations in a country, citizen and foreign-owned alike.
It is considered to be the best way to measure the state of a country’s economy.

This is obviously a problem we cannot possibly afford

An unusually large portion of our health expenditures come as a result of the chronic, progressive “diseases of old age” — that become exponentially more prevalent the longer we live, and that become increasingly more expensive to manage (vs. cure, since we currently don’t have ways to cure them).

Yet we currently dedicate only a fraction of 1% of our biomedical research budget to the basic biology of aging — and millions of dollars of budget cuts are currently in the planning stages in the US alone.

DAUNTING Statistics Already

100,000 people die of old age-related illnesses every single day.  That’s over THIRTY World Trade Towers, by the way, just to put it in context.

Every single day.

Frailty alone kills 6-7% of the population and leads to many of the other debilitating diseases which increase dramatically in the over-45 population (yes, forty-five!)

The bad news is that if we live long enough — without a drastic change in how we approach health-science research — most of us WILL be challenged by one or more of the debilitating and costly degenerative illnesses.

Getting rapidly worse

According to the UN, the population of elderly human beings is the fastest growing around the world, and the number of elderly people by 2050 will be close to 2 BILLION.

MOST of us reading will be among them – any of us who have not already succumbed to one of the diseases of aging, that is.

We need to turn things around – NOW!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
By the year 2020 – in the entire world – there will be more people over 65 than under 5 years of age. As the 5 year olds enter the workforce, those who are now 65 become 75 and 85 and begin to become terminally ill.

We won’t have enough people on the planet
to afford this ailing and aging population.

By overcoming the diseases of aging, we can literally save trillions of dollars
— along with millions of lives that are now doomed to suffer as they die.

~ ‪Liz Parrish, CEO of BioViva Sciences USA – Human of the Future‬ (video)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Most of us are suffering from Boiling Frog Syndrome over the issue of healthy aging, refusing to give it the consideration it merits.

That manifests in our lack of willingness to advocate aggressively for resources to address the many challenges of aging that the clear majority of us WILL face before we die.

Our most important health-related goal needs to be applying our resources to solve the global challenge of remaining as healthy as possible for as long as possible – for as many people as possible.

“One of the biggest frustrations for me in my work is that old people don’t complain enough about how GRIM it is to be old — and if they did, maybe something more would be done about it.” ~ biomedical gerontologist ‪Dr. Aubrey de Grey‬.

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Executive Functioning & Diseases of Aging


A Humanitarian Problem
short-sighted at best – unconscionable at worst

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
part of the Executive Functioning Series

This might be the most important post I have ever written
(out of 500+ information-dense articles).
It applies to every single one of us,
so I hope you will take the time to read it all.

A tragic implication of Boiling Frog Syndrome

As I began in an article as part of the Executive Functioning Series, two Mondays ago [How well do you REALLY function?], when things decline gradually we tend to accommodate the accumulation of difficulties until we are struggling to cope and practically desperate for help.

Before I continue with a Series of articles designed to describe and discuss EF struggles, what’s involved, and explain what you can do to mitigate the effects (before, during and after they develop), I want to take just a bit of a side trip to talk about something that WILL affect ALL of us, one way or another — unless, of course, something worse gets us first.

EF challenges as the result of AGING

According to a biomedical gerontologist ‪Dr. Aubrey de Grey‬, what we consider and accept as “normal” aging is far more complex than the accumulation of an increasing number of birthdays — that is, chronological aging.

Biological aging is a different matter entirely, and that is what his organization studies and believes they will be able to impact positively.

Biological aging is what causes the greatest number of functional problems in brain and body, responsible for cognitive struggles as well as the pain and suffering of the degenerative diseases of aging.

So remember that when researchers like de Grey talk about “reversing” aging with restoration therapies, healthy aging is the focus of their desire. Looking and feeling younger for an extended life-span is a beneficial side-effect.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey redefines Aging

“Aging is the life-long accumulation of ‘damage’ to the body that occurs as intrinsic side-effects of the body’s normal operation.  The body can tolerate some damage, but too much of it causes disease and disability.”

DAMAGE: changes in structure and composition that the body cannot – or can no longer – automatically reverse.

Dr. de Grey is the Cambridge educated co-founder and Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, dedicated to exploring and combating the aging process, a 501(c)(3) public charity that is transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease.

Dr. de Grey is also the Editor in Chief of Rejuvenation Research, a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Mary Ann Liebert that covers research on rejuvenation and biogerontology.

Speaking all over the world for many years, to lay as well as professional audiences, he spreads the message that the deleterious effects of aging are not something we need to accept as a given — in other words, they are NOT conditions that are impossible to prevent or reverse.

He presents his cogent explanations and arguments for the need for a drastic change in paradigm in many lectures, debates and discussions available on YouTube.

We do NOT have to accept the idea that the decline and eventual disappearance of the body’s resilience is inevitable.  ~ mgh

Turning things around

“One of the biggest frustrations for me in my work is that old people don’t complain enough about how GRIM it is to be old — and if they did, maybe something more would be done about it.” ~ Aubrey de Grey

  • The desire for healthy aging is an issue that concerns 100% of the people currently living today.
  • Yet most of us are suffering from Boiling Frog Syndrome, refusing to give this issue the consideration it merits — which includes our lack of willingness to advocate aggressively for resources to address the many challenges of aging that the clear majority of us WILL face before we die.
  • It surprises most people to learn that, for example, only a fraction of 1% of the research budget of the U.S. Federal Government goes toward the basic biology of aging.   Other countries don’t allocate appreciably greater funding, and some do much less.  ‘Sup with that?
  • Once enough people begin thinking about the physical and cognitive devastation of aging as medical problems that we can actually prevent and reverse – insisting that our political leaders consider it seriously and fund it appropriately – it will change the way we approach the public health “game” completely, with predictably positive results for every single person reading these words.

Our most important health-related goal needs to be applying our resources to solve the global challenge of remaining as healthy as possible for as long as possible – for as many people as possible.
~ mgh

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Brains Need SYSTEMS to Develop


Learning CHANGES the Structure of the Brain:

Impossible in the face of chaos

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC

“You don’t cure a different organization of the brain;
you find ways and strategies of helping that brain learn [. . .] in a different way.
It’s not about cure, it’s about teaching different ways.

~ Maryanne Wolf
reading expert & author of Proust and the Squid

Building a Brain

While it is true that no two brains develop in a manner that is exactly the same, babies come into this world with a brain specialized for learning – a pattern-recognition device designed to bootstrap learning into a structure of additional patterns.

The brain develops in a manner not dissimilar to the way in which a computer uses certain hardwired sub-routines to locate and activate still more code that allows for the loading and interpretation of additional programs — which facilitates their use for creating new ideas.

The human brain builds the new structures and networks it needs to allow it to continue to learn.  The process by which it does that work is known as neuroplasticity.

Not all that long ago, most of the science-crowd mistakenly believed that there was a relatively early window in which neuroplasticity operated. It was once thought that all of the neurons our brains were ever going to have developed within that window, and the systems the brain used to learn were set after a particular point in childhood.

Baby brains develop amazingly quickly

If you’ve ever spent any time at all around an infant, you might recall their unfocused stare and their unselfconscious movements and facial expressions.

It may not be immediately apparent to parents who spend day to day time with the baby, but adults who visit only occasionally are usually amazed at how much more that child is able to interact with the world each time.

Suddenly, it seems, that tiny child is able to focus on an object of fascination.  S/he responds to the direction of a particular sound and reaches for things. The baby exhibits what adults recognize as curiosity about the world around them and develops preferences.

Order out of Chaos

Babies come into a world of seeming chaos: sights, sounds, temperature, texture and more, with little in place to help them make sense of it all. They have to build the brain that will help them learn for the rest of their lives.

The task of their amazingly neuroplastic infant brains is to learn to recognize the constants that help them to derive meaning from a cacophony of stimulation that the majority of us learn to filter out – eventually.

And it is the task of the adults around them
to provide those constants.

As infants learn to recognize the simplest thing, as far as adult sensibilities are concerned, their brains grow and change their structures. As the baby’s brain learns that certain types of vibrations need to be visually interpreted, others audially, and so forth, it reorganizes its pathways for the most efficient recognition and interpretation of incoming data. It condenses the complexities of sensory awareness to comprehend “meaning.”

Assimilation of the basic concept of Mom, for example, requires a complex network of connections that, very quickly, allows the baby to understand that the source of his or her food is mother, and that she is one single element:

  • those hands are part of my mother,
  • those arms are part of my mother
  • that face is my mother smiling
  • that other face is still my mother, frowning
  • those sounds make up my mother’s voice
  • and I have a voice too

A lot of brain-based learning must take place before the baby assigns emotional or intellectual meaning to what s/he observes, eventually able to extrapolate expectations of sensory awareness to form new ideas about his or her world like, “I have a voice too.”

A LOT for our brains to learn

It makes sense that it might have seemed that brain-development is essentially a childhood task. Because young children have so much to learn so quickly, brain growth and change seems, by comparison, to stop in adulthood.

It has been postulated that, because of the size limitations of the birth canal in an upright-walking human being, our babies are born essentially nine months premature.  The increase in size of the infant’s brain after birth is phenomenal, compared to the growth in an adult brain. A baby’s brain doubles in size in their first year alone. By age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.

Highways and Byways

It is a logical extrapolation that after a certain point, the brain would use what it has built in a manner similar to the way in which a city uses it’s roads to connect grocery store to neighborhood to a particular location in the center of town. There may be a hundred ways to drive from place to place, but nobody sober cuts through yards to form new roads that were never there before.

Except, with the brain, that hasn’t turned out to be exactly true.
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Good news on brain-aging from The Nun Study


Healthy Brains for a Lifetime

We really DON’T have to lose it as we age

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

Cognitive decline is NOT inevitable

A quick review before some data that will bring smiles to a lot of worried faces (especially for writers!):

There is still a lot to learn from School Sisters of Notre Dame “Nun” Study — the longitudinal scientific exploration of aging and Alzheimer’s disease originally funded by the National Institute on Aging.  Data, tissue, and genetic material collected in this landmark study will, no doubt, prove invaluable to a great many meta-studies long into the future.

Thanks to the Sisters’ unprecedented generosity of spirit, however, we now know a lot more about how the brain ages than we did, even a few years ago.  We also know more about dementia and what factors seem to be neuro-protective.

The oft-cited study centers on a group of a relatively homogeneous order of 678 Roman Catholic sisters (American, no drug use, little or no alcohol or tobacco, similar housing and reproductive histories, etc.) — which minimizes extraneous variables that may confound other similar research.

Along with, ultimately, hundreds of others in their order, a few brave nuns agreed to volunteer for a long-term study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease, hoping to provide evidence that might be used to teach the rest of us how to escape the worst ravages of this heartbreaking illness.

To repeat a comment from my last article [You don’t HAVE to lose it as you age: Moving Past Mind-Blips and “Senior Moments”]:

Upon autopsy, even some of the individuals discovered to have what used to be accepted as “positive Alzheimer’s identifiers” (senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles), managed to escape the behavioral devastation of the disease.

Others had only recently begun to exhibit signs of mental decline in the year or two before their deaths (at 80 and beyond), despite brains that would have predicted a significantly earlier onset of dementia.

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You don’t HAVE to lose it as you age


Moving Past Mind-Blips and “Senior Moments”

Maintaining & improving your brain’s vitality as you age

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

“A mind equipped with a wide range of
previously formed
pattern recognition devices
can withstand the effects of neuroerosion
for a long time.”

~ Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD, from
The Wisdom Paradox 


Along with suggestions designed to help, this article begins to debunk the myth of “to be expected” age-related cognitive decline — as it explains the mechanics of memory and outlines the functional trajectory of the healthy brain as time marches on.

In the Memory Issues Series, anyone currently struggling to fit into a neurotypical mold, even if you are GenX or younger, will find a lot of information that will help you develop effective you-specific strategies to work around some of the things that give you fits and shut you down.


Our Worst Nightmare

Staying in SHAPE as we age (Source HERE)

Most people who have lived with cognitive decline in an up close and personal fashion (in particular, the ravages of any of the dementias in a loved one), frequently report a back-of-the-mind concern that they are looking into a mirror of their future selves.

Time marches on, and we’re all getting older. The first wave of Baby Boomers – that spike in the population statistics once Johnny came marching home from World War II – turned 65 in 2012.

With the third-act aging of more and more of the Boomers, this conversation will become increasingly frequent, as those back-of-the-mind concerns rise to conscious awareness and become the worries of a greater portion of our population.

Take a D-E-E-P breath — you don’t HAVE to lose it as you age!!

Prevention is the better part of valor

You wouldn’t wait until the day before the marathon to train for it, would you? Same thing with healthy brain aging! Don’t wait until decline begins to start doing something about it — if you want to experience the rosy finish you can expect if you begin to employ neuro-protective techniques NOW

Good news for most Boomers –
it’s not too late to start turning things around!

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