DESIGNING A HEALTHY DIET FOR THE NEW YEAR

Every year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The majority of these resolutions focus on diet in attempts to lose weight and be healthier. A new year is the perfect time to jumpstart a healthy diet to make the changes you want to see for yourself throughout the year. However, research shows 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. Many people strive for unrealistic goals, which ultimately set them up for failure.

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EXERCISE HAS BENEFICIAL EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN

While exercise has long been known for its positive effects on physical health and its ability to heighten energy and help manage chronic health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, exercise is now being lauded for its beneficial effects on the brain.   These benefits touch almost every aspect of life. Exercise helps sharpen short-term memory and improve long-term memory. This happens because exercise can reduce insulin resistance and inflammation and stimulate….

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GETTING STARTED AND STICKING WITH IT

As we kick off 2018, you may be thinking about resolutions pertaining to your health and fitness. It’s easy to determine some ways to improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being. However, it’s not always as simple to stay motivated and make the new commitments part of your lifestyle. Now is the perfect time to set goals, whether it be for the number of days you intend to work out each week, how many steps you want to take each day or healthy meals you want to prepare for your family.

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Scientifically designed plasticity-based options target specific brain machinery to improve cognitive functioning. Brain exercises should rely on novelty and complexity. WebMD and Lumosity provide some excellent options for exercising the brain. Neville and her colleagues have produced a film for non-scientists called Changing Brains. You can view it at http://changingbrains.uoregon.edu/ watch.html.


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REMEMBER BRAIN FITNESS AND WELL-BEING

environmental or neural processes. During such changes, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful and strengthening necessary ones. One of the most attractive features of plasticity-based fitness activities is they are drug free. They rely on retraining the brain through repetitious and challenging activities.


There is a growing understanding of and interest in brain plasticity. This effort is driving a revolution in brain health and science. One way smart technology and smart brain fitness has been realized is with musicians stricken with focal dystonia who are learning to play again. It has also been realized in people with mild cognitive impairment benefiting from brain exercises and brain games. Cancer patients whose ability to function has been impeded by the lasting cognitive effects of chemotherapy treatment have in some cases benefited from brain plasticity, as have stroke or traumatic brain injury patients. Brain exercises can facilitate neuroplasticity, thereby modifying the connections that allow the brain to re-wire itself. The brain’s anatomy ensures certain areas have functions that are predetermined by a person’s genetic make-up.

DR. THOMAS W. MILLER, PH.D, ABPP

Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut and Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine and Department of Gerontology, College of Public Health, University of Kentucky.

more articles by Dr thomas w. miller

Recent advances in neuroscience have effectively put an end to the nature-or-nurture debate. Instead, the focus of discussion has switched to mechanisms and brain-based interventions. More specifically, the question has become: In what ways are neural circuits changed by experience? When is the brain most receptive to learning new things? What effect does neuroplasticity have on the development of neurocognition?


Perhaps no one is more intrigued by and committed to answering these questions than Dr. Helen Neville, director of the Brain Development Lab at the University of Oregon. In her address at the 25th American Psychological Society Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Neville discussed how experiences and genetics interact to influence neurocognitive development and brain fitness.


Brain fitness occurs when individuals choose to focus on physical, cognitive, behavioral and relational skills together, rather than in isolation. Providing a more holistic approach to building challenge areas and enhancing strengths increases one’s confidence, comprehension and communication, processing, memory and relational skills involved in brain functioning.


Neuroplasticity involves a change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, such as behavioral,