Brain Gym Workshop April 6-8

Brain gym is a series of fun and energizing  exercises designed to prepare the brain and  body for a more efficient pattern of movement, learning and communication promoting whole brain processing and balance in a stress-free environment.

Learning Objectives:

Summarize whole brain integration through  whole body movement

Describe the role of the  26 brain gym exercises in relation to efficiency with immediate improvements and automaticity for skills such as memory, writing, reading,  communication, coordination, balance, stability, grounding, tracking, memory, lengthening  and concentration

Learn and perform the four step warm-up that will awaken learning potential in the brain body connection

Participate in “hands on” exercises and  describe how to implement a brain body diet for you and/or your clients

Outline the three dimensions of movement  and the correlation to the brain, learning and communication

Describe developmental pieces and brain  re-education

Understand and Implement Edu-K balances and discover a stress free learning environment and tool for reaching goals and maximizing potential

This course is beneficial for students, teachers, administrators, parents, athletes, business professionals, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists.

Click here for the registration form: brain gym 101 flyer

How Meditation Can Help Kids

In this blog post on the NY Times, the author discusses new research around the benefits of meditation for children:

These investigations…illustrate how meditative practices have the potential to actually change the structure and function of the brain in ways that foster academic success.

Fundamental principles of neuroscience suggest that meditation can have its greatest impact on cognition when the brain is in its earliest stages of development.

This is because the brain develops connections in prefrontal circuits at its fastest rate in childhood. It is this extra plasticity that creates the potential for meditation to have greater impact on executive functioning in children.

A new way to look at stress

In this Goop Q&A, Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal explains why stress may actually be good for us sometimes, and that there is more than one type of stress.

The body has a whole repertoire of stress responses. Sometimes when we experience stress we’re experiencing a state that is healthy, that makes us resilient, that makes us more caring and connected, that makes us more courageous. The experience might be physically similar in some ways to stress states that we would describe as debilitating anxiety or other negative stress states, but they are not toxic. There are a lot of different ways to experience stress…

…And then there’s a relatively new idea, which is that there’s an ability to grow from stress built into our biology. I think people have always recognized that holistically, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger—they recognize that as a platitude. But to see it in the biology of the stress response—that your stress response can increase neuroplasticity to help your brain learn from the experience, that you can release stress hormones that function like steroids for not just your body but also for your brain—that’s an incredible and very new insight…

…we’ve been so inundated by this belief, this mindset, and this message that stress is toxic, that stress is harmful, that you should avoid or reduce stress, that in moments of feeling stressed out, we think: “I shouldn’t be stressed out right now. If I were a good parent, if I were a good mom, I’d be calm right now, I wouldn’t be upset. If I were good at my job, I’d be so smooth right now under pressure. I wouldn’t be frantic, I wouldn’t be worried, I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.”

And then that leads us to cope with situations in ways that make it harder to find meaning in them. It makes it harder to solve problems that can be solved. It makes it harder to connect with others so that we know that we’re not alone. And I think that’s what makes believing stress is bad for you so toxic. It’s not a magic trick. It creates thoughts and emotions that make it harder to thrive. And it changes the way we cope.

The relationship between your brain and gut

In this article by Gary L. Wenk PhD, he explains how your brain and the bugs in your gut have a symbiotic relationship. The chemicals produced when the gut bugs break down food influences your brain and depending on the food, that can have a good effect or a bad one.

Our brain lives in a symbiotic relationship with the bugs in our gut.  Whatever we eat, they eat.   In return, they help our brain function optimally in a variety of ways.  During the past few years, it has become increasingly apparent that in the absence of bacteria humans would never have evolved to our current level of cognitive performance.  Our brains are profoundly dependent upon a wide range of chemicals produced by these gut bugs.  For example, without these gut microbes our brains do not correctly develop the serotonin neurons that play a key role in the control of emotion (Molecular Psychiatry 2013;18:666-673)…..Clearly, the bugs in your gut can positively or negatively influence your mental function and stress response; it is definitely worth your effort to keep them very happy with a healthy diet.

Meditation can improve your brain

A meditation study led by Harvard affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital shows that meditation can change the parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Researchers Find Textbook-Altering Link Between Brain, Immune System

Read original article here.

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.

That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?,’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?,’ now we can approach this mechanistically – because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in U.Va.’s Department of Neuroscience and director of U.Va.’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”

He added, “We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. [It’s] hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component.”

Kevin Lee, who chairs the Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis’ lab: “The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks.’ There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation – and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding – that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”

Even Kipnis was skeptical initially. “I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” he said. “I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”

The discovery was made possible by the work of Antoine Louveau, a postdoctoral fellow in Kipnis’ lab. The vessels were detected after Louveau developed a method to mount a mouse’s meninges – the membranes covering the brain – on a single slide so that they could be examined as a whole. “It was fairly easy, actually,” he said. “There was one trick: We fixed the meninges within the skullcap, so that the tissue is secured in its physiological condition, and then we dissected it. If we had done it the other way around, it wouldn’t have worked.”

After noticing vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells on his slides, he tested for lymphatic vessels and there they were. The impossible existed.

The soft-spoken Louveau recalled the moment: “I called Jony [Kipnis] to the microscope and I said, ‘I think we have something.’”

As to how the brain’s lymphatic vessels managed to escape notice all this time, Kipnis described them as “very well hidden” and noted that they follow a major blood vessel down into the sinuses, an area difficult to image. “It’s so close to the blood vessel, you just miss it,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re after, you just miss it.

“Live imaging of these vessels was crucial to demonstrate their function, and it would not be possible without collaboration with Tajie Harris,” Kipnis noted. Harris is an assistant professor of neuroscience and a member of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. Kipnis also saluted the “phenomenal” surgical skills of Igor Smirnov, a research associate in the Kipnis lab whose work was critical to the imaging success of the study.

The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises a tremendous number of questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it.

For example, take Alzheimer’s disease. “In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” Kipnis said. “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.” He noted that the vessels look different with age, so the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore.

And there’s an enormous array of other neurological diseases, from autism to multiple sclerosis, that must be reconsidered in light of the presence of something science insisted did not exist.

The findings have been published online by the prestigious journal Nature and will appear in a forthcoming print edition. The article’s authors are Louveau, Smirnov, Timothy J. Keyes, Jacob D. Eccles, Sherin J. Rouhani, J. David Peske, Noel C. Derecki, David Castle, James W. Mandell, Lee, Harris and Kipnis.

The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants R01AG034113 and R01NS061973. Louveau was a fellow of Fondation pour la Recherche Medicale.