Benefits of Exercise for the Brain

Image courtesy of Madrolli at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Madrolli at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The importance of exercise for the body is emphasized by every health professional in the United States, but did you know that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, also benefits the brain? Here is a list of ways exercise benefits the brain.

 

1. Exercise increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. The brain cannot actually store oxygen, so the brain always needs a constant supply.

2. Exercise acts as an antidepressant for the brain, proven to reduce stress hormones and feelings of anxiety. Exercise also contributes to more cell growth in the hippocampus, increasing cognitive ability in the part of the brain that controls memory and learning ability. Those who exercise have the ability to learn at a faster rate than those who do not according to studies. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are proven to improve mood.

3. Exercise stimulates brain plasticity, which is the brain’s extraordinary way of changing it’s own functioning and structure. It is a reorganization of the brain’s neuropathways by creating new neural connections. Excerise actually makes it easier to create new neural connections.

4. Exercise improves cognitive performance across a person’s lifespan, and can reduce cognitive decline associated with aging. Naturally, the brain starts to function differently as a person ages, but exercise helps keep the brain sharp and fresh, even in older ages.

5. Exercise reduces inflammation in the brain. This allows the brain to function more healthily, calmly, and effectively.

6. Exercise helps people sleep better at night. Expending so much energy working out helps the body regulate sleep patterns. However, exercising at night may stimulate the brain if it’s too high of an intensity, which can keep a person up at night. This is why yoga is an excellent choice for night exercise, as it works to calm the brain as well.

7. Exercising regularly can benefit those struggling with ADHD because it releases serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are all hormones associated with the ability to motivate and concentrate, affecting attention and focus. It works as a natural stimulant for the brain without the unwanted side effects of stimulant medication.

 

 

4 Reasons for Neurotherapy Before Finals

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Image courtesy of Ambro at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

At this point in the school year, finals are just around the corner. Academic success relies greatly on several contributing factors related to your child’s overall health. Read this list of 4 ways neurotherapy can benefit your child before the hardest academic challenge of the year!

 

Neurofeedback Improves Sleep – Getting enough sleep is essential to academic success. The brain’s ability to focus is severely compromised when a child is not sleeping well, impacting their ability to focus during class. So much important verbal information can be missed and they may have difficulties completing assignments in the classroom. Memory is also greatly impacted when a child is not getting enough sleep. In order to really remember the lessons learned in class, a child must get a good night of sleep before and after the class. Consistency within your child’s schedule will help your child succeed. Therefore, enforcing a consistent bed time is highly recommended in order to ensure your child gets the sleep he or she needs. Neurofeedback helps train the brain to function healthily, and with the proper treatment protocol, will help improve a person’s ability to fall asleep and have high quality sleep with minimal restlessness.

Health Coaching Improves Nutrition Quality – Did you know that nutrition directly impacts brain function? Therefore, if your child is not getting the daily nutrients the brain needs for optimal functioning, your child’s academic performance will be directly influenced. Nutritional needs can vary depending on the child, as everyone’s brain and body is different. Additionally, if your child suffers from certain disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, poor nutrition can negatively impact the child’s brain, causing symptoms to appear or worsen. Utilizing the help of a health coach can assist you in meal planning for your child to help ensure academic success.

Neurotherapy Reduces Stress and Anxiety – The pressures from academics can provoke a child to experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety, particularly during finals. The effects from stress and anxiety can directly impact how a student performs. The various methods of neurotherapy can help keep a student on track while simultaneously reducing and/or eliminating stress and anxiety. Neurofeedback can be utilized to teach the brain to function calmly, even during moments of high stress, reducing anxiety. With the help of a health coach, achieving excellent nutrition can actually reduce levels of stress and anxiety. When the brain receives the nutrients it needs to function healthily, the brain more equipped to manage stress and anxiety. Talk therapy can help a child express their worries and concerns in a safe space, an effective method of reducing stress and calming anxiety.

Neurofeedback Enhances Overall Performance During finals, the academic demands on a child are heightened substantially. In addition to the normal workload, studying for exams and completing final projects can be overwhelming to say the least. If your child has trouble focusing, the additional time required to complete all of these tasks may seem impossible. Even if your child performs well academically throughout the year, the extra pressures during finals can be daunting and difficult. The main concept of neurotherapy is that the better the brain functions, the better the person functions. Neurofeedback teaches the brain to work at an optimal level, improving overall performance. Whether a student struggles all year round with academic challenges or the child simply needs a boost during finals, neurofeedback will improve brain function and enhance performance.

 

Premature Birth and Neurofeedback by Dr. Jolene Ross

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Low birth weight is considered less than five pounds eight ounces. In the US, 12% of babies are born prematurely. Since the early 80’s the rate of prematurity has risen by 17%. Research consistently finds a greater risk of developmental disabilities as these children move from infancy through adolescence. Prematurity can result in brain injures causing neuromotor and cognitive deficits. Oxygen deprivation and respiratory problems require oxygen supplementation, and can cause permanent injury to the brain and have been linked to later cognitive and motor deficits.  Premature, low birth weight and fragile infants often have a variety of disabilities in the areas of cognitive, academic, sensorimotor, social-emotional and behavioral development. Infants in the NICU are exposed to loud noises, bright lights, frequent handling, and painful procedures that their fragile brains are not ready to process, and find over stimulating and traumatic.

Studies show higher rates of both major developmental handicaps such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, learning disability, and attention deficits in preterm and/or with low birth weights. In addition it is theorized that premature exposure to the extra uterine environment may negatively affect the proliferation, organization, and selective paring of neurons in the preterm infant’s maturing brain.

About 35% to 65% of children born with extra low birth weight (less than two pounds three ounces) demonstrate learning disabilities and/or require special education serviced once they reach school age. The majority of outcome studies comparing preterm, low birth weight children with those born full term demonstrate significantly higher rates of milder disabilities, such as learning deficits, and more severe disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Significantly higher rates of enrollment in early intervention or special education classes are also documented throughout early childhood and the school age years.

Many preterm and low birth weight infants present with expressive language delays, visual-motor, visual spatial deficits, and/or attention difficulties in the first few years of life. Professionals believe that these early deficits are associated with later academic and learning problems. Once in school, they have a higher rate of learning disabilities and lower scores on tests of reading, writing, math, spelling and executive functioning.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bhutta et al conducted a meta analysis of studies examining IQ scores of preterm and low birth weight children as compared to full term normal weight children. The average across the fifteen studies was a difference in 10.9 IQ points. Low birth weight children and young adults demonstrate significantly lower mean IQ scores than full-term controls, however more than 50% of the low birth weight and preterm children and young adults score within normal limits on IQ tests. As many as 22% to 28% of preterm, low birth weight children have language deficits within the first few years of life, which is significantly higher than the general population.

They also have difficulties with self-regulation and organization of sensory input. They are more likely to experience oral defensiveness, feeding problems, tactile defensiveness, general sensory integration problems, and sensory seeking. Many studies have found higher rates of attention problems in premature and low birth weight children. It is notable that these children are more likely to have the type of attention problems that are not associated with hyperactivity or conduct disorder, which are often seen in the general population.

Research has shown that neurofeedback improves IQ an average of between 9 and 12 points in children no matter the starting IQ, including the IQ’s of those who are intellectually challenged. In other words, neurofeedback can correct the problem of depressed IQ that results from premature birth, low birth weight, and fragility.

Neurofeedback effectively improves language, executive functions, auditory processing, sensory integration, physical coordination, calms startle response, improves attention. Neurofeedback calms tactile defensiveness, sensory seeking, self-regulation. In other words, it has been shown through research and through my nearly twenty years of experience that neurofeedback effectively and durably improves the functioning of premature, low birth weight, and fragile birth children in all the areas of challenge outlined.

Jessie*, now age 12, was born ten weeks prior to his due date, weighted 3 lbs. 7 oz., and had heart surgery as an infant. When he first came into the office, he sat very quietly, said as little as possible and looked tired and foggy. At birth, he had low muscle tone as well as speech and language delays. He qualified for early intervention, and as a preschooler had OT, PT, speech and language support. He has received special education services throughout his life. His IQ is in the low 60’s, but is likely to be an underestimation of his abilities as he has significant attention challenges and visual processing problems because his eyes do not work together effectively, a common problem, especially for preterm and low birth weight children. Jessie has the common challenges of a child born preterm with the added challenge of having had surgery. Based on research, surgery prior to the age of 2 ½ increases risk of attention and learning disabilities.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Neurofeedback has been very helpful for Jessie. His psycho-stimulant dose has been cut in half with no increase in ADD problems at home or at school. He is doing better in school and with friends, with a 30.7% average improvement in target behaviors with a range of from ten to 70%. Executive functions, social competence, energy, memory, processing speed, physical balance, fine and gross motor and getting overwhelmed have all improved significantly. He is a much bigger help around the house with increased responsibility and quality when performing chores. School work, materials preparation, organization, note taking, grades, getting to class on time and motivation are all significantly improved. Jessie is now able to go without his medication on weekends, which is new, and is able to clean his room with nearly complete independence.

Motivation at school is much improved. In the past he did not care about how he did in school and had no interest in continuing his education. Now he cares about how he does in school, gets good grades, primarily A’s. He has recently started to have conversations with staff and we have noticed a dramatic reduction in impulsive behaviors during sessions.

*Names have been changed to protect patient privacy.

Physical and Neurological Side Effects of Food Sensitivities

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Food sensitivities and allergies are among the most common types of allergies a person can experience. Common food allergies include eggs, fish, milk, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy, wheat, and dairy. These sensitivities can wreak havoc on the body in a variety of ways. Getting tested for allergies is highly recommended, as many people learn to live with the side effects of their sensitivities, not realizing this is the reason why they are experiencing negative symptoms.

 

Physical symptoms of food sensitivities include:

  • Stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Sinus swelling
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fainting
  • Itching/hives/rashes
  • Itching inside of the mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or other parts of the body
  • Difficulty breathing due to construction of the airways
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain

In addition to these physical symptoms, neurological symptoms are also associated with many allergies. These include:

  1. Cognitive Issues
  • Poor memory (auditory and visual)
  • Reasoning difficulties
  • Spacial orientation difficulties
  • Attention deficits
  • Learning problems
  1. Motor Skills Issues
  • Poor coordination/clumsiness
  • Physical awkwardness
  • Dyspraxia
  1. Neuro-Muscular Issues
  • Difficulty writing
  • Reading problems/dyslexia
  • Speech difficulties
  • Difficulty playing sports
  • Eye muscle issues
  • Uncontrollable movements/ticks 

Call our office today to schedule a free consultation with our director Dr. Jolene Ross, who will assess for potential food allergies and determine if an allergy test is needed in your case.

Bipolar Disorder

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bipolar disorder, once referred to as manic depression, is a mental disorder that affects about 3% of the population. Identified by episodes of unusually intense depressive moods countered by extremely elevated, amplified moods at equal intensity, bipolar disorder has one of the highest risks for suicide. Although the cause of bipolar disorder has not been completely identified, most doctors agree that bipolar likely stems from genetics in combination with environmental factors and/or is triggered by traumatic life events or experiences. Some people with bipolar begin experiencing symptoms in their childhood years, but most often, symptoms of bipolar appear during the late teen years, as at least half of bipolar cases begin before the age of 25.

A person suffering bipolar experiences drastic mood swings, both of which can be dangerous to the person. During episode of mania, or high moods, a person experiences a powerful good mood and high energy levels, making them feel extremely elated, excited, and invincible. A person experiences racing thoughts and becomes overconfident in their personal abilities, which leads to poor judgment and potential danger. Other symptoms of mania include restlessness, irritability, erratic behavior including fast-talking, inability to concentrate, little desire for sleep, spending money recklessly, alcohol/drug abuse, aggressive behavior, high sex drive, and denial of such behavior.

Severity of the manic state varies case to case, and some people will experience varied symptoms. Hypomania is a more mild form of mania that people with bipolar may experience which often involves the person being more productive than usual. However if hypomania is left untreated, it can progress into severe mania or it can suddenly switch to a depressive episode.

When a person is experiencing a depressive episode, many of the symptoms of major depression begin to appear including sadness, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, helplessness, lack of energy, lack of interest in activities once loved, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, and thoughts of death and/or suicide. Depressive episodes are diagnosed if at least five symptoms are recognized and exist for a large portion of the person’s day almost every day for at least two weeks. People are more likely to seek treatment during the depressive phase, as it is easier to recognize for the person experiencing the symptoms. However, both phases can be very destructive.

If either episodes of bipolar go untreated, the episodes can worsen. Substance abuse is commonly found in people with bipolar, but the connection is unclear. Substance abuse could easily be a result of impulsive behavior due to mania and/or to numb or escape feelings of depression. Genetic and biological links are possible as well. Those suffering from bipolar should stay clear of intoxicating substances to be safe.

Neurofeedback can benefit those suffering from bipolar, as neurofeedback helps retrain the brain to have more emotional control, contributing to better, more stable moods, thereby lessening feelings of depression and anxiety. Those diagnosed with bipolar often have coexisting mental health issues including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even ADHD, all of which neurofeedback is able to help correct as well. Neurofeedback has been known to reduce necessity for various medications, although this result is not guaranteed, as each case is different. The brain begins to function more efficiently over time and the person with bipolar is able to live life more normally.

Main Types of Bipolar

Bipolar I Disorder – A person has had at least one manic episode. Hypomania and depressive episodes may have existed before or after the manic episode. Manic or mixed episodes last at least seven days or the manic symptoms required immediate hospital care. Most often, episodes of depression occur and last at least two weeks.

Bipolar 2 Disorder – A person has had at least one major depressive episode or patterns of major depressive episodes that lasted at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episodes that lasted at least four days, but no manic or mixed episodes have occurred.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BPNOS) – The symptoms of bipolar exist, but no pattern has been identified to qualify diagnosis for bipolar 1 or 2. However, the symptoms are unusual and severe enough to seek treatment.

Cyclothymia Disorder – The symptoms of bipolar are milder than other forms of bipolar, and do not meet any of the standards for a diagnosis of bipolar 1 or 2. Hypomania episodes have occurred with mild depression for a minimum of two years and occur at least half of the time without disappearing for at least more than two months, causing distress in every day life.

Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder – Rapid cycling defines when a person has four or more alternating episodes of mania, hypomania, depression, or mixed states within one year.

Additional notable features of bipolar include:

  • Anxious distress, similar symptoms to anxiety disorders including excessive worry, fearing bad things will happen, trouble concentrating, feeling tense, restless, and out of control
  • Atypical features, symptoms that are uncharacteristic of bipolar including a significant improvement of mood due to good things happening
  • Catatonic behavior, when a person does not react to environmental stimuli, not speaking
  • Mixed episodes, an episode with identifiable symptoms of both major depression and mania simultaneously
  • Melancholic behavior, similar to melancholic depression in that a person is unable to feel joy and never experiencing an improved mood, even when good things happen
  • Peripartum onset, bipolar symptoms that begin during pregnancy or up to four weeks after delivery
  • Psychosis, the occurrence of severe episodes of either mania (not hypomania) or depression. Psychotic episodes cause detachment from reality including delusions and hallucinations.
  • Seasonal Pattern, a pattern of manic, hypomanic, and/or major depressive episodes that occur throughout the span of a persons life that change with the seasons (similar to seasonal affective disorder, but more aligned with bipolar disorder)

 

Call our office today to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Ross to help manage bipolar disorder and return to living life with less dramatic mood swings and emotional instability and more ease.

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Bipolar disorder. (2015, February 10). Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/definition/con-20027544

Estroff Marano, H. (2002, July 1). The Different Faces of Depression. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/the-different-faces-depression

McCoy, MS, K. (n.d.). Recognizing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder (L. Marcellin, MD, MPH, Ed.). Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-symptoms.aspx

Othmer, S. (n.d.). Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://www.eeginfo.com/research/bipolar_main.jsp

Oubré, PhD, A. (2002, February 2). EEG Neurofeedback for Treating Psychiatric Disorders. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/eeg-neurofeedback-treating-psychiatric-disorders

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Bipolar Disorder in Adults. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-adults/index.shtml