Epilepsy Research Is Getting Cool So Your Brain Isn’t Smoki’n!

http://www.epilepsy.com/newsletter/may13/brain_cooling?utm_source=Epilepsy+Therapy+Project&utm_campaign=bc6a33ff69-Epilepsy_News_5_1_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_cf0feb6500-bc6a33ff69-12439845

Following in the brain cooling tips of ‘The Lazarus Effect’(1) for cardiac arrest Dr Sirven of ETP (see link above) this week gives us the lowdown on brain cooling research for epilepsy treatment.

This excerpt says:

‘In the early view version of the journal, Epilepsia, Drs. Motamedi and colleagues from the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine present a critical review and opinion article. It is known that brain cooling, otherwise known as therapeutic brain hypothermia, is already a standard of care for a condition such as cardiac arrest in adults, or in neonates in the situation of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. However, there has been an increasing number of research papers that have looked at the concept of utilizing hypothermia to help control seizures that might be used as part of an implantable device to cool the brain in a specific region. In this well written review, Drs. Motamedi and colleagues discuss research innovations in developing cooling as a viable option for the treatment of drug resistant epilepsy.’

So should we all be booking holidays in Iceland or heading for our refrigerator’s frozen broccoli and bags of peas to get out of the heat?

Well it is a bit soon to tell, but as this article from Kaitllyn Roland (2) emphasises the importance of being sensible about the type of exercise you do, and how to take care about body temperature in particular if you are prone to seizures.

I for one won’t be booking my trip to Spain in the middle of August or trying to navigate the Sahara desert, but everyone has their limits!

I hope this article finds you chilling out with some sunny weather keeping cool in the shade, spring may have finally arrived in the UK, or is it our summer?. 🙂

1) https://epilepsymeandneurology.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/%ef%bb%bfheart-brain-and-out-of-body/

2))http://kaitlynroland.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/hell-being-competitive-and-hot-yoga/#comment-504

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How your mind can heal your body – book review

I have been anicipating this post from Holistic yoga with Alyson for some time on the book by http://www.drdavidhamilton.com which I think is a great review of a book about ‘how your mind can heal your body’. Well worth checking out!

Holistic yoga and massage

bookcoverOver the winter new year break I received a pile of books from a friend who was having a clear out. One of them I read straight away: How your mind can heal your body by David Hamilton and I’ve meaning to blog about it for months because it’s very interesting, and has implications for our yoga practice, and our whole lives potentially.

At first glance my immediate reaction to the book and its title was ‘what nonsense’, but two things made me change my mind. One was that the title is a bit simplistic as the author does state several times that the mind can help heal the body and people should continue with their conventional medical treatment alongside adopting helpful mind-based approaches. The other reason was the extensive amount of research of human trials that he quotes that back up all his claims.

I think the book’s message…

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GREAT parkinson’s neuro recovery blog!

Kaitlyn Roland

This week kicked off brain awareness week… and the people over at sharpbrains.com debunked 10 myths around brain fitness… here are my 5 favourites!

Myth 1. Genes deter­mine the fate of our brains.

Fact: Life­long brain plas­tic­ity means that our lifestyles and behav­iors play a sig­nif­i­cant role in how our brains (and there­fore our minds) phys­i­cally evolve.

(we have some aspect of control and can create new neural pathways – say with exercise for brain change!)


Myth 3. Med­ica­tion is the main hope for cog­ni­tive health and enhance­ment.
Fact: Non-invasive inter­ven­tions can have com­pa­ra­ble and more durable ben­e­fits, and are also free of side effects.

(drug side effects are not necessary, but side effects – like endorphins – from exercise are encouraged!)

Myth 4. There’s noth­ing we can do to beat Alzheimer’s dis­ease and cog­ni­tive decline.
Fact: While noth­ing has been shown to pre­vent the pathol­ogy of Alzheimer ’s…

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Neurological Rock Stars 2 – Parkinson’s Nautrally blog by Fred Phillips

http://fredphillips.wordpress.com/articles/healing-parkinsons-disease-naturally/#comment-615

Please follow the link to Fred Phillips Blog, and inspiring story of treating parkinson’s nautrally. Fred has taken the time and care to write about how he is using diet, yoga, meditation and emotional healing to treat his Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

His diet advice in particular in relation to inflammation and the relationship between gut and immune system function are really useful (to me especially! 🙂 ).

Fred has a very good understanding of the physiology of the body and how it all inter-relates.

Fred has also written a book about healing.

Fred is also a KARATE TEACHER!!! 🙂

 

Neurofeedback and Optimal Brain Function

Thank-you to http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/ for this very interesting guest post. 🙂

Neurofeedback is a treatment which has evolved from Biofeedback. Many of you would have heard about this concept:

“…is a process that enables an individual to learn   how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and   performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as   brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature.   These instruments rapidly and accurately ‘feed back’ information to the user.   The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes   in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological   changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an   instrument.” Three   professional biofeedback organizations, the Association   for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), Biofeedback   Certification International Alliance (BCIA), and the International   Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR), arrived at a consensus   definition of biofeedback in 2008.Read more here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofeedback

The concept of Biofeedback has been practised for time immemorial by Yoga and Pranayama students and masters. Here in the west it has developed to its current form since the late 50’s and was very popular in the 80’s. Since then it has sadly somewhat disappeared from the popular radar again, as do so many worthy and non invasive natural therapies. Mostly due to funding issues in the ever ongoing effort of pharmaceutical companies to suppress what would outshine their products.

But back to topic – Neurofeedback – “Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses electroencephalography or fMRI to provide a signal that can be used by a person to receive feedback about brain activity.”

Research so far has been working in particular to prove its worth as a treatment of epilepsy, autism, headaches, insomnia, addiction problems and more, but its benefits can be felt by anyone who has suffered an emotional trauma.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofeedback

However, you do not need to be diagnosed with a medical condition to benefit from this treatment, as it is designed to optimize brain function.

Like many I became aware of the biofeedback movement in the late 80’s, but never did much with it. By chance a friend of mine gave me a rather large voucher for a bookstore in 2007. One of the titles I bought was:

“The Healing Power of Neurofeedback”, (2006), by Stephen Larsen Ph.D. Healing Arts Press.

Which humbly and quietly sat in my bookshelf for three years, until I was hunting for something new to read during semester break. What I found in this book had me totally spell bound, a treatment called LENS Technique, developed by Len Ochs.

http://www.ochslabs.com/

After several hours of googling, I found a practitioner in Melbourne, who had recently migrated from Germany. I booked myself in for six treatments, which was explained to me as a usual course of treatment. Even though, the cost was not outrageous, I could instantly see, that it would be out of reach of exactly the majority of the population needing it – no medicare funding!

At the time stress levels in my life were approaching frantic on the stress meter, due to work, study and family commitments. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Well I was turning into a bit of a sleep deprived grouch 🙂

What I experienced even after the first treatment was sensational  (and lasting)– I became acutely aware of all the tension in my body; that I was holding a pen like a sword, my shoulders had taken up position at ear level and my breathing was shallow. By the time I got home after an hours city driving, I was in total and utter relaxation – of the ragdoll kind, but aware and alert, I felt fantastically at peace. I would recommend it to everyone!

Since, I found another practitioner of Neurofeedback – Dr. Shum, the Psychiatrist in Australia who has also helped develop Subconscious Freedom Technique

http://au.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=Subconscious+Freedom+Therapy

During LENS treatments you sit relaxed in a comfy chair, the practitioner connects several tiny electrodes and you can keep an eye on your heart and breathing rate on a screen. While treatment was going on I was watching a lot of David Attenborough nature documentaries, which I found helped the relaxation tremendously. At no point was there any discomfort or difficulty. The positive outcomes kept piling up, I was able to relax again, sleep better, manage my workload better and generally felt a fair bit more human friendly, which is a big plus when you work in Mental Health.

I would really like to encourage you to get the book, have a look at the websites and contact a practitioner in your area – no amount of me raving on about how greatly it helped me can substitute having your own experience.

Ahmrita’s blog is based at http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/

for further information on nautral mental health many topics.

One Moment At A Time – What Is MBSR And Who Is Jon Kabat-Zinn?

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Jon Kabat-Zinn(1) (2)

In search of mindfulness I have been following the progress of mindfulness teaching locally and have been pleasantly surprised recently with the numbers of classes advertised.

A couple of weeks ago I saw one that was titled ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’ and was intrigued.

Another article in January/February Scientific American Mind 2013 related to mindfulness; it is titled ‘Focus on Your-self to Alleviate Social Pain’. The article discusses the benefits of mindfulness for pain, stress, anxiety and depression, but also how a new study recently that has shown it reduces feelings of loneliness or social isolation. Mindfulness was also shown to reduce inflammation and the risk of heart attacks.

So where did all this research start and why is there so much interest in mindfulness for health?

Taking to you-tube (as you do) I came across this one titled ‘The Healing Power of Mindfulness’.(1)

It has sparked my interest in Jon Kabat-Zinn who talks about his life and how at college he was one of 5 students who went to see a monk lecture on this topic. During the lecture he describes how he had one of those ‘Ah-ha!’ moments as he realised that what he had just been taught to do should be something that everyone gets to learn in kindergarten.

‘Being in the moment’ sounds like something we all could benefit from, but how many of us are actually present without our mobile phone, computer, television or radio?

I am sitting here with the computer and a phone so I am clearly not a shining example of being present within myself just right now.

When do we ever switch off?

Something else I am interested in is the research into ‘neuroplasticity’.  Jon Kabat-Zinn studied molecular biology in 1971 at MIT.

In the film he talks about how studies have now gone on to show that not only is the mind plastic but so are genes, and he describes how the corrosive acid of stress wears down our DNA causing problems within the body. Mindfulness meditation research is showing that this can be stopped and reversed.

He has been teaching and studying the effects of mindfulness since 1979 and is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Although watching you-tube isn’t always a mindfulness practice, I was really relaxed and centered when I had finished watching, and participating at one point(audience participation!), spending time with this innovative out of the box thinker talking about his life’s work with mindfulness.

I hope you feel that you can take the time to watch him as well, and perhaps take away some of his mindful thoughts and experiences on the benefits of being present in the mind and body.

You come from nothing, you go back to nothing, it’s what you do in between that matters. Don’t you want to always be present?

(For people in the area there are some good classes advertised at the Treehouse if you are looking for a teacher http://www.treehousewales.co.uk/ )

1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_If4a-gHg_I

2)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Kabat-Zinn

More Health and Exercise Condition Management

Wales National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) – Cynllun Atgufeirio Cleifion I Wneud ymarfer Corff Cymru

Thank you once again to my ‘Yoga I Bawb’ teacher Alyson for pressing a guest blog from me in relation to health. If you are interested in reading it is at:

http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/yoga-for-weight-loss-and-peace-guest-post/

I thought that this would be a good opportunity to draw people’s attention to the Welsh Government scheme Wales National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS).  Aimed at 17 years of age and over, who are not used to being regularly physically active and have a medical condition, the scheme is designed to provide opportunities to exercise that are fun; rewarding and that can be incorporated into every-day life.

It consists of a wide range of activities both gym based and class based to choose from for patients that have been through a rehabilitation programmes. The benefits are listed as weight management, reduction of blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and strokes, reduction of cancer risk, reduced stress and anxiety, improve mental and social wellbeing, increased energy, improve strength, mobility, co-ordination and balance and improved health and wellbeing.

The link for information is: http://www.wlga.gov.uk/ners

To be referred you need to approach your GP/practice nurse/health professional. Give it a go!

I have not had experience of this scheme myself but would be interested to hear from people with any feedback that they would like to share.

Perhaps there is a similar project helping people with health conditions through exercise in your area?

Why do I practise yoga? A personal perspective

Happy New Year Everybody!

The new year begins with a guest blog post from http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/

If anybody is interested in doing a guest blog post please get in touch via my gravitar profile or drop a note to tell me how to contact you.

Thank-you Alyson for this blog post!

Guest blog post

Yoga’s been part of my life for so long I rarely stop and think ‘What am I doing?’ or ‘Why am I doing this?’ However, in writing this guest blog post, I’ve tried to put some of it into words to explain why I practise yoga, and some of the benefits it brings me.

I’ve been practising yoga for roughly half my life, attending my first classes when I was 17. I’d dabbled earlier than that at home with Mum apparently but can remember little of that. During university my yoga practice was on and off, but for the last 11 years I have been attending yoga classes regularly, at first once weekly, then twice, then three times, and then I took the plunge and started (and completed) my yoga teacher training and have been teaching since 2008.

But why do I go to classes and practice at home? For me, if I don’t do my morning stretches I soon start stiffening up. One Christmas I had family staying and routines were abandoned. After a week my neck, shoulders and back were stiff, aching and unhappy! A few days after getting back into my routine I was fine again.

My morning routine is only about 20 minutes long and consists of basic stretches that limber up most parts of the body and joints, and it seems to be the right amount for me to keep things ticking over.

If you are struggling to implement a daily routine start small. For years I talked of doing more yoga at home but I didn’t do any. Eventually I just set the alarm five minutes earlier than usual, got up and did five minutes of stretches. Gradually I increased the time and now it’s a regular easy habit.

So, I practise daily for physical comfort.

Less noticeably, I think the benefits are a calm disposition, a more peaceful state of mind, and greater body awareness. These are some of the less tangible benefits that a yoga practice can bring.

One of the things from the yoga teacher training course which had a direct impact was the starting of a pranayama (controlled breathing) practice and diary. I tacked this onto the end of my morning routine, and it’s something I’ve (generally) kept up. We sometimes focus mainly on the physical side of yoga, the postures, but the breathing practices can be very useful, and just as illuminating as to our current state of health etc.

Likewise, I have tried to also include a short meditation into my daily session, although sometimes this is pretty short! I find the meditation to be very beneficial in helping me focus, and just to observe my current state of mind and how distracted I am.

In some ways, the benefits are often more noticeable when I’m not practising yoga. When I’m not practising, for whatever reason, I realise why I do practise!

Currently I have a foot in plaster and the enforced inactivity is a challenge. However, being able to practise just 20 minutes of stretches makes me feel better – not only physically but also mentally. And it’s amazing what you can do even with a foot in plaster!

I’m still not sure why I started practising yoga though. Unless I can recall my thoughts of my 17 year old self I’ll probably never know!

[if you want to link to my blog it’s http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/]

What do Epilepsy, Autism, Hormones, Sleep, Music, Meditation, Exercise have in common? The Hippocampus and Neurogenesis.

This was my first full year of blogging and it has been an enormous learning curve.

Blogging has been an amazing way to connect with other people, read about life experiences, thoughts, emotions and ideas. Thank you to all the bloggers whose work I have read this year. It has been very enriching.

For me, I have been able to express myself in writing, and to say what I am thinking about – which is quite liberating.

Most of all blogging has helped me to make sense of epilepsy.

So, when I was looking back at all the subjects that came up in the last year, I was struck by how although very different subject areas were covered, a number of these topics  could all be knitted together in a ‘holistic’ kind of way via one area of the brain.

The hippocampus.(1)

Architecturally the hippocampus sits within the limbic system (2) fairly centrally inside the brain (towards the brainstem).

This area of the brain is implicated in; mood, memory, learning and spatial awareness. Because of these factors the study of the hippocampus has been important in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and depression.

Relatively recently scientists identified the hippocampus as one of a number of areas in the brain that is capable of neurogenesis into adulthood. (3) Neurogenesis is the ability of the brain to create new neurons.

For this reason the hippocampus crops up in lots of neurological studies.

Within epilepsy for example, some of the factors that aggravate seizure symptoms generally are sleep deprivation and stress. Sleep deprivation and stress negatively affect neurogenesis and there are a number of studies around the relationship with epilepsy and the hippocampus. One study in particular shows; abnormal neurogenesis in the hippocampus of people with epilepsy, increased neurogenesis in people with epilepsy and inhibited neurogenesis in the hippocampus, in particular a study relating to temporal lobe epilepsy (4). All of these problems can impact on mood, depression, memory and learning in epilepsy.

Having found information that epilepsy and autism can be linked I started exploring this area more and even found people advocating for both such as Epilepsy Action’s Advocate blog (5).

Within autism, the hippocampus is mentioned in studies relating to the importance of autism and working memory. (6) The reason I was looking at this relationship is because one of my friends who is on the autistic spectrum benefits highly from martial arts training. I read an article ages ago in ‘Martial Arts Illustrated’ magazine  about ‘Sandra Jane Beale Ellis’(7) who has autism and has spent her life helping people with autism to train in Karate (8). Recently someone posted a blog about how kung fu and tai chi training help people with autism. (9) These studies reminded me how much tai chi training helped me with seizures and how much my memory, concentration, co-ordination and overall health was improved by tai chi and karate training. Some studies of autism indicate that an enriched learning environment from a young age in autism can be beneficial to promote neurogeneisis (10).

Hormones such as cortisol negatively effects neurogenesis within the hippocampus (11) cortisol is elevated by stress. Studies relating to oestrogen show there may be some impact of this hormone within the hippocampus and co-ordination (12) I found this research interesting because of problems I have around oestrogen and progesterone and seizure control. Melatonin (13) studies within the hippocampus indicate that melatonin may have neuroprotective qualities and indeed other bloggers with epilepsy have said that they find melatonin supplementation to be beneficial (14).

This leads onto Sleep deprivation negatively influences or reduces neurogenesis within the hippocampus (15). I am quite interested in the importance of sleep in relation to this area of the brain, because it crops up a lot in my personal experience of managing seizures. Reading about Jill Taylor Bolt stroke insight caused me to think about how sleep influences the brain and why. The asdresearchinitiative also shows a study of how sleep pattern problems impact on autism. (16) During sleep the brain goes through a process of ‘pruning’ neurons, this process also happens at different times in life. (17) (18)

Music came up more recently in relation to the ‘Mozart effect ’ in classical music (19). Studies of the hippocampus in music show how the hippocampus is implicated in long term memory and stringing together music in the brain. The music of Mozart in particular has been used to train mice to carry out spatial tasks in mazes, and one theory is that music may activate the same pathways as spatial awareness in the brain. (20) Music can cause emotional responses and I was interested how the hippocampus is located in the emotional brain or limbic system.

Within meditation, Studies into meditation have shown that meditation influences neuroplasticity and neurogenesis positively within the hippocampus. (21)

Exercise studies show that exercise promotes neurogenesis within the hippocampus. (22) In relation to exercise and mental health exercise has been shown to have a positive influence on mental health and some studies show that this positively influences the hippocampus. (23) This could explain why life systems such as yoga or tai chi which incorporate meditation as well as exercise are very good for the mind and body, because they support growth in the hippocampus.

In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney energy (24), is an area that I felt conceptually could be linked to neurogenesis by ‘pre natal chi’ (25) or Jing. This is because of the involvement of the Central Nervous System and stem cells in neurogenesis (26). I also thought that this could be carried across into ‘sexual energy’ or ‘kundalini’ in yoga.

Of course the hippocampus is only one small area of the brain and only one small part of the ‘whole body’, but I am interested that there are so many links with so many corresponding or similar impacting factors such as stress and sleep. The hippocampus is a bit like the ‘spaghetti junction’ of the brain! It is quite important how it fits into the whole body and mind because when it goes wrong or without it (such as was the case for poor Henry Molaison who had his hippocampus removed!)(26) things could get really messy!

The hippocampus is not the be all and end all of epilepsy and autism, or brain function; but I thought it was a good area to take a ‘big picture’ ‘small area’ snapshot into holistic mind body connections.

Normally I talk about one thing at a time, but it occurred to me that it can all fit together if you cross reference all these areas to help understand mind body health!

Happy Christmas and New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2013!

 

1)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus

2)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbic_system limbic system

3)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis

4)      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654382/ epilepsy

5)      http://rosewinelover.com/      Epilepsy Action Advocate Blog

6)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_and_working_memory

7)      http://challengeautism.wordpress.com/ Sandra Beale Ellis blog

8)      http://www.challengeautism.co.uk/#/autism-me/4543515032 autism and karate

9)      http://doctordilday.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/just-another-form-of-exercise/ tai chi and autism

10)   http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/124/7/1317.full#ref-29  enriched learning and autism

11)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis  cortisol

12)   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16965297 oestrogen and cognition

13)   http://www.angelfire.com/yt/yas709neuroscience/hippocampus1.htm melatonin

14)   http://epilepsytalk.com/2012/11/19/epilepsy-and-melatonin-yes-no-or-maybe-so/

Epilepsy Talk

15)   http://asdresearchinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/top-40-research-articles-of-2012-autism/#comment-1391 autism research

16)   http://asdresearchinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/sleep-disturbance-in-autism/ sleep autism

17)   http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis pruning neurons in sleep

18)   http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/autism-spectrum-as-a-developmental-disorder/ see webinar

19)   http://dragonandrose.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/epilepsy-classical-music/ Mozart effect

20)   http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro99/web1/Sancar.html

21)   http://www.brainsync.com/blog/neurogenesis-your-brain-renewed/ meditation and neurogenesis

22) http://www.enotes.com/exercise-78701-reference/exercise-108360

23)   http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis exercise

24)   http://wellmother.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/reflections-on-winter-part-2-how-to-support-our-water-energy-and-the-energy-of-kidney-and-bladder-and-their-relevance-to-211212/ kidney energy

25)   https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/The+Definition+of+Jing+-+Essence prenatal Jing

26)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis

27)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Molaison Henry Molaison

interesting reflections on left and right brain experience, yoga and head injury.

Work from the other side

IMG_1545A coworker of mine recently fell backwards in her chair and hit her head.  Hard.  So hard she had to spend the night in the hospital and take a long break from work.  Six weeks later, she still needs to remain quiet, but she and I have been emailing each other.

The scrambling of her brain has had some positive effects, she says.  It has basically changed her mind.  For a while she could not think of the words she wanted to use, and the speech she did muster up came forth painfully slow.  She’d get headaches from slight efforts to think and communicate.  But she also felt a great deal of peace.

Have you ever heard Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk on Ted.com?  She is a brain researcher who had a stroke and relates the story of how her left brain went off line while her right brain came on…

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