Weighing in at about three pounds in the average adult, the human brain represents about 2 to 3 percent of the body’s weight but consumes 20 percent of its total energy output.
And, now there’s science-based evidence that – in a very significant way – the brain behaves like a muscle: It obeys the old gym law “Use It Or Lose It.”
Neuroscientists have known for a long time that a baby’s brain generates roughly twice as many nerve cells as it needs to function; through “paring” at various stages of infancy/childhood/adolescence, the brain ultimately eliminates those cells that do not receive sufficient chemical and electrical stimulation to survive. The process, often called “apoptosis” or “programmed” cell death, occurs when a brain cell, neuron, loses its battle with other cells to receive essential stimulation. Based on studies of the developing brain, researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute of The University of Queensland (Australia) have identified a critical clue to understanding why nerve cells die in neurodegenerative diseases. This self-destructive process is not only a normal part of human brain development, but it also plays a role in strokes, Alzheimer’s and motor neuron diseases, leading to the loss of essential nerve cells from the adult brain. Reporting in the Journal of Neuroscience, Dr. Elizabeth Coulson and her colleagues have identified stimulation as a critical factor in the cell-death process. “It appears that if a cell is not appropriately stimulated, it self-destructs,” reports Dr. Coulson. “We know that a lack of both chemical and electrical stimulation causes the cells to self-destruct. But we believe that nerve cells will survive if appropriate electrical stimuli are produced to block the self-destruct process we have identified.”
A next step in research will be to determine whether dying cells receiving only electrical stimulation can be rescued. While years of research have been critical in determining factors regulating nerve cell survival, it will be a long process to combat neurodegeneration.
“We see proof of this daily at Pathwaves through our process of Neural empowerment!”
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D. and
Geoff Cole, Clinical Director – Pathwaves
After 20 sessions at Pathwaves, a mother of an autistic child reports that;
- “He is sleeping better than ever”
- “He is much more aware of everything that is going on around him – especially cars”
- “He used to be extremely picky about what he ate. Now he is eating just about anything!”
It is another great day riding the wave at Pathwaves! We love what we do!
Buddhism, Taoism. Islam and animism. Protestant, Orthodox – Russian and Greek – and Roman and Uniate Catholic Christianity. Prayer in tongues and silence. Incense and holy water or megachurches with rock bands and secluded mountain-top monasteries.
So many types of religious experiences and expressions. Because one size does not fit all.
And now we know that one form of meditation doesn’t fit all.
Adam Burke, professor of Health Education at San Francisco State University and the director of SFS’s Institute for Holistic Health Studies has highlighted the importance of ensuring that new meditators select methods with which they are most comfortable, rather than what is most popular at the moment.
Meditators who select the “best fit” are most likely to stick with the practice, argues Burke, in a new study published online July 7, 2012 in Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing.
Burke argues that the wrong fit may cause new meditators to abandon the practice, losing out on its myriad of personal and medical benefits. “Because of the increase in both general and clinical use of meditation, you want to make sure you find the right method for each person,” reported Burke, noting that there have been very few studies comparing different meditation techniques on a head to head basis to examine individual preferences or specific clinical benefits.
Burke studied 247 participants and four popular meditation methods – Mantra, Mindfulness, Zen and Qigong Visualization – to see if novice meditators favored one over the others. Participants were taught each technique and asked to practice at home and, at the end of the study, evaluate which they preferred.
The two simpler methods – Mantra and Mindfulness – were preferred by 31 percent of participants; Zen and Qigong were preferred by 22 and 14.8 percent respectively. While the results make it clear that no one technique is best for everyone and even less common methods – Zen and Qigong – are preferred by some, there is value in introducing new meditators to a simpler, more accessible method. Of note is the fact that older participants, who grew up when Zen was becoming one of the first meditation techniques to gain attention in the U.S., were more likely to prefer that method. Burke observed that Mindfullness is the most recent technique to gain popularity and is often the only one with which novices and/or healthcare professionals are familiar. Not surprisingly, Mindfulness was most preferred by the youngest study participants. He noted that simply because a particular form of meditation is popular at the moment does not mean that it is “best” for everyone. “In truth, different people like different things. One size does not fit all.” Burke noted that if an individual is not comfortable with the first form of meditation he/she uses, that individual may be less likely to continue meditating and would lose out on the benefits of meditation including reduced stress, lower blood pressure and enhanced performance in a wide range of activities.
Burke called for continued research to determine if particular methods are more effective in addressing specific health issues, such as addiction and, thereby, allowing professionals to guide patients toward the techniques that would be most effective for each individual.
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D. and Geoff Cole
The numbers are in but, few people know the statistics and it’s probable that even fewer can explain what they mean except on a profoundly personal level.
Somewhere around 39.8 million Americans over age 15 are providing unpaid care to someone over 65 “because of a condition related to aging,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And, perhaps to some, an even greater surprise: between 22 and 23 percent of those ages 45 to 64 identify themselves as elder care providers; add to that 16 percent of those over 65. To achieve a fuller understanding of the emotional and physical drain of such care, consider that almost one third of these elder care providers are taking care of two or more older people and 23 percent of them have a minor child in their households; 85 percent of caregivers and their elders maintain separate households.
The statistics are drawn from the BLS American Time Use Survey. Every day BLS interviewers ask Americans how they spent their time during the previous 24 hours, examining everything from shopping to child care to phone calls. The time use survey began in 2003 and the most recent results were released on June 22, 2012; they reflect time expenditures in the civilian, non-institutionalized population.
Among the surprise statistics was the fact that a majority – 56 percent – of those providing elder care are women – not a surprise; but that’s a smaller percentage than found in previous studies – a surprise. Sons and husbands are catching up to daughters, wives and daughters-in-law. Approximately one-in-five care providers do so on a daily basis; one-in-four – 24 percent several times a week, and a final 20 percent once a week. On average, care takers offer three hours of service on the days they provide care; however, women spend an hour more on elder care on those days than men do.
To qualify as “care giving” in the survey it must be unpaid and might be as simple as providing companionship or “being available to assist when needed” and it must have been provided more than once in the three months before questioning – regardless of how much time was spent in the task. Recipients of care included a parent (42 percent), a grandparent (19 percent) or another relative (21 percent); only 4 percent reported caring for a spouse or unmarried partner.
“In today’s economy with all of the other pressures facing so many families, and especially when care providers tell themselves that they are ‘only doing what is right’ or what they ‘have to do,’ these caretakers may significantly be undercutting their own emotional/psychological/physical health,” observes Francis (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., CAP of Pathwaves. “When circumstances conspire to require that such care be given for extended periods – especially for years and years – people begin living as though they are on auto-pilot. They either cannot allow themselves to recognize or they are almost afraid to admit to themselves how exhausted they have become. In the end, they experience a long-term form of caretaker fatigue that is similar in many ways to many of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Flynn uses the example of caretaker spouses and children who “sleep with one eye open and one ear listening to the breathing or for the cries of their sick or elderly relatives. “If you do that for long enough, you can become as stressed and emotionally bruised and broken as a soldier or Marine who’s been on combat patrols for months on end,” observed Flynn. “It’s really critical that such care providers seek their own professional help – an open and non-judgmental ear and someone who’s able and willing to provide some insight into this PTSD.“
A press release summarizing all of the results of the American Time Use Survey can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D. and Geoff Cole