Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Make Your Day!

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Please enjoy your LOL moment of the day — while also being entertained and informed by these three short video clips. Each is only a few minutes long, sheds light on the remarkable workings of the brain, and is sure to bring a smile.

The first is a World Science Festival presentation called "Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale." Simply by hopping about on stage, McFerrin leads a large unrehearsed audience to sing tunes together quite beautifully. He relies on their long-time familiarity with — that is, learning of — their culture’s predominant pentatonic scale (one that includes five notes an octave). It is believed they can so easily follow McFerrin’s unvoiced cues because their brains have learned to anticipate that particular musical pattern. To view, click on All Together Now.

On another musical note, meet Snowball the dancing cockatoo! If you’ve already seen him on YouTube, look again with this new insight in mind: At first, neuroscientists thought that surely Snowball must only be trained to boogie. But when he aced controlled testing that kept the tempo changing, they found that he was really listening and following the rhythm. This undermines an earlier view that only human beings possess the neural connections needed to dance in sync with music. For a fun overview of this subject regarding the animal kingdom at large, click on Creatures Great and Small. Get down with Snowball’s full dance routine to a Backstreet Boys hit by clicking Do It, Snowball!


Senior Cognitive Health in 2010

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA president Janie Clark, MA, was interviewed earlier this year by Sandra Dias for her article Cognitive Fitness which appeared in Health Center Today, a publication of the University of Connecticut Health Center. Discussing two of many variables that can affect mental fitness, Clark said, "There is a connection between stress and depression and the state of one’s cognitive health. We teach the instructors and trainers how to integrate stress management and relaxation techniques into their classes." SFA helps health-fitness professionals guide their clients through a lifestyle approach to improving cognitive fitness. On a personal note, Clark added, "My own mom has dementia and we want to do what we can to prevent ourselves and our kids from going through that."

Others interviewed for the article included George Kuchel, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and director of the UConn Center on Aging. One of the greatest boosters of cognitive reserve, he said, is lifetime education. As Dr. Kuchel explained and Dias reported: "Intellectual stimulation throughout life is now believed to build brain cells and improve connections between them. It appears that education acts as a buffer against cognitive declines associated with aging, as well as pathological changes." He said it is never too late to challenge the brain and that, in fact, it is critical.

In other news, while most Experience! readers are aware of the recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) expert panel report on preventing Alzheimer’s disease, broad access to thoughtful analysis of the project has been lacking. The independent NIH review did not find that specific interventions are proven to forestall the disease and, subsequently, some oversimplified interpretations of the endeavor have emerged in the media. Countering that course, we recommend examining useful commentary on the topic by Alvaro Fernandez of SharpBrains. Writing for the American Society on Aging (ASA), he cautions against drawing simplistic conclusions. For example, he asks and answers: "… does this mean that all recent news on the brain benefits of aerobic exercise are somehow unscientific? No, it doesn’t mean that." Elaborating, Fernandez notes that "… perhaps the most important take-away [is that] preventing Alzheimers … is a different outcome from improving cognitive fitness which, I would argue, is what most people care about …" To read this nuanced treatment of the matter in its entirety, click on ASA Article 1 and ASA Article 2. These links will open as PDFs.


Don’t Get Left Behind

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Don’t miss out on this economical opportunity to further professionalize your senior fitness skills and services. Call 888-689-6791 to take advantage of special savings on SFA’s Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program during our back-to-school event ending September 17, 2010. SFA office hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm ET weekdays. To order on-line click on Special Savings. Be sure to sign in to receive your member discounts.

Here’s what recent graduates of the course are saying about SFA’s Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program:

  • "Lots of new information about keeping old brains young." -David, Georgia
  • "It was very thorough, clear and easy to follow the course outline. All aspects and materials included in the course were pertinent ‘knowledge-wise’ and of value ‘practice-wise’ … I REALLY enjoyed and appreciated what I learned (very positive and uplifting)." -Marie, Canada
  • "I liked how in-depth the information was … very specific, maybe too advanced for some." -Jeff, Connecticut
  • "Many thanks for a wonderful course. The valuable information was clear, straightforward and in language I could understand — precise without being lofty. I currently teach yoga and tai chi, mainly to seniors. This course will enhance my own life and those of my students greatly. Thank you so much!" -Dixie, Georgia
  • "This course has brought a great deal of excitement to our program. Thanks!" -Mark, Texas
  • "This course started my interest in neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, and social intelligence plus play! I now have a library …" -Patricia, Florida
  • "The fact that I can implement cognitive and physical activities at once — this awareness is a lot more than I could ask for. Thanks." -Sandra, California
  • "Very enlightening and helpful to learn more about how the brain functions and what we can do to improve our cognitive fitness … Very glad I did this course. Thank you." -Diane, United Kingdom
  • "What I liked most was the review of brain anatomy and the multitude of suggested ideas for incorporating cognitive fitness." -Jeanne, Kansas
  • "I found it very informative. I liked the suggestions for incorporating brain fitness into exercise routines. Some of the content is very scientific …" -Debra, Florida
  • "Excellent, current information, easy to follow directions, excellent DVDs, great stress management strategies …" -Hanne, Canada
  • "I like the suggestions for activities and the explanations about the various functions of the brain." -Mary, Pennsylvania
  • "Easy to follow." -Sonia, Virginia
  • "I liked the clear way of explaining everything." -Erika, Florida
  • "I enjoyed the knowledge on how the brain works and how to improve — or that we have the ability to improve …" -Monique, California
  • "I like the combination of theoretical basics of the functioning of the brain as well as the wealth of practical applications to keep the brain fit …" -Dawn, Canada
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    Feed Your Brain

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The French physiologist Pierre Cabanis, who lived from 1757 to 1808, was a man ahead of his times. Consider his words, quoted below, in terms of their application to the values of mental stimulation and continuing education:

    "Impressions arriving at the brain make it enter into activity, just as food falling into the stomach excites it to more abundant secretion of gastric juice."

    – Pierre Jean George Cabanis, translated from French



    Earlier Alzheimer’s Detection

    Monday, May 3rd, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease is exacerbated by tardy detection, especially since newly developed medications work better when started early. This problem inspired Dr. Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at the Ohio State University (OSU) Medical Center, to design a quick and simple test to help determine if someone is exhibiting the early memory and reasoning deficits that all too often foretell the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    In an OSU press release, Dr. Scharre (who specializes in treating Alzheimer’s) said it is often more than three or four years after symptoms of cognitive impairment first begin to appear before he sees affected patients. "People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears," he said.

    Scharre’s test is called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). Research shows that 80 percent of persons with mild thinking and memory issues will be detected by the test, and 95 percent of those with normal thinking will achieve normal SAGE scores.

    While other accurate assessment instruments for cognitive disorders are presently in use, SAGE offers a number of advantages. Available cost-free to health workers, it only requires a paper, pen and about 15 minutes to self-administer. Therefore, it can be taken in the waiting room before seeing one’s doctor, doesn’t take much time away from medical staff or from the appointment itself, and is user-friendly for elders who are not comfortable with computers.

    Abnormal scores can alert physicians to look for problems other than dementia, such as certain thyroid conditions, that can affect memory — and that may be treatable and reversible. Dr. Scharre added: "Abnormal test results can serve as an early warning to the patient’s family. The results can be a signal that caregivers may need to begin closer monitoring of the patient to ensure their safety and good health is not compromised and that they are protected from financial predators."

    To read the full OSU press release about SAGE, click here. Healthcare personnel can download the actual test free of charge at


    Sharing Caring

    Monday, April 19th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (online) has verified what many in the elder care field have always "known": Persons with memory loss feel emotions related to their sad or happy experiences and retain those feelings even after their memory of the actual event has faded.

    When researchers at the University of Iowa showed sad and happy movie clips to patients with memory loss, they found that although the patients could not recall what they had watched, they did continue to feel the emotions prompted by the clips.

    In a news release, lead author Justin Feinstein said, "… both emotions [sad and happy] lasted well beyond [the subject's] memory of the films." He continued, "A simple visit or phone call from family members might have a lingering positive influence on a patient’s happiness even though the patient may quickly forget the visit or phone call. On the other hand, routine neglect from staff at nursing homes may leave the patient feeling sad, frustrated, and lonely even though the patient can’t remember why."

    "Intuitively, I’ve always known this due to my experience as the activity director of an adult day-care center with an Alzheimer’s unit and from my work as a nursing home exercise provider," said SFA president Janie Clark, MA, who was not involved in the study. "But it is very good to see it confirmed through research."

    Feinstein wrote, "Here is clear evidence showing that the reasons for treating Alzheimer’s patients with respect and dignity go beyond simple human morals."

    Clark added, "Even when elders have lost much long- and short-term memory, they still know when they’re receiving kindness and loving attention."