22. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Living · Tags: ,

I’ve just read a fascinating article, “Jogging Your Brain,” in today’s NYTimes magazine, which I would have titled “Making Neurons Nimble.”  I won’t steal the article’s thunder by stating the story’s conclusions – “exercise jump-starts neurogenesis.”

Neurogenesis is the creation of new brain cells (simply, if inelegantly, put).  Research suggests that exercise prompts an increase in “brain derived neurotropic factor (B.D.N.F.), a substance that strengthens cells and axons, and fortifies the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis.”  There is more to it than just that, of course, but the benefits of exercise on the millions of chemical reactions that take place within the body continue to astound me.

 

I’ve decided to spare readers yet another article and/or opinion about the argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on health care reform and the manner in which certain members of the Supreme Court addressed the issues.  I am digesting the arguments and the media’s handling of them.  For now, I have two points. 1. Whether the ACA survives constitutional scrutiny or not, payment reform is happening.  2.  Health care reform is not like forcing folks to eat broccoli.  Sheesh……

Speaking of broccoli, the Concord Monitor today featured an interview with Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, professor of integrative medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Dr. Lorenzo will give a free lecture this week on lowering “the risk of cancer and improving outcomes for those touched by cancer, through choices in diet, exercise and stress management.”

In the interview, Dr. Cohen, to his credit, spoke of the usual suspects  – diet and exercise.  I did not realize, however, that his research also focuses on stress and stress management.  His work as a research psychologist has led him from the psychological underpinnings of stress to its effects on the immune system.

As a layman, I find this interesting.  What is one way to get stress under control?  Breathing.  What is one way to become a better breather?  Being taught and taking the time to be taught.  What does that require?  Time away from other so-called productive pursuits.  Oh sure, I suppose you could rent a DVD on yoga or breathing techniques, but my sense is that participation in a full “classroom setting” with other motivated participants allows a more focused, and ultimately for those of you keeping count, efficient approach.

Dr. Lorenzo also spoke of the “western lifestyle” in the interview.  Decades ago, I doubt that a “western lifestyle” conjured images of – in Dr. Cohen’s words – “sedentary jobs, weight gain, and exposure to environmental toxins.”  But now in 2012 it does, at least in the international medical community.  In fact, the good doctor stated in the interview that an “anticancer lifestyle” has to with achieving a balance, and doing everything you can to decrease your exposure to the [Editor’s note: “now”] traditional western lifestyle.”

I hope that one take-away from his up-coming lecture will be how to allow us to re-engineer the western lifestyle so all in our society get to partake in the new benefits.

 

Last year I posted a story about Music National Service.  My bro-in-law, Kiff Gallagher, runs it.  Tonight PBS News Hour featured MNS and Kiff in reporting about how music as therapy can assist those with brain damage and other issues.  To me, it’s obvious that music can offer therapeutic benefits, and that our hospitals and even physicians’ offices should consider incorporating music into their therapy protocols.  Think about it, music offers our brains so much.  Why do we respond to it?  It is so many things – soothing, interesting, captivating, attention-grabbing, even mathematic!

 

Tonight’s PBS News Hour story focused, in part, on young people with muscular dystrophy and other difficult diseases, and touched upon how these young people respond, in their own way and on their own time, to music.  The bottom line is that music works to stimulate (for lack of a better word) the brain in unique ways, allowing the brain “access” to music produces beneficial results.

 

Music National Service is the one national organization that I know of that is placing musicians into hospitals, VA’s, and schools to jump start this all-important “access” to music.  MSN is doing what needs to be done to stimulate those complicated neurons and synapses that make us unique among animals.