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Wednesday Evenings, 2012

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Related Professional Activity at LBHC

 

 

We have engaged in project collaboration to promote health and wellness.

 

Dementia care nursing and behavioral psychology

 

Lena and I have consulted with a Chinese-Swedish cooperative in order to develop an education program in China to extend competency of Chinese nurses to work with Elder individuals who have dementia. Most often Alzheimer disease, this problem taxes the knowledge and financial capacities of many communities in the West, and the problem is only going to increase. In 25 years, particularly in China and other parts of Asia, the demand for services will have long out-stripped capacity of the healthcare industies to cope. We feel that sound education and training, based on scientific evidence and on personal experience, is badly needed - today!

 

To date, our experience has not been positive. We have felt the need to express caution that such education as is needed is not simply a matter of getting a certificate from what may appear to be top name institution.

 

 

Bringing Bench to Bedside to Community: Using Neuroscience to Enhance Health and Wellness

 

Environment changes our brains. For over 40 years we have known that stimulating, environmental experience - social, thinking, music, movement - causes the nerve cells in parts of the brain to change.

 

First, the experience promotes growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which causes changes along the outside membrane, or cell wall of the neuron. This may occur quite quickly, say after 20 minutes of physical exercise.  From these sites, incredibly tiny protusions appear to reach out into the space between vast communities of cells. There are billions of neurons in the brain, and yet there is a sort of vastness about distances between. Chances are, these protusions do not make contact. But, after awhile things may begin to happen, the branching may take hold. At the junction of two or more neurons is a gap, called the synapse, which has receiving and emitting functions. This synapse begins to change its share, referred to as synaptic morphological changing. This may occur before, but at least it is observable at one month. Once the synapse is prepared to send or receive to a new member of its network, then nerves begin to gain the feel of being wired together. An old saying in neuroscience has been that neurons that "wire together, fire together." One neuron can have an enormously powerful influence on the mind and body, though often it is bundles of hundreds and thousands of neurons, and these are linked in networks of hundreds of thousands.

 

The idea that these sorts of changes at the cell, gene and molecular level can be "translated" to indicate thought or some other higher order behavior is difficult to explain, at least by me. But keep in mind that for any change that is observable in, say, cognitive or other psychological tests it takes about 4-9 months. Besides, tests like those in popular use for school psycholology and cognitive research are not quite sensitive enough to pick up the changes. Still, that doesn't mean that changes are not there.

 

Environmental enrichment was made famous by writers such as Marian Diamond and others, who promoted "enrichment" in children's education in the 1980's. My colleague, Prof. Abdul H. Mohammed, once said that neurobiology was finding brain enrichment in many species, "from flies to philosophers." He and I have embarked on writing a grant proposal to study how stimulating events in older, normally aging adults could lead to changes in the number of brain cells, and number of their connections. Moreover, such environmental enrichment comes also with immune system strengthing. People would be better able to cope with disease, and to maintain immune system strength despite chronic disease.

 

We hope to find grant money with our proposal we have been developing. Meanwhile, it is never far from our interest to learn how to brain our findings to address the great need to promote enrichment in aging adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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