Dakim Blog

May 4, 2011

A Little Bit of Alzheimer’s Doesn’t Have to Be a Big Issue

Written by: Dan Michel

The other morning, I heard a report on NPR’s Morning Edition. The subject was senior moments—what they mean, when to worry, and what to do about them.

The reporter spoke with Dr. David Bennett, who directs the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. After 16 years of studying thousands of samples of postmortem brain tissue, Dr. Bennett has concluded that “a lot of people have a little bit of Alzheimer’s.” Even among those who showed no symptoms, he said, “It’s hard not to have at least a little bit of Alzheimer’s pathology.”

While he recognizes this knowledge “could frighten a lot of people,” Bennett sees in the finding both a positive and an opportunity:

The positive is many people clearly are able to tolerate “a little bit of Alzheimer’s” in their brains—or even more than a little bit.

The opportunity comes in the form of building a cognitive reserve—that is, extra brain capacity that compensates for whatever damage accumulates from whichever cause, be it illness or injury.

“I think of cognitive reserve like the side streets when there’s an accident on the expressway,” Bennett says. “Everything comes to a dead stop, and you get off and you meander through the side streets, and you can actually get to your destination.”

What this emphasizes is the importance for all of us of being proactive in protecting our brain health.

Both physical exercise and brain exercise are two ways to build up that cognitive reserve, so, let’s get to it! There is too much at stake to sit on the sidelines!

March 15, 2011

Kim’s Game

Written by: Lisa Spangenberg

In Rudyard Kipling’s 1901 novel Kim, about a teen-aged boy in India, the main character, Kim, is introduced to a game. Unbeknownst to him, he is being trained to work as a British spy. Kim is sent to spend a month at the home of Mr. Lurgan, whom he thinks is a jeweler; in actuality, Mr. Lurgan is working for British counter intelligence, against the Russians, and Kim is there to be trained. While he is staying with Mr. Lurgan, Kim is asked to play a game. Mr. Lurgan drops a handful of cut stones on a copper tray. Mr. Lurgan’s servant explains to Kim:
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March 16, 2010

"I Remember Better When I Paint": A DVD about the Arts and Alzheimer's

Written by: Dakim

I have a passion for creative expression and the arts, so when a reader (Hi Donald!) pointed me towards this trailer, I clapped my little hands with glee.  It’s narrated by the marvelous Olivia de Havilland, whose voice lends an extra layer of depth and beauty to the project.

The idea behind the film?  Creative workshops, museum trips, and classes that allow hands on artistic expression are being effectively used as therapies for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.    The artistic process taps into parts of the brain largely untouched by  Alzheimer’s,  not only allowing the patients a means of expression, but also forming a bridge of communication with loved ones and caregivers.

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March 4, 2010

Can Finding Purpose In Life Help Defend Against Alzheimer's? A New Study Says Yes.

Written by: Dakim

If you look in the sidebar of this blog, among the keys to brain fitness is one entitled “Purpose, Connection & Spirit” but I’ve not written too much on the “purpose” part. Purpose and meaning is a topic I feel strongly about – and I believe that finding and making life meaningful helps us to live longer, contribute more, and keep our minds clear and functional.

But I sometimes shy away from writing on the subject here.

Why shy away? I try to base the posts here on science, whenever possible, and there’s just not a lot of research being done on the cognitive impact of finding meaning in life. There’s been research on how a sense of purpose can lead to longer lives, happier lives, better mental and physical health – but little that could directly tie it to brain fitness.

But a new study just came out, specifically addressing the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease, and feeling that our life has meaning and purpose – and they did, indeed, find a positive relationship.

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November 3, 2009

Curry – The Spice of Life for the Brain?

Written by: Dakim

Eating curry, which contains turmeric once or twice a week could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This is according to Professor Murali Doraiswamy, director of the Mental Fitness Laboratory at the Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center. During an annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Liverpool, he explained that brain plaques dissolved in older mice given high doses of curcurmin (found in turmeric) and appeared to prevent plaques from ever forming in younger mice. He says trials are under way that could lead to a curry pill.

That being said, Dr. Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said “Indian communities that regularly eat curcurmin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, but we don’t yet know why.” The Alzheimer’s Society is conducting their own research into this area.

While no one is advocating over-doing any food, studies have shown that curcurmin is an antioxidant, so adding a little spice to your life certainly couldn’t hurt. In fact, Dakim’s own Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Gary Small, said that as he gets older, he might try eating more foods with curry in them.

-Article from BrainStorm by Dakim, Fall 2009