In an online interview with Wayne Gordon, PhD, ABPP/Cn, Jack Nash Professor ofRehabilitation Medicine and associate director of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, neuropsychologist and director of the Mount Sinai Brain Injury Research Center, he talks about how his study helped prove exercise assists in the recovery for people who suffer from brain injuries.http://www.brainline.org/content/multimedia.php?id=4638
Use the transcript from this article to write up the benefits of exercise to help recover from brain injuries and how it has proven to improve brain cognitive function.
The Sample Pool
He used two sample groups. One with brain injury and one without. He asked both sample groups about their exercise routines and then compared the results for these two groups:
- With Brain Injury. Do you exercise? What kind of exercise? How often? How long?
- Without Brain Injury. Do you exercise? What kind of exercise? How often? How long?
To be considered an exerciser – the person must swim, jog, bike, or perform any other sport to increase the heart rate and lung capacity for at least 30 minutes, three times a week consistently for the past six months. In their sample pool they found over 60 exercisers and 170 non-exercisers with TBI. These samples included men and women from rural areas, cities, and suburbs in New York. Ages ranged from 18 to 65, and included all races, income levels, and life experiences.
Gordon said, “We saw that folks with brain injury who did exercise reported fewer cognitive symptoms. That was not new, because there was a lot of literature in terms of exercise being a valuable treatment in terms of depression, but it’s the first time the link to improved cognitive function had been made.”
Currently, he’s in the midst of a clinical trial using 2 doses of exercise with people who suffer with TBI. He says, “It’s interesting because there’s been a study with some animal work in which they’ve shown that exercise promotes regrowth – neuro-regeneration in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain that controls memory. And there’s been 1 study with humans – a very small sample in which the folks in that study followed an exercise regimen, and they did pre- and post-functional MRIs on these folks, and they showed there was increased blood flow in the hippocampus. So now we have some evidence of regeneration in that area of the brain, in people without a brain injury.”
Research revealed a broad range of possible benefits of exercise for people with TBI, including:
- People with TBI who exercised were less depressed; showed improved physical capacity; slept better; were less irritable, forgetful and disorganized.
- People with TBI who exercised viewed themselves as healthier; were more engaged in school and work and were able to get around their community more easily.
What Do These Findings Mean for People with TBI?
For people with TBI, the study suggests exercise may decrease some of the health problems, cognitive challenges, and depression many people with TBI experience. If you or a loved one suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury contact the accident attorneys at Wolf & Pravato for a free and compassionate consultation.
Brain Health and Brain Exercise Facts
1. Why is it so important to exercise our brains?
Our brains are composed of several different areas and they perform many different functions. We can strengthen our brains by performing mental exercises or else they will become atrophied as a result of lack of exercise. The benefits of performing brain exercises regularly are both short-term (improved memory and concentration, sustained mental lucidity under stressful conditions…), and long-term (strengthened neural connections and formation of a “brain reserve” that helps in protecting us from brain diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s).
2. What are some of the things that guaranteed to “drain our brains”?
i. High levels of stress and anxiety – They certainly distract us from our primary goals and squander our limited mental energies.
ii. A very repetitious, routine driven life that lacks stimulation and newness – Our brains are supposed to help us learn new things and adapt to new environments and situations.
Consequently the trick is to take on new challenges that aren’t extremely hard or impossible and learn and apply the methods of preventing stress and anxiety.
3. What are the three quick and easy mental exercises that we should all perform every day?
For managing stress: We should spend 5 minutes breathing deep and regularly and remembering the times in our past when we successfully accomplished a difficult task or/and visualizing in our minds beautiful landscapes.
To exercise our short term memory: We should try to perform a series of mental calculations. For example subtracting 8 from 300 (290, 285, 273 …), or a series of multiplications (3, 5, 7, 7, 10, 11…) or expanding an exponential series (3, 9, 27, 81…) the goal of the exercise isn’t to become a math genius, it’s simply to improve and train our short-term memory. Another good mental exercise is trying to remember the telephone numbers of our friends.
Generally: We should try to do something different daily, no matter how small it is. Ask an unanticipated question. Talk to a different co-worker. Use a different to go to work. You should approach every day as a living experiment, a new learning opportunity.
4. What foods increase the fitness of our brains?
Generally nearly all foods that are good for our bodies are also good for our brains. One of the nutrients that are good for our brains is omega-3 fatty acids, which is found in cold water fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon, and herring. Omega-3- fatty acids is also found in nuts such as walnuts and butternuts. A recent scientific study has shown that people who high levels of omega-3-fatty acids in their blood have larger brains in old age. There is conflicting data on the usefulness of Ginkgo biloba as a “brain food”. Mental stimulation is literally the best “brain food”.
5. When performing physical exercises do we also exercise our brains?
In a nutshell, physical exercise also benefits our brains because it influences the rate of creation of new neurons in our brains. Mental exercise is important because it assists in determining how long these new neurons will survive and how they will be used. Proper management of stress is important because stress reduces the longevity of neurons and also reduces the rate of creation of new neurons.
As the brain is considered the most important organ in our bodies, most people take excessive care to ensure its health and safety. However, there are many false beliefs concerning the human brain, most due to misinformation, that should be exposed. Here are 10 popular brain exercise myths, debunked…
1. Genes determine entirely how your brain will develop and what will happen to it.
If this was true, there would be no such thing as an evolution. While genetic predisposition plays a role in a brain’s formation and development, the brain continues to evolve, influenced by outside factors, during the entire time of its existence.
2. You are what you eat.
Food intake doesn’t relate directly to the brain’s contents. Your organism will supply the brain with the needed substances, regardless of the type of food you consume. Humans are omnivores, they can eat a wide variety of aliments to maintain the functioning of their bodies.
3. Medication is expected to be the primary method for enhancement and cognitive health.
Chemical interventions can lead to harmful long-term effects. Current scientific knowledge doesn’t allow the use of medicine to augment the brain’s capabilities without inducing side effects. At present, it’s best to use the already established methodology for that.
4. You can’t fight Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline.
While there is still no cure for this medical condition, available research indicates that there are ways to slow down its progression. Through them, symptoms can be delayed and the patients’ life expectancy – increased.
5. You can either use it, or lose it.
Implying that if you use your head, you can survive dangerous situations, the statement is not 100% true. Plenty of accidents can occur that won’t give the brain sufficient time to react accordingly.
6. Training your brain will help reversing your brain age.
The brain is an organ, and as such, it abides the same biological laws as the rest of your body. An individual’s state of mind can take any form. For instance, some elder people may feel younger, but their bodies and brains will continue to age at the same rate.
7. Training your brain won’t help.
There’s a lot of evidence supporting the claim that brain training techniques do work. Patients conducting memory training are observed to have improved their abilities to memorize information. Just like a muscle improves through physical training, the brain gets better through concentrated usage.
8. Only video games can substantially improve the brain.
Video games are just a stimulant for the brain’s functions. Because they tend to be engaging and scalable, people consider them as the only viable way to improve a brain. In reality, any activity can be equally stimulating if it’s properly introduced.
9. Keeping your heart healthy will keep your brain healthy aswell.
The cardiovascular system is merely responsible for supplying the brain with blood. Both, the brain and the heart are vital organs that must be preserved independently. Just because one of them is healthy doesn’t necessarily mean the other one will be aswell.
10. You shouldn’t worry, as long as your brain works fine.
It’s very dangerous to assume that if a system works, it shouldn’t be regularly checked. Many diseases become symptomatic once it’s already too late. Care and vigilance must be exercised at all times.