BRAINFADE – or am I just getting a bit forgetful

From the News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton

Between us I lost my car keys for months. I was going into hospital and my brain was full of what they would do to me.

I knew I would not be driving for some time. My husband had a set of my car keys, so I put my keys away “safely”.

They were so safe I could not find them when I came out of hospital and it took me a year and a half before I accidentally found them. In the meantime we shared his car keys and tempers frayed. We said mean things – like you do when you have not got those all important car keys..

Guess what – I have now ‘lost’ my tablet. No not my meds – the all singing all dancing TABLET. I put this away so safe quite recently but forgot the hiding place…silly me. Hopefully I will remember one day soon. With my ‘brain fade’ I turn up for a doctor’s appointments at the right time but wrong day. Yes it is on the calendar but do I know what day it is? What do you think – yes I am confused-dot-com. I forget to make imperative telephone calls. Now I cannot be trusted with passwords unless they are tattooed somewhere private but sadly this is difficult to read in company especially if I am sitting down.

So am I losing marbles? Quite possibly. I have ventured onto the Internet to find a solution and with the big question, “How can I improve my memory?”…

The first site that appeared interesting was Fit Brain by Rosetta Stone. I got a great free trial but then it was time to pay. But it gave my brain a little exercise. I ticked matching pairs after the cards turned over. I had instant choices to tick the highest numbers. So I was feeling better already AND the message read, “You are stronger than in each area.”

To be effective you need to do this regularly for 15 minutes or more daily. You would need to make time to “brain train”. With the highlight on dementia in the national press and it seems in Parliament, we should be taking action to ward off dementia – if we do not want to end up with a carer or in care.

PostitScience offered some free brain training and encouraged you to think faster, focus better and remember more. Using World Class Science they pride themselves on “creating brain training exercises that are scientifically designed by experts and clinically tested at top institutions.”

Just had an email from the co founder Jeff Zimman of BrainHQ Posit Science, saying brain exercise can improve driving.The exercises reduces dangerous driving manoeuvres by 38%, improve reaction time (enabling drivers to stop 22 feet sooner at 55 mph), and cuts at-fault crashes by nearly 50%. Also aging people who train with these exercises have significantly better scores on measures of fall risk and mobility than a control group. The best exercises for these benefits include Target Tracker, free for everyone, unless you subscribe. I guess our insurance companies will want us to do brain exercises to reduce our insurance premiums.

Lumosity is a leader in the science of brain training and advises seven studies have been published on the effects of brain training in diverse populations, including healthy adults, children, and cancer survivors. They collaborates with researchers from 36 top universities around the world in an effort known as the Human Cognition Project. Their scientists take common cognitive and neuropsychological tasks out of the lab, design some new ones, and turn these into challenging games.

As a neuroscience PhD candidate at Stanford, Mike Scanlon saw advancements in brain research that never made it out of academia. See Mike’s story on video on the site about the Weird Wide Web.

Mike sad our members are amazing athletes, talented artists, and hard-working parents. But no matter where they come from, they can challenge their brains with Lumosity and discover what the brain can do with games designed by neuroscientists to exercise our memory.
Lumosity’s Human Cognition Project is a collaborative effort to accelerate the pace of cognitive research. This is a collaboration between Lumosity’s in-house science team and various academic scientists, clinicians, and educators interested in understanding and exploring human cognitive abilities. Currently, there are 43 on going HCP studies exploring topics such as age-related cognitive decline, interventions for PTSD, and the relationship between physical exercise and Lumosity training. I think this page on their site means they are dedicated.

In Need of Care

The big ‘side effect’ is the NHS may eat into your savings and the value of your home to cover your costs while in care. As you know with dementia you can be fit physically for years but mentally you may have lost the plot quite early. As I now understand it if you are hoping to leave your house to your children you could lose the house revenue to the NHS. Make a will and seek legal advice in case I am talk out the top of my hat.

Go Mobile with Brain Fitness

For our bodies we have gyms, and for our minds we have…brain fitness apps.

This is an interesting article written by Mark Sullivan @thesullivan, leaving you no excuses not to try brain training. You can squeeze your brain training in on the Underground while you are strap hanging between stations or riding on top of a bus on the way to work. If you can text with one hand this should be easy. Being sharp for work maybe all important.

Mike Sullivan says
Admit it. You have had a few senior moments. Struggling to remember a key fact that would have served as a cup of shut-the-hell-up for your egghead brother-in-law.

Straining to remember the name of that guy from the New York office. Leaving your phone in a cab in San Francisco.
Actually this kind of stuff happens to people of all ages, and it can be caused by poor mental fitness. But of course, there is an app for that.

The first thing experts tell you about brain fitness is that the mind needs a workout to stay sharp and feel good, just as the body does. That sounded “truthy” to me, but I wanted to know whether a real scientific rationale exists to back up the claim.

Your brain really does need a workout. The answer is yes. The exercises in brain fitness apps like BrainHQ and Lumosity produce real physical and bioelectrical changes in the brain, says Dr. Argye Hillis, director of cerebrovascular neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She explained it to me this way:
“The brain is remarkably plastic. It is capable of making new connections and becoming better and better at older ones. As humans, we continue to learn as we grow older. We learn by changing the strengths of the connections between various neurons in the brain. When we learn new things, we are forcing one neuron to activate with another one. The more often we do that, the less energy it takes to make that connection.”

Of the brain fitness software I have been playing with, mobile apps like Brain Age and A Clockwork Brain offer a small set of exercises – often a gamified memory or focus exercise – while subscription-based sites like Lumosity and BrainHQ offer a wide array of exercises that focus on different sets of neural pathways in the brain.

These apps and sites usually offer some combination of problem-solving, short-term memory, quick decision-making, cognition, attention, and multitasking games. Some of them, like bLife, include touchy-feely kinds of tools that promote relaxation, positive thinking, and mental well-being.

So which are worth recommending? Since so many of the products are based on peer-reviewed studies of brain fitness tools, I do not doubt that numerous apps and sites are effective. I chose the ones that have been around the longest, enjoy the best reputations among users and experts, have the most science behind them, and offer the best designs.

Above all, good brain fitness tools should offer a careful mixture of real work and real play—the work to truly improve mental fitness, and the play to keep you coming back for more. Just as with physical workouts, the frequency of your workouts is as important as their intensity.

Desktop brain fitness products – Lumosity
Like many competing products, Lumosity was developed by a team of neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists. But it seems to get the lion’s share of the press among brain fitness apps – and for good reason. Dr. Hillis says Lumosity is one of the services she has recommended to patients.

Lumos Labs calls Lumosity a “gym for your brain.” The site’s brain exercises focus on five main areas: memory, attention, speed, flexibility, and problem solving. You start by filling in a sort of mental profile survey, and Lumosity builds an exercise routine for you based on your answers.

Lumosity constantly keeps track of your “workouts” and measures your progress in a BPI (Brain Performance Index). It has a social layer too, so you can measure your results and progress against what other users are doing.

BrainHQ from Posit Science offers another suite of brain exercises designed to increase your mental sharpness and help you fight memory loss. The BrainHQ exercises fall into six general categories: memory, navigation, intelligence, attention, people skills, and brain speed.
One of the memory exercises resembled Concentration.

I was instructed to click on one of a series of cards on the screen, remember the spoken word that resulted, then match the card with other cards that made the same sound. The game started with a set of just four cards, but then increased the number of cards to make matches harder to remember.

A game in the navigation section presented me with two side-by-side shapes and asked me to rotate one of the shapes to create a mirror image with the other one.
In the “people skills” section, I was instructed to listen in on a conversation between three people and remember what things were said and which person said them. This task was harder than it looked—and to be a good witness, I had to pay close attention to the conversation.

The Dakim name came up a lot when I was researching brain fitness tech. It is one of the oldest brain fitness products, having been around since the early 2000s. Dan Michel originally developed the Dakim BrainFitness software ($249) as a way to help his dad fight off Alzheimer’s.

Dakim, which is aimed at Baby Boomers and seniors, differs from other brain fitness products in that Michel himself guides users through the exercises, acting as narrator, coach, and tour guide. The resulting experience seems especially well suited to older users.

The program organizes its exercises into six cognitive areas, including short-term memory, long-term memory, language, computation, visuospatial orientation, and critical thinking. Altogether Dakim offers more than 100 exercises, and many of them use music, humour, movie clips, stories, and trivia to keep things fun. In the memory section, for instance, I was shown pictures of famous people like Abe Lincoln and Ella Fitzgerald, and given little-known factoids about each one. Later, I had to match the facts with the people.

Thanks Mike for the story. So it is make your mind up time.

Just to keep you on your toes try reading this. They call it the Doctor Dementia test. Can you meet this challenge?

I have seen this with the letters out of order, but this is the first time I have seen it with numbers. Good example of a Brain Study: If you can read this OUT LOUD you have a strong mind. And better than that: Alzheimer disease is a long long, way down the road before it ever gets anywhere near you.

7H15 ………….. M3554G3
53RV35 ………….. 7O PR0V3
H0W ………….. 0UR M1ND5 C4N
D0 ………….. 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!
1MPR3551V3 ………….. 7H1NG5!
1N ………….. 7H3 B3G1NN1NG
17 ………….. WA5 H4RD BU7
N0W, ………….. 0N 7H15 LIN3
Y0UR ………….. M1ND 1S
R34D1NG 17…………..4U70M471C4LLY
W17H ………….. 0U7 3V3N
7H1NK1NG ………….. 4B0U7 17,
C3R741N ………….. P30PL3 C4N
R3AD ………….. 7H15.
PL3453 ………….. F0RW4RD 1F
U ………….. C4N R34D 7H15.

This should be child’s play after that. To my ‘selected’ strange-minded friends: If you can read the following paragraph, forward it on to your friends with ‘yes’ in the subject line. Only great minds can read this. This is weird, but interesting!

If you can raed this, you have a sgtrane mnid, too.
Can you raed this? Olny 55 people out of 100 can.
I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it.

Hpoe you got the mssegae. Bcak soon Jnenae


About jeanne hambleton

Journalist-wordsmith, former reporter, columnist, film critic, editor, Town Clerk and then fibromite and eventer with 5 conferences done and dusted. Interested in all health and well being issues, passionate about research to find a cure and cause for fibromyalgia. Member LinkedIn. Worked for 4 years with FMA UK as Regional Coordinator for SW and SE,and Chair for FMS SAS the Sussex and Surrey FM umbrella charity and Chair Folly Pogs Fibromyalgia Research UK - finding funding for our "cause for a cure" and President and co ordinator of National FM Conferences. Just finished last national annual Fibromyalgia Conference Weekend. This was another success with speakers from the States . Next year's conference in Chichester Park Hotel, West Sussex, will be April 24/27 2015 and bookings are coming in from those who raved about the event every year. I am very busy but happy to produce articles for publication. News Editor of FMS Global News on line but a bit behind due to conference. A workaholic beyond redemption! The future - who knows? Open to offers with payment. Versatile and looking for a regular paid column - you call the tune and I will play the pipes.
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