Tuesday, August 30, 2016

They'll Have to Rewrite the Textbooks

What parents have long agonized over is coming to the forefront of medical research---and Mom, you were (are) right!  The connection between the gut and the brain is being revealed in research at breakneck speed.  A few of the most momentous (and my personal favorites) are:
   From Johns Hopkins University---research on the enteric nervous system (two thin layers of 100 million nerve cells) and its effect on the brain could revolutionize treatment for both neurological and gastrointestinal conditions.  While the association between IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and depression have long been known, it was assumed anxiety/depression contributed to bouts with IBS---and now it is understood that it is likely the other way around.  And this begs the question:  Does it have to be one way or the other?  Is it possible the IBS affects anxiety/depression AND the anxiety/depression affects IBS?  Is there a two-way street happening here?  Regardless of the answer, nutrition is highlighted for improvement in these and many other conditions previously considered strictly “mental.”  Click here to read more.

·    Researchers at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital have uncovered a connection between bacteria living in the digestive system and neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.  “For the first time, we’ve been able to identify that food has some sort of remote control over central nervous system inflammation,” said a lead researcher in the study.  Results were published in Nature Medicine  in May 2016. Once again, nutrition is shown to have a profound, perhaps causative and/or curative affect for debilitating conditions once thought incurable.  Click here to read more.

·   The University of Virginia’s School of Medicine reports they have discovered structures PREVIOUSLY UNDETECTED which link the gut and the brain.  I repeat---structures within the body which were not known to exist have been discovered.  This is as stunning as it is exciting.  “We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role,” said a professor from the Neuroscience Department.  This shifts the entire approach to diseases from Alzheimer’s to autism to multiple sclerosis.  Click here to read more.

    These studies, and many more, can be summed up in the words of Kevin Lee, who chairs the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Virginia, “They’ll have to rewrite the textbooks.”  And thank goodness. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


As the mother of four Texas high school football players, the subject of concussions has always been one of frequent sideline conversations.  Will Smith's movie of the same title highlights the need for a SERIOUS conversation about the reality of brain injury in sport.  

I have a friend whose child was receiving repeated concussions in their chosen sport (NOT football and one that doesn't have any protective headgear).  My friend told me about their experience with the "traditional" concussion treatment at a Dallas hospital acclaimed for their "cutting edge" protocol.  Their daughter was seeing a physician sought after throughout the southwestern United States. This "cutting edge" protocol consisted of a computer test to measure response times and appropriate answers.  Based on the results, this physician would recommend time periods of rest from school, driving, sports, etc.  And that was all.  They offered no real treatment other than rest.  I was truly surprised.  Rest isn't treatment---rest is just the absence of potential for additional injury.

Their child was suffering from headaches, was photosensitive, could not focus to read and was lethargic.  I offered my expertise and recommended hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  I referred them to Texas Sports Hyperbarics, where their child received 10 sessions of hbot (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) within two weeks.  

After only the third session, I received a tearful phone call from the mom.  She had her child back---no headaches, energy restored, reading up a storm and catching up with missed schoolwork easily.  

This is not an isolated incident.  Concussions are one version of a traumatic brain injury.  Dr. Paul Harch has been working with veterans at his clinic in New Orleans and achieving miraculous results.  Various clinics around the country have many of the same stories to tell.  Hyperbarics has no side effects---in fact it will help heal the other bumps, bruises and inflammatory responses that are part of athletic competition.  

Professional athletes have been using hbot to speed healing for decades---Joe Namath even has a treatment center working on this very issue.  However, most amateur athletes do not have the resources afforded to the pros.  And it is time for hbot to move out of the realm of the rich and famous and within the grasp of everyday players.

What bothers me is all the ballyhoo about concussions with NO MENTION of possible treatments.  Why do we have a feature-length film about concussions starring Will Smith, but not any time given to help?

YES, we do need to take every precaution to protect our athletes.  YES, we need coaches/players/parents to be more educated about the possible symptoms of concussions.  But why are we stopping there?  Let's please educate physicians about treatment for concussion!  If you or someone you know sustains a concussion, please point them to the links in this blog.  They will be glad you did!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Movement Heals the Brain

I first learned of The Cleveland Clinic when I read The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge.  I have since followed TCC on social media and via Google Alerts.  They do some incredible work and provide an atmosphere of encouraging thinking outside the box and learning more about this wonderful creation--our bodies.  They have done incredibly amazing work in learning about the brain--my passion.

I read today of a study conducted at TCC about movement and healing after brain injury.  Nurses have long worked hard to get people up and at 'em soon after surgeries and injuries, but the prevailing wisdom said rest was the best protocol after brain injuries.  And then the questions began.  And guess what---movement after brain injury promotes faster healing!!! 

I am not the least bit surprised by this finding.  In fact, I'm a bit surprised it has taken this long for that discovery to be validated by research.  Every single neuroscientist I have studied and/or had the privilege to study with personally has echoed this sentiment, "You can't change a brain without movement."  

My friends, the evidence is mounting higher and higher.  BRAINS NEED MOVEMENT.  Infants who do not move almost inevitably have learning disabilities.  Elementary students who do not get adequate exercise struggle both socially and academically.  People who become "couch potatoes" aren't generally the brightest crayons in the box.  Depression and other mental challenges benefit from exercise as much as medication.  And now we know that even after injury, brains need to move.

Whatever you can or will do---move. Every day. For the rest of your life.  And take your family with you.  Your brain runs your entire system---and it needs movement.

Human development is largely measured by movement.  Learn about those stages and their importance by taking the online class here .  

You can read about the study done at The Cleveland Clinic here .

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Movie Review---Inside Out

I went to the movie this past weekend----it's something I don't do often because I think it is really expensive.  But the occasion presented itself and the two 19-year-olds I was with actually wanted to see the same movie I did.  "Inside Out" looked really cute and funny to them---they have a LOT of respect for Pixar---and anything about brains makes my antennae wiggle.

And it was A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E!  I highly recommend it.  It was funny, touching, and insightful.  It gave very simplified and entertaining explanations about what is going "in there" and how that translates to behavior.  Giving credible reasons for the sulky, volatile actions of an 11-year-old in a way that makes you laugh and yet still want to be more understanding is an impressive feat in my book.

Most of all, I hope it makes us all stop and think about a couple of things:

1.  There are legitimate reasons and developmental tasks for the alternating baffling/infuriating things our children do sometimes.  Learn about those developmental tasks so you can clearly see them coming.  You could even help them go more smoothly if you are an over achiever. (Wink Wink) Understanding our children makes the relationship stronger, and I am here to tell you, stronger relationships are MORE FUN.  Seriously, when you understand someone it is easier to have fun with them.  And I love fun.

2.  The attempt to understand the inner workings of the brain has reached all the way into animated movies!  The efforts have affected marketing, education (still hoping that one will go a lot deeper), automobile design, medicine, and just about every field on the planet.  While I believe this is a good thing, I also have seen this information completely misused and abused for the sake of making a buck.  

There are drinks full of sugar, artificial colors and other junk that are marketed as helping certain brain functions go better.  It's a pile of crap, plain and simple. But I've seen them on the shelves for several years so someone is buying them. Maybe if we had a basic understanding of neuroscience, we wouldn't fall victim to some of the lies.  And that would be awesome!

On the flipside, we could also adjust our actions---sometimes in the smallest of ways. (Like turn the math flashcards over to SHOW the answer.  You want them to know the answer, right?  So teach the answer!)  Those changes could make someone's life better, and THAT should be the point of all the new things we are learning.

So if you get the chance to see "Inside Out" do it, you'll enjoy it and you might learn something---I did!

P.S.  I was not in any way compensated by anyone associated with the movie "Inside Out"---in fact, I paid $23 for the tickets and we won't mention how much at the concession stand.  Still worth it.

Learn about the developmental milestones of your children in an easy-to-understand format by taking our online course--Brain Developmental 101 .

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Biggest Regret

My Biggest Regret

I only got 4 hours of sleep last night---more about why later---so I was REALLY tired this morning when my 19-year-old daughter came into my bedroom at 8:30 am and plopped into a chair and started talking to me.  She shared her experiences as a nanny to two different families.  She talked about the stress of driving a mini-van full of children around during rush hour traffic. And on and on.  She was an HOUR late to work because she was just chatting it up with me.  (Her work hours are flexible, so it wasn't the end of the world.)  She decided it was time to go and hopped up and dashed out the door---leaving her empty cereal bowl sitting on an antique chair that belonged to my husband's grandfather.

Fast forward to the time this morning when I was finally awake and coherent and cleaning up all the breakfast mess.  AFTER I loaded the dishwasher and went into my bedroom to get ready for the day, I saw the empty bowl on the chair.  And I nearly cried.

I remember a time in my career as a mother when I would have been angry about that misplaced cereal bowl.  I wouldn't have abused her, but my actions would have had an angry tone.  I would have chastised her.  I would have read her the riot act about how many things I have to pick up around the house and how outnumbered I am by messy children. (Remember there are EIGHT of them---NINE if you count the husband, but that is another topic.)  And I was certainly RIGHT about how messy my family is---they are REALLY messy.  But I was also wrong---so very wrong.

I am NOT in any way, shape, form or fashion trying to say you shouldn't have rules or expectations of your children.  I believe just the opposite.  I believe we should do our best to teach our children to live in the best way possible.  Give them every advantage in knowing how to care for themselves and others around them---including putting your cereal bowl in the dishwasher.  Apparently, I was not very successful in the endeavor. And I think I know why.

Sitting here in the waning days of "raising" my children---my youngest is 15 and there are only two of them home during the school year---I see what I believe to be my biggest regret of motherhood.  Anger.  I almost cried at the sight of that bowl because I am so sorry for all the anger.  I am sorry for how quickly I let those small things make me mad.  I took all the overwhelming mess as a personal assault and came right back at them.  And looking back, I am so sorry.

Patience---it is the word that used to cause shudders to run right up my spine.  But now, I wish I would have been so much more patient.  I wish I would have known that they will "get it" over time.  And if they don't, their future family will have to live with whatever messy habit they haven't yet overcome.  And that wouldn't be so bad either.

I was so glad my sweet, beautiful, kind daughter came in to talk to me this morning.  I loved watching her VERY expressive face regale the tales of dealing with children hiding markers in the Monopoly game and then lying about it.  I can't get enough of watching her eyes fly wide open as she described people pulling in front of her and slamming on their brakes--especially since she was able to stop in time.  That cereal bowl was the evidence of the time she took to share with me this morning.  She is only home now for a few weeks each year, and I really treasure the time I have with her.  I wish I would have seen all the shoes, dirty socks, sports equipment, books, and yes, even cereal bowls with a brown ring in the bottom as a sign that my precious children were here.  That we lived and loved together.  

I believe if I had been more patient---yet still persistent---about teaching them without anger, I would have been more successful.  Perhaps they would still be messy, but the time would have been more enjoyable for all of us.  It takes a LOT of energy to be upset. That energy could have been much better spent in countless ways.  And mis-spending that resource is my biggest regret in motherhood.

Most of my children are adults now.  They are some of the kindest, hardest working, smartest, talented, HILARIOUS people I know.  I did do a lot of things right.  We have so much fun together now.  So please, if you are a young mother (or father) learn from my mistake.  Count to ten. Take deep breaths.  See the hilarity of spilled drinks---they made a fortune for Charlie Chaplin.  Remember the glory of athletic performances when you pick up dirty socks.  Be happy that your child is a bibliovore when you gather scattered books.  And cherish that conversation when you see the cereal bowl on Grandpa's antique chair.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Exercise----How Many Reasons Do We Need?

It just keeps piling up.  The reasons to exercise are creates mountainous volumes of research.  But my favorite is the one I read about today (and I have read a LOT of studies about exercise and the brain).  Researchers at Princeton University (shout out to the quarterback there!  He's one of the best young men I've ever known), have shown exercise to help us be more resilient to stress!  H-E-L-L-O!  Who doesn't have stress?  Who doesn't have too much stress?

We're coming upon the holiday season and it is so easy to be too busy to take care of ourselves.  DON'T SKIP YOUR EXERCISE.  That yelling was directed at me.  It's been too long since I have been consistently exercising.  And, by the way, I can tell.  I am not sleeping as well.  I am too sleepy when I wake up in the morning.  I don't feel great.  And it is time to get back in gear.

I am glad I read this article about the study today.  I NEED the benefits of regular exercise in my life.  But most especially I need to have the reserve of being resilient in times of stress.  It's free---something as simple as going for a walk.  But a fast walk.  Every day.

My friends who are the most "together" all have "regular exerciser" on their common traits list.  

Be a friend to your brain, and it'll be a friend to you---especially during stressful events.  Go for a walk or a run or take an exercise class.  

You can read about the study here:  http://goo.gl/E9lJ5p

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dyslexia---It's NOT What You Thought

Reading problems are often lumped together under the category or diagnosis "dyslexia".  A completely UNscientific poll of my acquaintances (all of whom had college degrees) revealed that many reasonably intelligent and informed folks (who also happen to all be parents) believe dyslexia is where your eyes jumble up the words and letters, making it difficult to read.  Of course the popular t-shirts and Facebook memes contribute to the proliferation of this myth:

As clever as they are, they misrepresent what people with reading difficulties really experience.  Dr. David Sousa, in his book "How the Brain Learns to Read", identified one of the key components of reading difficulties (p. 46) "How well a child comprehends a written text is determined by how well that child comprehends the same text when it is spoken."  Yes, it is true and has been proven time and time again. (Aside:  For those of you who thinking "reading" and "comprehending" are different, I disagree.  There is no purpose in reading if you can't understand what you are reading.  It will not inform you in any way and will have no pleasurable value.  It is my position that you can't read any better than you comprehend what you read.  Saying a word is speaking, NOT reading---even if you saw it on a piece of paper before you said it.) Dr. Sousa's book (published in 2005) explains the important role of understanding in reading.  

Now we have a new study from Georgetown University Medical Center and funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute (it is always important to know WHO FUNDED studies) gives additional insights.  And they are important insights into understanding how the brain functions---not limited to dyslexia or reading.  Senior author, Guinevere Eden, PhD, explains:
 “In fact our results confirm that differences do exist in the visual system of children with dyslexia, but these differences are the end-product of less reading, when compared with typical readers, and are not the cause of their struggles with reading.”
Yes, there are differences in the visual processing of children with reading difficulties, but they are the RESULT of the reading difficulties, NOT the CAUSE.  The research went onto show how intense phonological training caused the children to improve in their reading AND also their brain imaging then closely matched that of skilled readers.

What does this mean for parents whose children are struggling with reading?  There are MANY things which could be underlying this difficult.  The first place to look, in my opinion and experience, is auditory processing.

If my child had reading difficulties, I would do this:
1.  Have their hearing tested
2.  Upon receipt of a "clean" hearing test, I would pursue issues regarding auditory processing.  A neurodevelopmental evaluation can show parents at what level of the brain there is difficulty AND give parents the tools to stimulate auditory processing in that area.

I said "IF" my child had reading difficulties---which isn't entirely truthful.  "WHEN" my daughter had "dyslexia" and couldn't read beyond the primer level at the beginning of second grade, I did just what I recommended.  And I followed a program for her that would stimulate this function.  And by the end of second grade, she was reading on a 5th grade level with a 100% comprehension level.  Her teacher had not, in 18 years of teaching, ever seen a child progress this quickly.  And the reasons are clear----we addressed the ROOT CAUSE of her strugggles.  And at age 17, she now reads for pleasure and is in Honors classes.

Once you understand HOW the brain processes information, culminating in reading, dyslexia is no mystery.  The question that remains is, "What are you going to do to help your child who is struggling?"

Contact Parents With Purpose for a free consultation---we'll explain how we can help you help your child.

You can read about the Georgetown University Medical Center research here:  http://parentswithpurpose.com/contact-us.html#sthash.vRF4FVUr.dpbs