Keep Your Brain Healthy by Living in Walkable Neighbourhoods

Just when you think there couldn’t be more reasons to live in and build walkable communities another one pops up. We already know that walkable communities are safer, more environmentally healthy, and better for everyone’s health. We can now add to that
list that walkable places are good for keeping of mental issues that occur later in life!

The work builds on Watts’ long attention and study of health behaviors, prevention strategies, and bio-behavioral processes associated with cognitive decline and dementia as the University of Kansas (KU). “I’ve always been interested in why people choose to engage in healthy behaviors or not,” Amber Watts said. “I had been very focused around issues of the individual until I met and started working with architects who study how the physical world around us influences our choices. I found that fascinating, and I wanted to incorporate that into my work about health behaviors.”

This is supportive information for green city planners and city infrastructure layouts. More green planning in neighborhoods so that people will be able to make healthful choices is something we are lacking in much of the US. Good ambiance, sidewalks, and mixing of uses in a neighborhood can go a long way.

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New Research: Brains Do Heal Themselves

After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster.

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Artists Better Protected Against Cognitive Decline

People who engage in music or visual arts are better protected against dementia and other cognitive decline issues. Nows the time to pick up that instrument you keep meaning to learn how to play!

Artists compared with non-artists are better protected, he added. “Due to their art, the brain is better protected [against] diseases like Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and even strokes. They have more reserve in their brain in order to give functions.

“So [we know], based on other neuroscience studies, that art in any of its forms uses different neuronal avenues inside the brain to do their work. And the activity, the talent and the art per se gives reserve when the brain requires that reserve.”

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Music Therapy Helps Brain Damaged Patients

Music therapy can help people who have severe brain damage regain control of their brain and heal faster. This is really nifty!

But how does music find a pathway inside a damaged brain that regular speech can’t negotiate? According to Morrow, it has to do with the parts of the brain where music comes from. And that there are so many of them.

“Music centres are all over the brain,” says Morrow. “I might be able to retrieve lyrics from the right side, from the middle, from the back of the brain. There are so many components to music that I can tap into … to reach words again and to reformulate them in the brain.”

In terms of human evolution, speech is a relatively recent addition to our compartmentalized brains. Some believe music may precede it. There’s no doubt that toddlers babble and vocalize long before they speak.

“It used to be thought that music was a superfluous thing, and no one understood why it developed from an evolutionary standpoint,” says Michael De Georgia, director of the Centre for Music and Medicine at Case Western Reserve University’s Medical Centre in Cleveland.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve just started to understand how broad and diffuse the effect of music is on all parts of the brain,” he added. “We are just starting to understand how powerful music can be.”

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New Way to Examine Consciousness in Comatose Patients

There are a lot of ethical issues about what to do with a person in a vegetative state in a hospital, and sometimes pulling the plug (so to speak) isn’t the best course of action. Thanks to some smart researchers we can now tell which patients are still thinking and which patients have no activity in their brain.

“You spend a week with one of these patients and at no point does it seem at all they know what you are saying when you are talking to them. Then you do this experiment and find it’s the exact opposite — they do know what’s going on,” said Damian Cruse, a postdoctoral neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who helped conduct the research. “That’s quite a profound feeling.”

The results and similar findings could also provide crucial insights into human consciousness — one of the most perplexing scientific puzzles — and lead to ways to better provide diagnoses and possibly rehabilitate brain-injury patients, the researchers said.

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