Brain Awareness Week: Staying Sharp

As Brain Awareness Week comes to a close here at Highlight HEALTH, we wanted to leave you with a video from the Dana Foundation that addresses the science behind the healthy brain practices that may help us stay sharp as we get older — the lifestyle factors that may contribute to the maintenance of cognitive function.

Don’t forget that we’re giving away several publications for Brain Awareness Week; in particular, the bookmark was created to be paired with the Staying Staying Sharp booklet (link below) and video (below).

Brain Awareness Week

Dr. Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, is your guide as we cover what to expect from the aging brain and what you can do to “stay sharp”.

Building a Circuit Diagram of the Brain

Jennifer Raymond, an associate professor in neurobiology at Stanford University, is building a circuit diagram of the brain. By bridging the gap between individual synapses and whole brain learning and memory, her research is offering new insights and strategies for medical rehabilitation and education.

Memory Enhancement Achieved in Rats

Memories are fragile; initially forming and then retrieving them are both dependent on new protein synthesis in the brain, and both processes are vulnerable to disruption. A number of agents are known that can impair memory and these can certainly be useful — for example, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). Enhancing memory, however, has proven more difficult. Yet as noted in The New York Times last week [1], two different research groups have recently reported enhancing memory in rats [2-3]. Of note is the fact that they did so utilizing independent molecular pathways.

Rat in a maze

Rehabilitation After Stroke: They do it with Mirrors

Recent research by Michielsen and colleagues has demonstrated that “mirror therapy”, which can be given at home, results in significant, albeit modest, improvement in arm, wrist and hand movement abilities of stroke patients [1]. Mirror therapy is where the arm with impaired movement is placed behind a mirror and the unimpaired arm is reflected in the mirror, giving the appearance to the patient that when the unimpaired arm is moved, the impaired arm is also moving.

Mirror therapy for stroke rehabilitation

Building a Brain in a Supercomputer

Mental illness, memory, perception: they’re made of neurons and electric signals. Henry Markram claims these mysteries of the mind can be solved — and soon. He is building a detailed, realistic computer model of the human brain and its one hundred trillion — that’s 100,000,000,000,000 — synapses.

Markram is the director of the Blue Brain Project at Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Founded in 2005 by the Brain and Mind Institute at the EPFL, Blue Brain is a supercomputing project that to study the brain’s architectural and functional principles, and reverse engineer it in order to understand brain function and dysfunction. Blue Brain can model components of the mammalian brain in precise cellular detail and simulate neuronal activity in 3D. Soon Blue Brain will be able to simulate a whole rat brain in real time.