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Freeman Teams Up with The Center for BrainHealth to Help Improve Employee Wellbeing, Address Covid Stressors

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 01:33

With so many people across the world facing a plethora of mental and emotional challenges, we’ve come to understand in no uncertain terms how stress can negatively impact our performance, both personally and professionally.

After recognizing the deleterious effects that pandemic-related stressors were having on its workforce, Freeman enlisted the help of the Center for BrainHealth, a leading brain research center at The University of Texas at Dallas, to help improve employee wellbeing, health and performance via an innovative company-wide initiative.

Launched in March, the BrainHealthy Workplace program is a complimentary, voluntary and completely confidential 20-week program designed to assess and strengthen brain fitness in four key areas: cognition, wellbeing, social interaction and daily function. Available to all Freeman employees, it features a personal BrainHealth Index metric, coaching to set individual goals, group coaching to promote workplace innovation and online training modules teaching science-based strategies to boost brain capacity and mental efficiency at work and at home.

Featuring game-like elements and coaching to help people practice brain-healthy habits to improve their ability to reason, problem-solve, innovate and adapt, participants can access the content from anywhere through an online, password-protected BrainHealth dashboard.

“The events industry was one of the hardest hit during COVID-19, putting our people under lots of additional stress,” explained Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of Freeman. “As we look to invest in our people and their wellbeing, the Center for BrainHealth’s expertise and approach will help our team to not just become more resilient but to also improve their focus and innovation.”

Read more in Corporate Event News.

Published June 2021

The post Freeman Teams Up with The Center for BrainHealth to Help Improve Employee Wellbeing, Address Covid Stressors appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

UT Dallas Embarks on Study to Help Boost Brain Power

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 22:44

Did you know it’s possible to boost your brain power?

A study happening in Dallas is offering tools to maximize brain health and a one-of-a-kind peek into your own brain potential.

The BrainHealth Project, happening at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, is a landmark scientific study designed to define brain health, measure brain health with a novel, multi-faceted BrainHealth index that tracks progress toward personalized brain fitness goals, and enhance, maintain and regain brain health through proven training, self-paced activities and live coaching.

The project is recruiting children and adults of various ages, but right now, participants ages 18 to 40 may qualify for a series of free functional MRIs that can offer a snapshot of a person’s blood flow and brain connectivity, which can show potential for boosting brain power and progress through the project.

“There is tremendous ability for change. It’s not like you’re stuck with what you got. Does it take a little work? Yes. But is it possible? Yes,” said research scientist and head of operations of The BrainHealth Project, Dr. Julie Fratantoni.

Read more in NBC.

Published June 2021

The post UT Dallas Embarks on Study to Help Boost Brain Power appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Could a Zombie Survive On a Diet of Human Brains?

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 03:39
Most people have thought about what they would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. You know where you’d hide, what you’d weaponize, and the destination you’d attempt to reach. But few of us have ever thought about the scenario from the perspective of the zombies. Leaving aside the grossness and tragedy of their head-chomping lifestyle, is a brain-heavy diet providing them with everything they need, nutrition-wise? THE PROBLEM WITH BRAINS

There’s another issue with brains: They’re high in fat. This largely comes down to myelin, the coating on axons—those fibers that connect different parts of the brain—which functions in a way not dissimilar to the plastic insulation on a wire. Brains are also very high in cholesterol; Fitbit claims that 1 pound of lamb’s brain contains 20 times your daily recommended cholesterol intake.

Those numbers go way up for a human brain. “An adult human brain weighs about 3 pounds. It would also be somewhat fatty,” Monroe Turner, Ph.D., a computational neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas’s Center for BrainHealth, tells Mental Floss. “The regions of the brain have different characteristics: gray matter is high in protein, for instance. In white matter, the fiber tracks that connect the brain cells are fatty, and since there are more neurons to connect in human brains than in animal brains, it would be a fattier meal than an animal brain. And cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) might be salty.”

But brains do contain quite a lot of vitamins and nutrients. There’s vitamin C in there, plus B12, iron, and niacin. “While eating a human brain wouldn’t help your own brain, it might contribute to a balanced diet,” Turner says. “To actually help your brain, you should exercise it by applying cognitive strategies to your daily life.”

A brain is an incredible thing. You can see why zombies dig ‘em so much.

Read more in Mental Floss.

Published June 2021

The post Could a Zombie Survive On a Diet of Human Brains? appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

3 Incredible Breakthroughs That Are Transforming Our Understanding of the Brain

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 00:21
Scientists have made great strides in understanding the organ’s complexities.

For a long time it was assumed that while, sure, brains were amazing, there wasn’t much you could do for an individual brain besides watch it decline. But scientists have made great strides in understanding the organ’s complexities, and their work is starting to affect our daily lives. Researchers are currently looking into more detailed brain imaging, better genetic-risk profiling, and dementia-related biomarkers in blood, urine, and spinal fluid—and that’s just diagnostics.

“In the past five to 10 years, the pace of brain research has sped up in all areas, from understanding cognitive decline to identifying steps we can take to reduce our risk of dementia to developing new treatments for Alzheimer’s,” says Brooks Kenny, executive director of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s. “I think this is because the public, doctors, policymakers, and private-sector leaders are all recognizing that brain health is essential to individuals’ health and public health in today’s aging society.” There’s still work to be done, but here are three exciting areas of development.

A new way of thinking

“Brain health is really a whole new category,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. “When people talk about brain health, they talk about it as the absence of disease and injury, but that’s not the same as making your brain healthy.”

That wider view is what drives the BrainHealth Project, a study that looks at not only participants’ cognition, but also their well-being, social interactions, and daily routine. In the study, people are given the BrainHealth Index to arrive at a score more nuanced than, say, IQ (which Chapman says is outdated and comes with stigma), and each participant is paired with a coach to help them improve it via personalized healthy habits, such as doing critical-thinking tasks at times of the day when their brain is sharpest. In the initial 12-week trial, 80% of the participants improved their scores. “We know that a healthy brain is really the driver of all our life decisions to make us healthier,” says Chapman.

Read more in Prevention Magazine.

Published May 2021

The post 3 Incredible Breakthroughs That Are Transforming Our Understanding of the Brain appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Curiosity Is Key for Keeping Your Memory in Top Shape as You Age—Here Are 4 Exercises That Are Better Than Brain Games

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 01:43
When it comes to brain health, we know a ton of different components can influence our capacity for lasting memory and cognition. Staying hydrated, practicing yoga, and even doing household chores can all help keep our brains in tip-top shape as we age. But one of the best exercises for the brain, according to experts? Experiencing new things.

“The enemy of neuroplasticity is status quo thinking, or going on auto-pilot,” says Jennifer Zientz, MS, CCC/SLP, head of clinical services at Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Cultivating curiosity and being an active participant in life keeps neuroplasticity going.”

“When people stop engaging in deeper level thinking, innovative thinking, novel experiences—whatever their interests are—that results in status quo function,” says Zientz. “We can be healthy people and not do anything challenging to us, but we won’t be leveraging neuroplasticity in a healthy way.”

Tired of puzzles? Here are 4 other memory-boosting exercises for the brain, with options for every age. 1. Activate your inner movie (or book) critic

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a relaxing Netflix binge. But if you want to put those synapses to work, set down the remote and really reflect on what you’re observing. “After a movie, stop and think about all the bigger messages or themes that were conveyed,” says Zientz. “As you think about abstract concepts, you’ll engage your frontal network.”

2. Have kids? Get them involved with exercises for the brain

It’s never too early to start strengthening neuroplasticity. For parents with children, Zientz recommends striking up a meaningful conversation after school or around the dinner table. “I like to ask my own kids to describe their day using three different words,” she says. “Even if they’re not the most complex concepts, it makes them stop and think. And it’s a way for parents to engage with their kids, which helps them build confidence in interacting with adults.”

3. Think like a reporter

This is the adult version of the previous tip: rather than describing your day in three words, try and condense your day into a headline.

“Think about how you would condense a complex idea into a provocative or catchy statement,” says Zientz. Our frontal networks, which are responsible for sensory, motor and cognitive functions, are activated when we’re forced to think in concise ways. This should go beyond just stating how you went about your day—get creative with how you summarize your experiences to better harness that brainpower.

4. Gain a different perspective

It’s natural to surround ourselves with friends who have the same views or scroll through news that’s aligned with our politics. Most of us seek information that supports our own thinking—but that echo chamber can throw our brains into status quo function.

Instead, purposefully engage in conversations with others whose views oppose your own. (Say, a family member who doesn’t share your enthusiasm for COVID-19 vaccination—or vice versa.) The goal isn’t to pick a fight, but to deepen and enrich your own understanding.

“It’s not about changing your mind or somebody else’s mind, it’s just about trying to understand,” Zientz says. “Exercising that flexibility takes cognitive effort.” So family reunion debates are actually good exercises for the brain—who knew?

Read more in WellandGood.

Published May 2021

The post Curiosity Is Key for Keeping Your Memory in Top Shape as You Age—Here Are 4 Exercises That Are Better Than Brain Games appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

IMPROVE YOUR FOCUS AT ANY AGE

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 01:37
The brain has a lifelong ability to improve. It’s time to reject the notion that it is “normal” for brain performance to decline with age. Did you know that there are things you can do each day to increase or maintain your brain health and improve your focus? Over the past 3 decades, research has established that the brain is the most adaptable and flexible organ – across the entire lifespan – thanks to neuroplasticity. Build healthy brain practices for life

Being brain healthy is a lifetime endeavor. Keep learning more strategies to strengthen your brain by joining The BrainHealth Project. It’s a research study like no other being led by cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman at the Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas.

What makes this study different from typical research is that it’s a personalized experience. You get your BrainHealth Index (an online assessment that gives you a robust snapshot in time of your brain health and performance) every six months. You get quarterly calls with a BrainHealth Coach to recommend brain-strengthening strategies based on your BrainHealth Index and personal priorities. And you get ongoing access to practical brain strategies like the ones in this article.

Not only will you get to learn ways to improve your brain health and performance – you get to contribute to a landmark study that is going to change the conversation around our brains. The BrainHealth Project will last for the next 10 years and will put to rest the outdated view that cognitive decline is inevitable as we age. People of all ages and circumstances can have access to these tools and support to build a better brain, for a better life, and ultimately, create a better world.

Read more in Prime Women.

Published May 2021

The post IMPROVE YOUR FOCUS AT ANY AGE appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

IMPROVE YOUR FOCUS AT ANY AGE

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 00:19
The brain has a lifelong ability to improve. It’s time to reject the notion that it is “normal” for brain performance to decline with age. Did you know that there are things you can do each day to increase or maintain your brain health and improve your focus? Over the past 3 decades, research has established that the brain is the most adaptable and flexible organ – across the entire lifespan – thanks to neuroplasticity.

Build healthy brain practices for life

Being brain healthy is a lifetime endeavor. Keep learning more strategies to strengthen your brain by joining The BrainHealth Project. It’s a research study like no other being led by cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman at the Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas.

What makes this study different from typical research is that it’s a personalized experience. You get your BrainHealth Index (an online assessment that gives you a robust snapshot in time of your brain health and performance) every six months. You get quarterly calls with a BrainHealth Coach to recommend brain-strengthening strategies based on your BrainHealth Index and personal priorities. And you get ongoing access to practical brain strategies like the ones in this article.

Not only will you get to learn ways to improve your brain health and performance – you get to contribute to a landmark study that is going to change the conversation around our brains. The BrainHealth Project will last for the next 10 years and will put to rest the outdated view that cognitive decline is inevitable as we age. People of all ages and circumstances can have access to these tools and support to build a better brain, for a better life, and ultimately, create a better world.

Read more in Prime Women.

Published May 2021

The post IMPROVE YOUR FOCUS AT ANY AGE appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Are your kids fighting more during the pandemic? You’re not alone.

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 21:57
But helping them navigate sibling conflict can have positive effects long after lockdowns are over.

The yelling had escalated into slapping and punching between the two sisters, 10 and 13. “The younger sister kept invading her sister’s room, dancing in the background of the screen during virtual learning,” says Amanda Ann Gregory, a psychotherapist in Chicago. “It was really embarrassing for the 13-year-old. Things were very, very tense.”

It’s a scene that’s likely playing out in many family households, as the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched and strained families in extraordinary ways thanks to school closures, social isolation, and anxiety over an uncertain future. And with kids spending most of their time at home under heightened stress, experts say this may lead to an uptick in sibling conflict.

The quality of sibling relationships can have significant impacts on kids’ development, says Maria Johnson, director of Youth and Family Innovations at the University of Texas at Dallas’s Center for BrainHealth. “When sibling tension increases beyond the norm to toxic and abusive behaviors, it can be psychologically detrimental later in life,” she says. For example, research suggests that sibling conflict is linked to anxiety, depression, and aggression.

On the flip side, positive relationships between siblings often provide kids with social support, which can be a form of protection from other life stressors. So when conflict arises, teaching kids how to navigate them in a healthy way can help forge stronger bonds between siblings and set them up for future success.

Luckily or not, parenting during the pandemic means you might be facing more opportunities than ever to teach children more effective conflict management skills.

Read more in National Geographic.

Published April 2021

The post Are your kids fighting more during the pandemic? You’re not alone. appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

The New Hybrid Work Model Will Require Hybrid Skills

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 21:11
Resilience, empathy and creativity are the key human skills of our hybrid world.

For more than a year, we’ve been wondering what work will look like when the pandemic ends. And for an increasing number of companies, the answer is a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work. The conversation has now moved to what will happen to the commercial real estate market, how office and desk design will change and what tech tools we will need in our new hybrid future.

But even more important than the organizational design and the tech tools of our hybrid world order are the hybrid skills we’ll need to develop wherever and however we’re working. Of course, hard skills and expertise are always going to be table stakes, but to successfully navigate the new hybrid world defined by changing routines and continuing uncertainty we’ll need human skills — empathy, resilience, collaboration, team building and creativity. These are the skills that will allow us to adapt to new environments and constant changes, and use all of our other skills in a sustainable way without burning out.

Seize the Moment to Rethink Productivity

Not since the Industrial Revolution have we so fundamentally rethought everything about where and how we work. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new normal that’s based on the way we actually perform at our best. “People are now stepping back and thinking about the qualitative aspects of being productive over the quantitative,” said Sandra Bond Chapman, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas, Dallas. “Instead of how many things we have done, we now have an opportunity to shift towards the measures that matter most — was I more innovative? Was I more purpose-driven? Was I more socially driven?”

Read more in Thrive Global.

Published April 2021

The post The New Hybrid Work Model Will Require Hybrid Skills appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Four emerging technologies with the potential to improve MS treatment options

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 22:05
From focused ultrasound to electronic autoinjectors, we take a look at four innovations and technologies that could improve future MS treatment options

As is the case with many debilitating, chronic diseases in the 21st century, the wonders of technology and medical innovations are currently showing huge potential in enabling multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment to become more effective.

MS is a lifelong condition that affects the central nervous system and can cause problems with vision, movement, and sensation, as well as fatigue. It can’t be cured, but relapses of the disease’s outward symptoms are commonly treated using steroid medicines.

However, various studies over the past few years have indicated that improved treatment options – perhaps even some that target the condition’s underlying causes – may be on the horizon.

We take a closer look at four unique technologies that are at differing stages of the research and development process, but could all hold the key to drastically improving the lives of MS patients in the future.

Improved treatment through more precise diagnosis

In 2019, researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth announced they had developed a novel diagnostic technology for MS.

Working with a team from the UT Southwestern Medical Center, they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan 23 patients’ brains, before deploying a unique, patent-pending tool to create 3D images of the lesions – areas that have been damaged by the effects of MS – found there.

The resulting images showed which of these areas were metabolically active, and therefore held a capacity for healing, and which were metabolically inactive and unable to heal themselves. The areas capable of healing appeared spherical with a rough surface, while those incapable of healing were more irregular in shape but had a smoother surface.

These differing visual indicators were then used to determine which lesions had increased levels of surrounding oxygen – the biomarker that correlates with a capacity for healing.

The upshot is that, in theory, this could help doctors to distinguish between MS patients that will benefit from certain therapeutic drugs designed to heal damaged areas of the brain, and those that won’t.

At the time, Dr Dinesh Sivakolundu – the lead author of the study detailing these findings, which was published in peer-reviewed scientific publication Journal of Neuroimaging – said: “Our new technology has the potential to be a game-changer in the treatment of MS by helping doctors be more precise in their treatment plans.”

Read more in Learning NS Medical Devices.

Published March 2021

The post Four emerging technologies with the potential to improve MS treatment options appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Center for BrainHealth Researchers Create Virtual Reality Cognitive Assessment

Sat, 02/27/2021 - 01:37

Virtual reality assessment effectively tests executive function in a real-world setting

Virtual reality isn’t just for gaming. Researchers can use virtual reality, or VR, to assess participants’ attention, memory and problem-solving abilities in real world settings. By using VR technology to examine how folks complete daily tasks, like making a grocery list, researchers can better help clinical populations that struggle with executive functioning to manage their everyday lives.

Lead author Zhengsi Chang is a PhD student that works in the lab of Daniel Krawczyk, PhD, deputy director of the Center for BrainHealth®. Along with Brandon Pires, a researcher at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the team investigated whether VR can be used to effectively test a participant’s executive functional load, or how much information a person can process to achieve a goal. Their findings were recently published in Computers in Human Behavior Reports.

The researchers adapted the Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool’s (VRFCAT) “kitchen test”, where participants plan a trip to the grocery store by comparing ingredients in kitchen cabinets to a list of recipes. Making a grocery list is an everyday task and should therefore accurately capture participants’ daily working memory and performance. “Function-led tasks using VR technology allow us to maintain a balance between ecological validity and experimental control,” said Chang.

The researchers hope to use their VR assessment to help people that suffer from executive function impairments. “We used VR technology to create an executive function assessment that can be used in neuropsychology to understand how veterans and other clinical populations manage their everyday lives,” said Chang.

Read more in Immersive Learning News.

Published February 2021

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