Non-negotiable needs for struggling learners

Non-negotiable needs for struggling learners

Share this article When teachers and other IEP team members work tirelessly to accelerate struggling learners’ (SLs) rates of progress, they often fall short of their goals. Often, progress regresses, stagnates, or crawls forward by only small inches rather than the 10 yards the IEP team had deemed realistic.

Why regression? Why stagnation? Why only a few inches? Some of these SLs try hard but unsuccessfully to succeed. Some don’t focus, some lack energy, some show little interest, some angrily resist instruction, and some disrupt instruction with ingenious antics.

Depending on the day, time, and situation, some show several of these characteristics. If their teachers and IEP support staff work hard, know the curriculum, and are highly competent in using, adapting, and supplementing basic and specialized programs, this makes no sense. What’s undermining success? What’s undermining success?

The factors undermining success originate both outside and inside of school. Though schools can’t control outside of school factors they can often influence them.

To a greater or lesser degree, one or more of the following factors can undermine success, like gaping holes in a ship’s hull can sink it.

> Poor sleep

Poor nutrition

Insufficient physical activity

Heavy demands on willpower

Poor expectations of success

Poor expectations of satisfaction

A mechanical, impersonal environment

Poor progress monitoring

Functional disregard of the EARS principles ( E asy, A ttractive, R elevant, S ocially Supported)

Just one of these affects some SLs’ dramatically, some moderately, and some mildly. In my 50-plus years in special education, I’ve met only a few students who seemed impervious to these factors.

Let’s briefly examine the first three factors. In a follow-up article, I’ll examine the rest. Poor sleep

For anyone, including children, the consequences of night-after-night of poor sleep is devastating.

” Healthy sleep is critical for children’s psychological well-being…. Continually experiencing inadequate sleep can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and other types of emotional problems. Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene and physical activity…. ‘There are multiple emotional processes that seem to be disrupted by poor sleep… For example, our ability to self-monitor, pick up on others’ nonverbal cues and accurately identify others’ emotions diminishes when sleep is inadequate. Combine this with less impulse control, a hallmark feature of the teenage years, and sleep deprivation can create a ‘perfect storm’ for experiencing negative emotions and consequences’”

“ Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently…. During the night, various sleep cycles play a role in ‘consolidating’ memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.”

Though schools cannot control SLs’ sleep — e.g., when they get into bed, when they shut off their cell phones — they can influence it. Asking these questions can help SLs:

1. Has the school psychologist, learning consultant, or school nurse administered a sleep rating scale to assess the SL’s sleep? Has it been administered to the parent (or guardian) and when appropriate, the student?

2. Has the school conducted professional training sessions to inform all staff, including custodians and food handlers, about sleep and how to identify students who may have sleep problems?

3. Has the school conducted parent and community training sessions to sensitize the community about helping children (and adults) minimizing or eliminating sleep problems? Poor nutrition

As with sleep, consistently poor nutrition can wreak havoc on children’s health, development, and academic achievement.

“We have found that there is increasing evidence of a link between a poor diet and the worsening of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.”

“According to the Society for Neuroscience , recent studies reveal that diets with high levels of saturated fats actually impair learning and memory. Unfortunately, foods with saturated fats are often the most affordable and widely available in schools. French fries, sugary desserts, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, and other cafeteria staples are filling kids with food that actually lower their brain power before sending them back to class…. Malnutrition can result in long-term neural issues in the brain, which can impact a child’s emotional responses, reactions to stress, learning disabilities, and other medical complications.”“Unhealthful dietary patterns that typically lead to obesity, diabetes, and other physical health problems can also contribute to poor mental health .”And like sleep, schools cannot control nutrition, but often they can provide healthy meals and influence parents’ choices and actions. Asking these questions can help SLs:1. Has the school’s dietician or nurse administered a rating scale to assess the child’s nutrition. Has it been administered to the parent (or guardian) and when appropriate, to the student?2. Has the school conducted professional training sessions to inform all staff, including custodians and food handlers, about proper nutrition and how to identify students who may have difficulties getting or choosing proper nutrition?3. Has the school conducted parent and community training sessions to sensitize the community about helping children (and adults) get and choose nutritional foods?4. Has the school conducted parent and community training sessions about using government resources to secure proper nutrition? Insufficient physical activity The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is quite clear about the need for frequent physical activity:“ Regular physical activity can help children and adolescents improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, [and] obesity.”In addition, “ students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (e.g., memory), and classroom behaviors (e.g., on-task behavior) …. Higher physical activity and physical fitness levels are associated with improved cognitive performance (e.g., concentration, memory) among students.But what about the critical area of mental health?“Research has shown […]


Dementia care: Drinking this fruit juice may reduce your risk of developing the condition

Dementia care: Drinking this fruit juice may reduce your risk of developing the condition

Dementia is an umbrella term for a cluster of symptoms associated with brain damage that mainly affects people over the age of 65, although it is not a natural part of ageing.

The condition disrupts the brain’s cognitive functions, causing symptoms such as memory loss and a decline in mental sharpness.

There’s no certain way to prevent dementia but groundbreaking research is shedding a light on lifestyle interventions that may reduce your risk.

Dementia: Could this drink improve memory?

Dementia care: This ‘alternative’ exercise may reduce your risk

Blueberries are rich in flavonoids, a plant compound possessing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Antioxidants are substances that thought to counter “oxidative stress”, a chemical imbalance in the body that is believed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological brain condition that is the most common form of dementia.

To gather the findings, 26 healthy adults were divided into two groups: Twelve were given concentrated blueberry juice – providing the equivalent of 230g of blueberries – once a day, while 14 received a placebo.

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Before and after the 12-week period, participants took a range of cognitive tests while an MRI scanner monitored their brain function and resting brain blood flow was measured.

Compared to the placebo group, those who took the blueberry supplement showed significant increases in brain activity in brain areas related to the tests.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Joanna Bowtell, head of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter, said: “Our cognitive function tends to decline as we get older, but previous research has shown that cognitive function is better preserved in healthy older adults with a diet rich in plant-based foods.

“In this study we have shown that with just 12 weeks of consuming 30ml of concentrated blueberry juice every day, brain blood flow, brain activation and some aspects of working memory were improved in this group of healthy older adults.” Dementia: Scale of Britain’s health crisis revealed in damning report

Dementia: Study found that aerobic exercise may help to preserve memory The study was a small proof-of-concept trial of people ages 55 and older with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal ageing and the more serious decline of dementia.

Although both groups preserved their cognitive abilities for memory and problem solving, brain imaging showed people from the exercise group with amyloid buildup lost slightly less volume in the hippocampus — a brain region that deteriorates as dementia progresses.

Amyloid is a naturally occurring protein that clumps together to form plaques that collect between neurons and disrupt cell function in a brain damaged by Alzheimer’s.


Blue light may aid recovery after concussion

Blue light may aid recovery after concussion

A study that the United States military funded concludes that blue light can help heal mild traumatic brain injury simply by helping the person sleep better. By improving sleep, blue light may aid recovery from mild traumatic brain injuries. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion, can result from a range of causes, from a car accident to fights, falls, or sports.

Following such an injury, people might see stars, become disoriented, or even lose consciousness briefly, but many come round without realizing that they have been concussed at all.

However, for some, mTBI can result in weeks or months of symptoms, including headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, memory loss, fatigue, and disturbed sleep. According to the researchers behind the current study, some 50% of people with mTBI complain of chronic sleep problems after the injury, which affects their ability to think and recover.

And 15% of those with mTBI have symptoms that last for at least 1 year.

Scientists believe that these symptoms occur due to the stretches and tears that the impact inflicts on microscopic brain cells.

“Your brain is about the consistency of thick Jell-O,” explains lead author William D. “Scott” Killgore, a psychiatry professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Imagine a bowl of Jell-O getting hit from a punch or slamming against the steering wheel in a car accident. What’s it doing? It’s absorbing that shock and bouncing around. During that impact, microscopic brain cells thinner than a strand of hair can easily stretch and tear and rip from the force.”

Such injury can also occur during explosive blasts, when shock waves hitting the soft tissue of the gut push a surge of pressure into the brain, damaging blood vessels and brain tissue.

“Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), which is commonly known as concussion, is one of the most common injuries experienced by military personnel and is a major health concern worldwide,” Killgore told Medical News Today . Stay in the know. Get our free daily newsletter

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“At present, there are virtually no effective treatments for concussion,” said Killgore. “We sought a nonpharmacologic (or nondrug) method to help people.”

Killgore and his research team received funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command to conduct the study, which features in the journal Neurobiology of Disease .

The solution that they set out to prove effective was sleep.

“Because sleep is so important for brain health and recovery, we reasoned that improving sleep timing and duration could lead to a more rapid recovery from mTBI,” said Killgore. “Considerable evidence suggests that sleep is important for brain repair processes,” he added.

Killgore explained that scientists have shown that following an injury, sleep facilitates the production of new insulating brain cells called oligodendrocytes.

“Without sufficient restorative sleep, the repair of brain tissue will likely be slowed or incomplete,” Killgore said.

The recent clinical trial, which involved 32 adults with mTBI, focused on solidifying the participants’ circadian rhythm — the natural process that dictates our 24 hour sleep-wake cycle.

The researchers achieved this by exposing the participants to blue light from a cube-like device for 30 minutes early each morning for 6 weeks. The participants in the control group used amber lights instead of blue.

Scientists have shown that blue light suppresses the brain’s production of melatonin, a chemical that makes us sleepy.

“Blue light is one of the brain’s primary timekeepers,” explained Killgore. “Exposure to blue light, such as sunlight at sunrise, tells the body that it is morning and time to stop sleeping. That makes you more alert during the day and starts the clock ticking to tell you when to go to sleep later.”

By using blue light, the participants reset the brain’s inner clock, helping participants fall asleep earlier and stay asleep. The most restorative, and therefore beneficial, sleep occurs when it is in tune with the body’s innate circadian rhythm.

On average, participants using the blue light therapy fell asleep and woke up 1 hour earlier than before the trial and were less drowsy during the day. Their brain-processing speed and efficiency were improved, and they showed an increase in visual attention.

“Our findings suggest that morning blue light exposure helps reset the normal sleep-wake cycle each day, and this maximizes the ability to get better sleep during the night, thus leading to better recovery from concussion.”

William D. “Scott” Killgore

The reason why blue light from phones, computers, and televisions gets a bad rap is timing. Blue light at night can trick your brain into thinking that it is morning, thereby messing with sleep.

Researchers are also looking at the effect of blue light on the sleep of those with emotional disturbances, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the potential of blue light to boost the alertness of healthy individuals.


Does “bad cholesterol” have a role in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease?

Does “bad cholesterol” have a role in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease?

( Natural News ) Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic illness that robs a person of his memory and thinking skills. In the US, as many as five million adults suffer from this debilitating illness, with most symptoms appearing after age 60, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . However, there are some cases where people develop symptoms of the disease in their 40s and 50s , a condition called early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The etiology for Alzheimer’s — as well as other forms of dementia — is unclear, but a recent study in JAMA Neurology highlights the role of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and the risk of developing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In their paper, researchers from Emory University School of Medicine , together with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, investigated the association between the two to identify any underlying potential risk factors.

Earlier studies have concluded that a link between high levels of LDL cholesterol and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease does exist. Also known as “bad” cholesterol, too much LDL cholesterol in the body causes clogged arteries, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can also affect Apolipoprotein E (APOE) E4 expression, a genetic variant linked to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“The big question is whether there is a causal link between cholesterol levels in the blood and Alzheimer’s disease risk,” explained Thomas Wingo, a neurologist at Atlanta VA and the study’s lead author. “The existing data have been murky on this point.”

The team looked at genetic data from over 2,000 participants, around 650 of whom had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. They looked at APOE E4 expression and other potential genetic variants that have a link with early-onset Alzheimer’s. They also looked at associations between Alzheimer’s and plasma cholesterol levels by examining samples collected from research centers in Emory and the University of California (UC) , San Francisco .

Based on the results, around 10 percent of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s had the APOE E4 variant. Moreover, the participants with elevated plasma LDL cholesterol were more likely to be diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s than those with lower cholesterol levels. The association was consistent, even as the team adjusted their data to account for APEO E4 expression, which increases the risk independently. (Related: Alzheimer’s hits more than just the memory; patients experience immune system dysfunction as well .)

This suggests a potentially causal link between bad cholesterol levels and the disease – a hypothesis they are looking to explore in the future.

“One interpretation of our current data is that LDL cholesterol does play a causal role. If that is the case, we might need to revise targets for LDC [sic] cholesterol to help reduce Alzheimer’s risk,” Wingo added.

“Our work now is focused on testing whether there is a causal link.” Prevent Alzheimer’s now by changing your diet

For many people, Alzheimer’s disease is a death sentence. But you can do something about it now , by increasing your intake of these healthy foods. (h/t to )

> Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts , bok choy and cauliflower are packed with carotenoids that help lower homocysteine, an amino acid linked to cognitive impairment.

Leafy greens: Spinach, kale , collard greens and mustard greens contain folate, which boosts brain health.

Fatty fish: Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the likelihood of developing brain lesions that cause dementia.

Spices : Turmeric, cumin , sage and cinnamon break down harmful plaques in the brain, as well as reduce brain inflammation.

Nuts: Aside from being rich sources of omega-3s, nuts like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans contain vitamin E, folate and magnesium.

Other things you should consider to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s are regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, stress management and proper sleep hygiene. Get more tips on how to keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay by following .

Sources include:


Applying pressure to the arms and legs shown to improve brain blood flow, reveals study

Applying pressure to the arms and legs shown to improve brain blood flow, reveals study

( Natural News ) As you age, your brain will experience changes that could affect your mental function. With cognitive decline being quite common, it is important to maintain brain function by keeping your brain as healthy as it can be. Now, recent evidence suggests that a simple squeeze to your arms and legs might be beneficial for your brain .

A study published in the journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology , found that people who restricted their blood flow by wearing blood pressure cuffs on their arms and legs exhibited signs of more controlled blood flow to the brain. This process is referred to by the authors as remote ischemic preconditioning.

Previous research has established that “training” the organs by using remote ischemic preconditioning to restrict blood flow may make the heart more resilient and resistant to changes in blood flow and the damage caused by lack of oxygen during a heart attack.

“Since previous studies have shown benefits to the heart, we wanted to determine if remote ischemic preconditioning could also be beneficial to the brain,” said corresponding author Yi Yang from the First Hospital of Jilin University in China. “Our study found such preconditioning temporarily improved dynamic cerebral autoregulation, which is the brain’s ability to regulate and ensure adequate blood flow to the brain despite blood pressure changes. We also found an increase in biomarkers in the blood that can be protective to the nervous system and brain.” Under pressure

Scientists from China aimed to determine the effects of remote ischemic preconditioning on dynamic cerebral autoregulation and various blood biomarkers in healthy adults. In this new study, the researchers enrolled 50 healthy adults who were, on average, 35 years of age. Each participant went through two consecutive days of monitoring with the first day done without preconditioning. On the second day, the participants were equipped with blood pressure cuffs strapped on one upper arm and one thigh. These cuffs were inflated for five minutes and then deflated for another five minutes, with the process repeating four times.

The researchers measured the brain blood flow regulation of each participant by measuring and analyzing each ones’ blood pressure taken at the start of the day and periodically throughout the next 24 hours. They also used ultrasound to measure the blood flow in the two main arteries in the brain. (Related: Is your brain not getting enough blood flow? Natural ways to improve brain circulation .)

Based on the results, the researchers discovered that participants exhibited improved brain blood flow regulation or cerebral autoregulation only six hours after conducting the cuff compressions. These improvements maintained itself for at least 18 hours after the initial compressions.

In addition, researchers collected blood samples from each participant at the start of the day and one hour after performing cuff compressions. They found that participants experienced increased numbers of specific biomarkers — molecules that signal the presence of certain conditions in the body — one hour after preconditioning compared with their levels before the experiment.

To be specific, the researchers found an increase in two biomarkers that are known to protect the nervous system. One of these biomarkers is called the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, which has been previously found to protect your body against diseases like stroke and help regenerate damaged neurons.

They also noted an increase in four biomarkers involved in regulating inflammation in the body alongside lower levels of one biomarker that responds to inflammation.

“While our results are exciting, obviously we can’t know when someone will have a stroke and when this could be beneficial. We hope to use these results to help develop a new medication or treatment that will help all people better resist stroke or other neurological diseases,” said Yang. “It’s important to emphasize that people should not try to restrict blood flow on their own because, unless under the care of a physician, they could cause themselves harm. In addition, our study was small and much more research needs to be done to confirm our findings before recommendations can be made to physicians to use such preconditioning as a therapy.”

For more information and related stories about brain health and improving brain flow, visit .

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Adderall Side Effects, Addiction, Abuse & Withdrawal

Adderall Side Effects, Addiction, Abuse & Withdrawal

Adderall is a psychostimulant amphetamine drug that is most commonly prescribed to reduce symptoms of ADHD. Unfortunately, it is also widely abused due to its supposed “cognitive-enhancing” effects, which can lead to addiction and other serious negative consequences. Read on to learn about its potential adverse side-effects and other risks associated with it!

Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for Adderall. This medication is only FDA-approved for the treatment of certain specific medical disorders, and can only be taken by prescription and with oversight from a licensed medical professional. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science behind Adderall’s effects, mechanisms, current medical uses, and potential risks. Adderall Side Effects

Given that Adderall has met FDA approval for official medical use, the majority of scientific evidence supports the overall safety and effectiveness of Adderall when used as prescribed, and under the supervision of qualified medical professionals .

Nonetheless, like any drug, there is always at least some potential of experiencing adverse side-effects, and so it’s important to be aware of these.

In general — and similar to many commonly-used pharmaceutical drugs — the rate of adverse side-effects tends to increase at progressively higher doses [ 1 ].

Adderall is a commonly prescribed medication for ADHD that has a good safety profile compared to other stimulants when used properly.

If you experience any of the following symptoms occur after taking Adderall, contact your doctor immediately [ 2 , 3 ] : Seizures (convulsions)

Changes in vision or blurred vision

Pupil dilation (mydriasis)

Allergic reactions: symptoms of this can include itching or hives, swelling of the mouth, face, or hands, difficulty breathing, feeling like you are about to pass out, or tightness in the chest.

Fever or sweating

Muscle problems such as spasms or twitching

Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Hallucinations (visual and auditory)


Extreme energy



Signs of heart problems (can be fast, slow, or uneven heartbeats)

Signs of circulation problems (unexplained bruises, numbness, cold , color changes, or pain in fingers or toes)

Finally, abuse of Adderall by athletes may be especially dangerous, as it can cause dramatically elevated body temperature ( hyperthermia ), which may, in turn, induce heat stress . The dangers are further increased because the subjectively “stimulating” and “energizing” effects of Adderall abuse can cover-up (“mask”) the symptoms of heat stress — such as sudden exhaustion or fatigue — which, when ignored or unnoticed, can result in major medical emergencies [ 4 ].

Serious side effects like seizures, confusion, elevated body temperature, changes in perception, and heart problems are rare. Get immediate medical help if you experience any of them.

The following side-effects are not as severe, but have been reported to occur slightly more frequently in patients taking Adderall [ 2 ]: Dry mouth


Loss of appetite

Weight loss (Although weight loss may potentially be counteracted through the use of other (complementary) medications such as cyproheptadine , or even simply by consuming a higher-calorie diet [ 5 ]) Insomnia Stomach pain According to one report, Adderall may impair short-term memory in some users [ 4 ].Adderall may also lead to “antisocial” feelings, keeping users from enjoying or participating in interactions with others [ 6 ].Some of the psychological side-effects of Adderall may occur due to the greatly elevated levels of dopamine that Adderall (and other amphetamines and stimulants) cause throughout the brain — a mechanism that is also shared by other major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. For example, according to one study of 14 amphetamine-dependent patients, 12 were reported to go on to develop psychosis. This reportedly led to a number of schizophrenia-like symptoms, such as intense paranoia and hallucinations [ 7 , 8 ].According to one study of 56 child and adolescent ADHD patients, one of the most commonly reported negative side-effects of Adderall was weight loss. This was more prominent at higher doses [ 1 ].Although Adderall-induced weight loss is usually not severe, in some cases it has been reported to lead to anorexia. For example, one study of 584 children found that anorexia occurred in 21.9% of psychostimulant patients. Similarly, a study of 287 teens reported the occurrence of anorexia in as much as 35.6% of the treated ADHD patients [ 1 , 9 , 10 ].However, in some relatively rarer cases, Adderall may actually cause weight gain . For example, the authors of a single case study of an 11-year old boy reported that Adderall use increased one young boy’s weight by 8.8 lbs. in just 6 weeks. Changing the timing of Adderall consumption from right after meals to 45 minutes before meals reportedly helped to normalize this sudden and severe weight gain [ 11 ].Mild weight loss is among the most common side effects, although weight gain has also been reported. Psychological side effects, such as anxiety and antisocial feelings, are also possible but rarely severe.One of the most dangerous side-effects of treatment with amphetamines — including Adderall and others — can be a heart attack or stroke. Although these side-effects can potentially occur in anyone, patients with a personal or family history of heart conditions are believed to be at an especially elevated risk of experiencing such complications [ 12 , 13 ].These heart problems and other adverse cardiovascular side-effects may be brought about by the significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure that are commonly seen following Adderall consumption. On average, Adderall increases heart rate by 1-2 beats per minute. As the dose is increased, heart rate increases proportionately — and this can result in dangerously elevated heart rate or blood pressure [ 14 , 5 ].Adderall also stimulates β-adrenergic receptor sites all over the body, which causes the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine . Norepinephrine is believed to play a prominent role in stimulating increased heart rate and blood pressure, which may further contribute to some of Adderall’s potential cardiovascular risks [ 3 , 15 ].Additionally, some researchers […]


Brain hacks, implants, enhancers and nootropics: the Silicon Valley pioneers trying to live higher-performing lives

Brain hacks, implants, enhancers and nootropics: the Silicon Valley pioneers trying to live higher-performing lives

Few go as far as Zoltan Istvan, who dreams of a brain implant to connect him to the internet, but many in Silicon Valley use technology to improve their bodies

We chart some of the latest developments in biohacking, implants, experimental biology and nootropics – all intended to improve cognitive ability and health

Implants such as a chip in your hand or wrist that could send messages and open your front door are one of the more extreme visions of biohackers. Photo: Shutterstock How binaural beats work: the sounds said to tune our moods, boost productivity, lower stress. The science is shaky, doctor says

‘Brain-tuning frequencies’ known as binaural beats are gaining credence as a tool to encourage mindfulness, boost productivity and even relieve stress

While the scientific evidence for their beneficial effects is slim, doctors agree exposure to binaural beats can create changes in the brain’s degree of arousal

Binaural beats are being used as a way to encourage mindfulness and boost productivity – but can sound frequencies make real changes to our brain states and moods? Photo: Shutterstock


Is a healthier gut microbiome the master key to longevity?

Is a healthier gut microbiome the master key to longevity?

( Natural News ) Researchers now believe that boosting the health of the gut microbiome may be the secret to living healthier in old age . In a study published in the journal Nature Communications , researchers looked at how fecal transplantation from young mice to older ones stimulated the gut microbiome and revived the gut’s immune system.

The gut, more so than many other internal organs, can be severely weakened by the effects of aging, and many age-dependent changes to the gut microbiome have been linked to inflammation, frailty and an increased susceptibility to potentially life-threatening intestinal disorders. As you age, these changes to the gut microbiome happen just as your gut’s immune system fails to function at peak efficiency. Before the results of this study, undertaken by immunologists from Cambridge’s Babraham Institute , were published, scientists weren’t entirely sure whether those two changes to the gut microbiome were connected.

Marisa Stebegg, lead researcher, said that the gut microbiome is made up of hundreds of different bacteria that are essential for optimal health. These gut bacteria play a role in metabolic function, brain function and in the immune system’s response to threats such as foreign pathogens.

“Our immune system is constantly interacting with the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract,” said Stebegg. “As immunologists who study why our immune system doesn’t work as well as we age, we were interested to explore whether the make-up of the gut microbiome might influence the strength of the gut immune response.”

In this study, the researchers either co-housed young and older mice in order to stimulate their natural desire to sample the fecal pellets of other mice, or they directly performed fecal transfers from young to older mice. This boosted the gut immune system of the older rodents and it partly corrected their age-related decline. Michelle Linterman, one of the researchers, remarked that co-housing alone was enough to make the gut immune response of the aged mice nearly indistinguishable from that of their younger roommates. A healthy gut means a healthy life

What this study showed is that the decreasing quality of the gut’s immune response is not irreversible. This immune response can be strengthened by challenging it with the appropriate stimuli. For older mice, it meant co-housing with and sampling the fecal matter of younger mice. For humans, it may be a healthy diet that involves the consumption of probiotics. (Related: Gut bacteria “signatures” predict how the body will respond to poor food choices, predicting risk for diabetes, heart disease .)

Furthermore, the study is relevant because it confirmed the link between the effects of the aging and deteriorating immune system and the age-related changes that occur within the gut microbiome. Interventions, if you want them to be successful, have to focus on having a positive impact on the composition of the gut microbiome.

The food you eat can nourish the gut bacteria. These bacteria then produce the nutrients your body needs to strengthen the immune system and fight off pathogens. This immune response needs to be kept at peak performance and this can be done through eating foods that specifically nourish the gut microbiome, such as probiotics.

Other studies support the theory of Stebegg, Linterman and their team. One such study, published in the journal Scientific Reports , found that feeding fruit flies a combination of probiotics and herbal supplements can prolong their life by 60 percent and protect them from age-related chronic diseases. More research provides even more evidence to suggest that a healthy gut may make the difference between aging poorly and having a good quality of life in your twilight years.

Sources include: 1 2


24 Potential Uses of Neurofeedback Therapy (incl. ADHD)

“ Neurofeedback ” is a form of biofeedback training that aims to help people learn how to consciously control certain aspects of their brain activity. This promising new technology has been proposed to be a potential treatment for a wide variety of different conditions, from depression, ADHD, chronic pain, headaches, and even some symptoms of PTSD and schizophrenia. Does it work? Read on to learn more. What is Neurofeedback?

“ Biofeedback training ” is a growing trend in healthcare, where people are hooked up to devices for measuring different aspects of bodily functions in order to see how these processes are taking place in real-time. People can then be trained to learn to control the way these processes are carried out [ 1 , 2 ].

“ Neurofeedback ” is a specific form of biofeedback training, which is based on the idea that people can consciously alter the way their brains function by using training programs to help them to visualize and learn to change the patterns of electrical activity taking place in their brain [ 3 ]. Purported Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy

While a considerable amount of early research has been done on neurofeedback, it is still a relatively new technology, and not much is known about the exact mechanisms underlying each different form of neurofeedback training.

There is also another major limitation that is worth noting about much of the existing research: because neurofeedback requires a person to be hooked up to complex devices and extensively trained, it is often difficult, impractical, or even impossible to have proper “control” groups to compare the effects to. This means that it’s possible that many of the reported findings so far are simply due to the “placebo” effect [ 4 ].

Therefore, due both to a general lack of adequate research so far, as well as methodological limitations when it comes to ruling out possible “placebo” effects, all of the purported uses described below are currently considered to have “insufficient evidence” to come to any firm conclusions about the efficacy of neurofeedback training. None of the uses below have been FDA-approved, and much more research will be needed before any of the proposed uses below could become officially approved and accepted as valid medical approaches to treating the various conditions and other biological functions discussed below.

With that in mind, let’s review what some of the preliminary research so far has to say about the potential effects of neurofeedback training!

Some researchers have proposed that neurofeedback may help to enhance neuroplasticity (the capacity of the brain to change and adapt). This, in turn, could possibly help to slow or reverse the natural declines in cognitive function that occur over aging [ 5 ].

For example, one early study reported that neurofeedback training improved cognitive processing speed and executive function in elderly subjects [ 6 ].

Other studies have reported that certain specific types of neurofeedback training, such as decreasing sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) beta rhythms, may help improve reaction time [ 7 ].

According to another preliminary study, subjects who were able to learn to boost their alpha brain wave activity via neurofeedback were reported to perform better at a visual-spatial reasoning task (mental object rotation) [ 8 , 9 ].

While these early results are promising, little is known about how long-lasting these changes might be, or how significant any changes in overall cognitive functioning might be. Therefore, considerably more research work will still be needed to verify and extend these preliminary findings further.

Neurofeedback is under investigation for its potential to affect cognitive function and neuroplasticity, but studies have been limited in both scope and term so far.

Problems with working memory are often associated with issues with attention and short-term memory.

According to some preliminary findings, healthy individuals have reported to improve their working memory and extend their attention spans by increasing certain types of brain wave activity (in this case, alpha-, theta-, and SMR waves) [ 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 ].

Another study in 32 human subjects reported that EEG-based neurofeedback improved attention and working memory in older patients, while younger subjects improved their concentration and attention (executive functioning). This led some researchers to suggest that neurofeedback may be an effective way to prevent age-related cognitive impairment – although more research will be needed to find out for sure [ 15 , 16 ].

In one other study, fMRI-based neurofeedback training (a type of MRI that can be used to monitor brain responses in real-time) was used to help 18 healthy adults learn to control their blood oxygen level-dependent signals, and was reported to lead to improved working memory abilities [ 17 ].

Some researchers are investigating whether neurofeedback could improve problems with attention and working memory. So far, the evidence is insufficient to support any claims.

Some early evidence suggests that EEG-based neurofeedback training may have potential to enhance the acquisition and organizations of new memories (both short- and long-term memory) [ 18 ].

According to one preliminary study in 50 healthy adults, using an EEG-based neurofeedback program to boost alpha wave strength was reportedly associated with increases in the accuracy of multiple types of memory (episodic, working, short-term). The stronger the boost in alpha waves, the more memory enhancement each subject showed [ 19 , 20 ].

In another study, EEG-based neurofeedback training (targeting SMR and upper alpha waves) was reported to improve verbal memory, short-term visual memory, and working memory in 70% of the subjects (including 17 stroke patients and 40 healthy control subjects). This neurofeedback training was reported to be more effective than traditional cognitive training, and the study’s authors proposed that neurofeedback could potentially benefit patients suffering from brain damage (such as the stroke patients in their study) [ 21 ].

Finally, another study in 27 healthy human subjects reported that EEG-based neurofeedback improved memory consolidation during sleep [ 22 ].

In a few small clinical studies, neurofeedback affected the acquisition and organization of new memories, but it’s unclear whether these results have any reliable clinical application.

In a few preliminary studies, EEG-based neurofeedback was used […]


Cannabis use disorder more common in adults with pain

Cannabis use disorder more common in adults with pain

A new study published in the journal American Journal of Psychiatry reports that the use of cannabis for non-medical indications is much more common in adults who have pain than in others. This includes those who use marijuana very often or heavily enough to be considered to have a problem with dependence. What is marijuana?

Marijuana is the term used for the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. These are used as mind-altering drugs due to components such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which have profound psychological effects. Marijuana is currently the Number 1 psychotropic drug, and only alcohol is more commonly used. Many young people, including students in middle and high school, are using marijuana, and it is becoming a substance used in e-cigarettes as well. Image Credit: Lifestyle discover / Shutterstock Marijuana can now be used for medical or recreational purposes in 34 and 11 states of the USA, respectively. However, many papers have reported that using large doses of cannabis can heighten the risk of vehicle accidents, mental symptoms, breathing distress and cannabis use disorder, like addiction. Nonetheless, cannabis is still considered to be a harmless drug and many people use it without a medical indication almost every day. In particular, more students today say they think regular use of marijuana is not a risky act. Effects of marijuana

Marijuana smoking produces both short-term and long-term effects. THC from smoke quickly enters the blood, reaches the brain and other organs, and acts on endocannabinoid receptors. These are receptors that are designed to react to natural substances which act like THC and are important in the natural growth and development of the brain. When marijuana is ingested, the effects are delayed in onset, generally seen after 30 minutes to an hour.

THC activates brain regions with the highest number of these receptors, causing the person to feel a high, as well as to experience more vivid sensations, mood changes, difficulties with movement and cognitive processing (thinking, judgment, memory and logic), hallucinations and delusions. Frank psychosis, or mental imbalance, can also occur and is most likely if the individual is on highly potent preparations of marijuana on a regular basis.

The long-term effects include impaired brain development. If the drug is first begun in adolescence, the developing brain is vulnerable to impairments of cognition, causing difficulties with learning, memory and thinking. It seems to affect the nerve connections that are normally grown between the different brain regions that act together to execute these complex tasks. It is still unclear if these changes are transitory or persist over time.

Other problems include respiratory difficulties due to lung irritation, a higher heart rate, lower fetal weight as well as a higher risk for poor brain and behavioral development if the drug is used in pregnancy, and intense vomiting. The study

The purpose of this study was to find out what factors drove the risk of cannabis addiction. The researchers drew data from the National Epidemiologic Surveys on Alcohol and Related Conditions in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, related to the use of cannabis. They looked at the patterns of use for non-medical reasons in adults, both those who had and those who did not have pain. The findings

The study shows that about 20% of individuals in either survey said they had pain of moderate to severe degree. The use of non-medical marijuana went up to almost 10% in 2013, from 4% in 2002. The scientists also observed that the increase in frequency was significantly skewed towards patients with pain compared to those without, at 5% vs 3.5%. The same was the case with the risk of addiction, which occurred in over 4% in those with pain but in less than 3% in those without it.

The researchers point out the paradox that most meta-analyses of the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of pain show mixed results, even while 2 out of 3 American adults believe that it helps significantly to manage one’s pain. In view of the fact that about a fifth of the adult population has moderate to severe pain, the number of adults who are at risk for cannabis addiction because of their non-medical use of the drug is very high. It should be noted that marijuana preparations available today are steadily becoming more potent compared to earlier times, which is one factor behind the increasing number of emergency room visits following the use of this drug. The regular use of high-potency cannabis also increases the risk that the person will become addicted and also the risk of psychosis. The solution

The study authors recommend a balanced reporting about the effects of marijuana and the issues associated with its use. Says researcher Deborah Hasin, “Greater balance is needed in media reporting of marijuana issues, including messages that convey credible information about the nature and magnitude of health risks from non-medical cannabis use, including among the large group of US adults with pain. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals treating patients with pain should monitor their patients for signs and symptoms of cannabis use disorder.”

U.S. Adults With Pain, A Group Increasingly Vulnerable to Nonmedical Cannabis Use and Cannabis Use Disorder: 2001–2002 and 2012–2013 Deborah S. Hasin, Dvora Shmulewitz, Magdalena Cerdá, Katherine M. Keyes, Mark Olfson, Aaron L. Sarvet, and Melanie M. Wall American Journal of Psychiatry,