Brain Aging Research with Dr. Pamela Greenwood (BSP 87)

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Pamela Greenwood, PhD

Nuturing the Older Brain and Mind, by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuaman provides a comprehensive review of the current research in cognitive aging.  In the latest Brain Science Podcast (BSP 87)Dr. Greenwood explains that brain aging and cognitive aging are not the same thing; the typical brain changes that are associated with normal brain aging (such as shrinkage) are not reliable predictors of cognitive decline. Fortunately, even though normal brain aging is still not well understood, the discovery of brain plasticity is shifting the focus of research. Not only does brain plasticity offer new hope for people who suffer strokes and other brain injuries, it also suggests that life style choices influence cognitive function at all ages.

Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind is intended for an academic audience but it is accessible to everyone. This month's interview with Dr. Greenwood (BSP 87) focuses on dispelling the most stubborn myths about brain aging. We also talk about the practical steps we can all take to help maintain our cognitive performance.

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Related Episodes:

  • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity.
  • BSP 26: Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
  • BSP 28: Edward Taub: applying brain plasticity to stroke rehabilitation.
  • BSP 68: Peter Whitehouse on dementia versus normal brain aging.

References:

  • Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind, by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuraman (2012).
  • The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge.
  • Greenwood, P. M. (2007) Functional Plasticity in Cognitive Aging: Review and Hypothesis. Neuropsychology  21(6) 657–673.
  • Greenwood, P. M., and Parashauraman, R. (2010) Neuronal and cognitive plasticity: A neurocognitive framework for ameliorating cognitive aging. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2: 150.
  • Gould, E. and Gross, C.G. (2002) Neurogenesis in adult mammals: Some progress and problems. Journal of Neuroscience 22 (3): 619-623.
  • Taub, E., Uswatte, G., and Elbert, T. (2002) New treatments in neurorehabilitation founded on basic research. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 3 (3): 228-236.
  • Grady, C. L., McIntosh, A.R., and Craik, F.I. (2003) Age-related differences in the functional connectivity of the hippocampus during memory encoding. Hippocampus 13 (5): 572-586.
  • Colcombe, S.J., A.F. Kramer, K.I. Erickson, P. Scalf, E. McAuley, N.J. Cohen, A. Webb, et al.,
  • Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2004. 101(9): p. 3316-21.
  • Hertzog, C., Kramer, A. F., Wilson, R. S. and Lindenberger, U. (2009) Enrichment effects on adult cognitive development: Can the functional capacity of older adults be preserved and enhanced? Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9 (1): 1-65.
  • Kramer, A.F., Larish, J. F.,  and Strayer, D. L. (1995) Training for attentional control in dual tasking settings: A comparison of young and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 1: 50-76.
  • Nagamatsu, L.S., Handy, T. C., et. al. 2012. Resistance Training Promotes Cognitive and Functional Brain Plasticity in Seniors With Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment.Archives of Internal Medicine 172 (8) 666-668.
  • Liu-Ambrosea, T.,  Nagamatsua, L.S., Vosse, M.W.,  Khanc, K.M., and. Handy, T. C. (2012) Resistance training and functional plasticity of the aging brain: a 12-month randomized controlled trial. Neurobiology of Aging 33: 1690 –1698.
  • Willis, S.L. et. al (2006) Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association 296 (23): 2805-2814.
  • For more references: see Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind and the free transcript of BSP 87.

Announcements:

Michael Merzenich Talks About Neuroplasticity (BSP 54)

Brain Science Podcast #54 is an interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, one of the pioneers of neuroplasticity.  We talk about how the success of the cochlear implant revealed unexpected plasticity in adult brains and about how brain plasticity can be tapped to improve a wide variety of problems including dyslexia, autism, damage from disease and injury.  Healthy people of all ages can also tap the resource of brain plasticity to help maintain and improve their mental functions.

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Links and References

Previous Episodes on Brain Plasticity

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

"All in the Mind" Looks at Brain Plasticity

Recently Natasha Mitchell did an excellent two-part All in the Mind  podcast about brain plasticity.  In Part 1, she interviewed Jeffrey Schwartz, MD and Norman Doidge, MD.  Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, and Dr. Doidge wrote the recent bestseller,The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.

In Part 2, Mitchell interviews Dr. Doidge further.  One of the topics they explore is the "dark side" of plasticity.  Since neuroplasticity is a dynamic, competitive process, it is actually a factor in how we form our habits, both good and bad . This interview is an excellent follow-up to the interview Dr. Doidge did for the Brain Science Podcast back in Episode 26.

You can listen to the podcasts and get transcripts at the All in the Mind website.

From SharpBrains: Neurogenesis and Brain Plasiticity

In her latest post for SharpBrains Laurie Bartels reviews some of the principles of brain plasticity.  One principle that she mentions that I think deserves more attention is the importance of learning new things.

Adults may have a tendency to get set in their ways – I’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change?  Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy.  At the April Learning & the Brain conference, the theme of which was neuroplasticity, I attended several sessions on adult learning. (Click here to read Laurie's post.)

She goes on to review the highlights of the Learning and Brain Conference.  You can read the full post at: http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/08/07/neurogenesis-and-brain-plasticity-in-adult-brains/

Edward Taub's Revolutionary Approach to Stroke Rehabilitation (BSP 28)

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Edward Taub, PhD, pioneer of Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Episode 28 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Edward Taub, who for the last 20+ years has been pioneering the use of Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy in the rehabilitation of stroke and other neurological disabilities.  I have talked about his work in previous episodes (including Episode 10 and Episode 26) as an important example of the practical implications of brain plasticity. 

In this interview,  Dr. Taub shares his personal experiences in the front lines of clinical research, including both its rewards and frustrations.  He also explains the basics of how constraint-induced therapy (CI Therapy) works and how his work is being expanded to help patients with a wide variety of problems including cerebral palsy, head trauma, multiple sclerosis, and focal hand dystonia.

How to get this episode:

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Links and References:

Dr. Taub recommends that interested listeners do their own Google search under "constraint-induced movement therapy" or CI Therapy, but I have included a few links below:

About Dr. Taub:

Other Links:

References:

Neuroplasticity: A Review of its Discovery (BSP 10)

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In this episode of the Brain Science Podcast we explore the recent research that has established, contrary to long-standing dogma, that our brains our able to change throughout our lives, based on our experience.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy BSP 1-10 (zip file of mp3 files)
  • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
  • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are still FREE. See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Show Notes

The reference for this episode is Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves, by Sharon Begley.  This book describes the 2004 meeting between the Dalai Llama and several leading neuroscientists.  To learn more about these meetings, go to the Mind and Life Institute website.  All the studies that I mention in the podcast are referenced in the back of the book.

Here is a list of the some of the scientists and their work:

  • Michael Meany- McGill University: He has shown that the way that a mother rat treats her babies determine which genes in the baby's brain are turned on and which are turned off.
  • Fred Gage- the Salk Institute:  His work with lab animals showed that adult brains do change.  (more from Google)
  • Helen Neville-University of Oregon: She has shown that the auditory and visual cortices are rewired in people who are born blind or deaf.
  • Phillip Shaver-UC-Davis: He is a pioneer in attachment theory: how people's sense of emotional security, acquired in childhood, affects their adult behavior, including their response to other ethnic groups and their willingness to help others.
  • Richard Davidson-Wisconsin:  He has done studies showing how the brain is changed by meditation.
  • Edward Taub- University of Alabama in Birmingham:  He helped develop a revolutionary treatment for stroke victims.
  • Jeffery Schwartz-UCLA:  He has used mindfulness meditation to treat obsessive compulsive disorder, showing that meditation can change the brain in beneficial ways.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn- University of Massachusetts:  He has done many years of work using mindfulness meditation to treat stress related diseases.
  • Michael Merzenich:  Pioneer researcher who also founded FastForward™ and Posit Science™.

More Links of Interest:

I am sure this list is incomplete.  If you have a question or comment about a topic mentioned on the show, leave a comment below, or send me email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

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