2nd Health Bulletin


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2nd Health Bulletin

  1. 1.                   "Emotions are not the intangible and vaporous qualities that many presume them to be. Brain systems work   together to give us emotions just as they do with sight and smell. If you lose the ability to feel, your life, and the lives of people around you, can be devastated”. - Antonio R. Damasio     By: Dr. Lydia C. Medina Ana G. Méndez Health Symposia Director Vice Presidency for Planning & Academic Affairs Sistema Universitario Ana G. MéndezIntroductionThe history of our search to understand the brain is certainly as long as human history itself. The mystery beginsin the womb, only four weeks into gestation the first brain cells, the neurons, are already forming at theastonishing rate: 250,000 every minute. Billions of neurons will create links with billions of other neurons andeventually there will be trillions and trillions of connections between cells. Every cell is precisely in its place,every link between neurons carefully organized. Nothing is random; nothing arbitrary.One way a newborn is introduced to the world is through vision. The eyes and the visual cortex of an infantcontinue to develop after birth according to how much stimulation the newborn can handle. What happens to thebrain when a baby is born with a visual abnormality? For example, infant cataracts pose an interesting challengeto scientists of how to remove the visual obstruction without compromising the child’s brain development.When we are babies, our brains are more open to the shaping hand of experience than at any time in our lives.In response to the demands of the world, the babys brain sculpts itself. The adult brain, on the other hand, is theapotheosis of the human intellect, but what about emotion? The study of emotion was once relegated to thebackwaters of neuroscience, a testament to the popular conception that what we feel exists outside our brains,acting only to intrude on normal thought. The science has changed: Emotion is now considered integral to ourover-all mental health. In mapping our emotions, scientists have found that our emotional brain overlays ourthinking brain: The two exist forever intertwined. There is a critical interplay between reason and emotion. We
  2. 2. are well aware of how brain malfunctions can cause pain, depression, and emotional paralysis. We must alsounderstand that the brain affects positive emotional responses such as laughter, excitement, happiness, and love.The latest discoveries in neuroscience present a new view of how the brain ages. Overturning decades ofdogma, scientists recently discovered that even into our seventies, our brains continue producing new neurons.Scientists no longer hold the longstanding belief that we lose vast numbers of brain cells as we grow older. Thenormal aging process leaves most mental functions intact, and may even provide the brain with uniqueadvantages that form the basis for wisdom. The aging brain is also far more resilient than was previouslybelieved.Streff  Syndrome    This syndrome is a classic problem of stress. Occurs when there is a breakdown between the visual motorfunction and the sensory function due to stress. Named after Dr. John Streff, Streff Syndrome is also known asFunctional Bilateral Amblyopia or Non-malingering Syndrome. The onset of this disorder can be triggered byphysical or psychological trauma or an alteration in the demands put on an individual. Streff syndrome is adifferent type of amblyopia labeled psychogenic. Psychogenic means the origin is in the mind or moreaccurately in the parts of the brain that process vision. It usually occurs around the age of puberty, which iswhen stress-induced disorders are most prevalent. This visual condition is primarily exhibited by children underperiods of visual or emotional stress.The act of seeing starts when the lens of the eye focuses an image of its surroundings onto a light-sensitivemembrane in the back of the eye, called the retina. The retina is actually part of the brain that is isolated to serveas a transducer for the conversion of patterns of light into neuronal signals. The lens of the eye focuses light onthe photoreceptive cells of the retina, which detect the photons of light and respond by producing neuralimpulses. These signals are processed in a hierarchical fashion by different parts of the brain, from the retina tothe lateral geniculate nucleus, to the primary and secondary visual cortex of the brain. Therefore, in StreffSyndrome the child might receive the visual stimulus correctly but the brain is unable to interpret adequatelythat information. Somehow these individuals are unable process what they are seeing. 2    
  3. 3. A simple explanation of this condition revolves about the understanding of the fight or flight response. Whenconfronted with a stressor, a living organism generally chooses either to fight (to stay involved in the event andto continue to deal with or confront the stressor), or to fly away from the stress to resolve the conflict. TheStreff Syndrome appears because the individual is conflicted about how to resolve the stress. The conflict in thevisual process becomes all consuming and effectively creates a variable blockage in the neural systems thatnormally handle the processing of the detailed part of our central vision.The onset of the vision problem can be quite sudden. Children who manifest this syndrome are often shy,unsure and hesitant individuals. They also will tuck their chin down and may have a dull facial expression.During the examination, it is noticed that the harder the child tries, the worse the condition seems to get. Visualacuity is equally reduced to less than 20/30 in both eyes and at all distances.Parents need to understand the reasons behind the onset of this condition. It is important to reassure the parentand child that this condition is generally self-limiting. The main clinical treatment of this condition is the use ofa low plus eyewear prescription. This may be in the form of reading glasses or multifocal lenses. The effect ofthis prescription reduces the visual stress by just enough to allow the visual system to re-engage, organize andprocess information efficiently. Most patients recover normal distance vision within approximately six weeks.Other treatment options include vision therapy and actively reducing the stress-causing factors in the patient’slives. “When vision is working well it guides and leads in all that we do.” (Dr. John Streff)   Visual PathwayGlossary:Visual perception: is the ability to interpret information from visible light reaching the eye. The resultingperception is also known as eyesight, sight or vision. The various physiological components involved in visionare referred to collectively as the visual system, and are the focus of much research in psychology, cognitivescience, neuroscience and molecular biology.Amblyopia: lazy eye is a disorder of the visual system that is characterized by poor or indistinct vision in an eyethat is otherwise physically normal. It is a term used to describe an uncorrectable loss of vision in an eye thatappears to be normal. Before treating amblyopia, it may be necessary to first treat the underlying cause. Some 3    
  4. 4. causes of amblyopia include: strabismus (crossed or turned eye), congenital cataracts, cloudy cornea, droopyeyelid, psychological, unequal vision and uncorrected nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Signs andsymptoms include the following: poor vision in one or both eyes, squinting or closing one eye while reading orwatching television, crossed or turned eye and turning or tilting the head when looking at an object, amongothers. Visual Cortex: All visual information that the human mind receives is processed by a part of the brainknown as visualcortex. The visual cortex is part of the outermost layer of the brain, the cortex, and is located atthe dorsal pole of the occipital lobe; more simply put, at the lower rear of the brain. The visual cortex obtains itsinformation via projections that extend all the way through the brain from the eyeballs. The projections firstpass through a stopover point in the middle of the brain, an almond-like lump known as the Lateral GeniculateNucleus, or LGN. From there they are projected to the visual cortex for processing.Sources:College of Optometrists in Vision Development Conference, 2008Press, Leonard. Applied Concepts in Vision Therapy, St. Louis: Mosby 2007Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 2, No. 4, 205-208 (1969)Interconnection  of  the  Brain  &  Music  The influence of music on society can be clearly seen. Every known culture on the earth has music. Musicseems to be one of the basic actions of humans. In modern history it is reported that music helped ThomasJefferson write the Declaration of Independence. When he could not figure out the right wording for a certainpart, he would play his musical instrument. Music helped him get the words from his brain onto paper. Anotherexcellent example is Albert Einstein who is recognized as one of the smartest men who has ever lived. In hisearly childhood, Einstein was perceived by his teachers as having learning disabilities, therefore they suggestedthat Einstein be moved to a vocational program. Instead his mother bought him a violin. Albert becameproficient at the violin. Music was the key that helped Albert Einstein express his intelligence to become one ofthe most brilliant men. Einstein himself attributed his intellectual capacity to playing the violin. He lovedMozart’s and Bach’s music. A friend of Einstein, G.J. Withrow, said that the way Einstein figured out hisproblems and equations was by improvising on the violin.Response to music is easily observed in the human body. Classical music from the baroque period causes theheart beat and pulse rate to relax to the beat of the music. As the body becomes relaxed the mind is able toconcentrate more easily. Furthermore, baroque music decreases blood pressure and enhances the ability to learn.Music affects the amplitude and frequency of brain waves, which can be measured by an electro-encephalogram. Music also produces changes in the breathing rate. It has been observed to cause the pupils todilate, increase blood pressure, and increase the heart rate.The power of music to affect memory is quite intriguing. Mozarts music and baroque music, with a 60 beats perminute pattern, activate the left and right brain. The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learningand retention of information. The information being studied activates the left brain while the music activates theright brain. Also, activities which engage both sides of the brain at the same time, such as playing an instrumentor singing, causes the brain to be more capable of processing information. According to The Center for NewDiscoveries in Learning, learning potential can be increased a minimum of five times by using this 60 beats perminute music.A renowned Bulgarian psychologist, Dr. George Lozanov, designed a way to teach foreign languages in afraction of the normal learning time. Dr. Lozanovs system involved using certain classical music pieces from 4    
  5. 5. the baroque period which have around a 60 beats per minute pattern. He has proven that foreign languages canbe learned with 85-100% efficiency in only thirty days by using these baroque pieces.Recall is better when the same music used for learning is used during recall. Also, tempo appears to be a key ofmusics effect on memory. One simple way students can improve test scores is by listening to certain types ofmusic such as Mozarts Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major before taking a test.One cannot deny the power of music. High school students who study music have higher grade point averagesthat those who don not. These students also develop faster physically. Student listening skills are also improvedthrough music education. The top three schools in America all place a great emphasis on music and the arts.Hungary, Japan, and the Netherlands, the top three academic countries in the world, all place a great emphasison music education and participation in music. Napoleon understood the enormous power of music. He summedit up by saying, "Give me control over he who shapes the music of a nation, and I care not who makes thelaws”.Sources:Jourdain, Robert. Music, the Brain and Ecstasy. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1997.Lundin, Robert W. An Objective Psychology of Music. Malabar: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1985.The Library of Congress. http://www.loc.govHarvard Gazette ArchivesMind  Illusions:  Do  you  know  what  the  world  looks  like?  The process of seeing begins with the presence of light, an image being formed on the retina, and an impulsetransmitted to the brain, but there are many other factors that play a part in how we perceive visually. Ourperceptions are influenced by our past experiences, imagination, and associations.The eye is made up of some of the most amazing tissue in the body. The lens, for example, is perfectly clear,perfectly curved and is capable of focusing on an incredible amount of data. But vision has only partly to dowith the retina, lens, and cornea. Understanding what we see mostly happens in the brain, which is why aperson with perfect vision is still susceptible to optical illusions. Do we know what the world looks like? Weknow approximately what it looks like, which is enough to get by, but our perception of the world is not withouta certain amount of misreading. Our visual nervous system approximates color, shape, and dimension. 5    
  6. 6. Some scientists say that face recognition occurs in a particular section of the brain. To the brain, this image ofLincolns face looks normal when viewed upside down, but when turned around becomes clearly distorted. Thisis because our brains recognize a face only when it is right side up. When it is presented upside down, the brainno longer recognizes it as a face but rather as an object, which is why we do not respond to its distortions. It isevident that there is more than meets the eye!Glossary:Optical Illusions: visually perceived images that differ from objective reality.Sources:Pylyshyn Z. Is vision continuous with cognition? The case for cognitive impenetrability ofvisual perception. Behav Brain Sci 1999; 22:341-65; discussion 366-423.Shepard. Mind Sights: Original Visual Illusions, Ambiguities, and other Anomalies. New York: WH Freemanand Company, 1990.Gelotherapy  Gelotherapy is the use of humor as a form of therapy in the treatment of illness. Humor is a wonderful stress-reducer and antidote to upsets. It is clinically proven to be effective in combating stress. Experts say a goodlaugh relaxes tense muscles, speeds more oxygen into your system and lowers your blood pressure.Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, haveproduced carefully controlled studies showing that the experience of laughter lowers serum cortisol levels,increases the amount of activated T-lymphocytes, increases the number and activity of natural killer cells, andincreases the number of T-cells that have helper/ suppresser receptors. In short, laughter stimulates the immunesystem, off-setting the immunosuppressive effects of stress.We know that, during stress, the adrenal gland releases corticosteroids (quickly converted to cortisol in theblood stream) and that elevated levels of these have an immunosuppressive effect. Berks research demonstratesthat laughter can lower cortisol levels and thereby protect our immune system.The emotions and moods we experience directly affect our immune system. Laughter positive emotions cancreate neurochemical changes that will buffer the immunosuppressive effects of stress. A persons interpretationof stress is not dependent solely on an external event, but also depends upon the perception of the event and themeaning he or she gives it. So, how you look at a situation determines if you will respond to it as threatening orchallenging.Modern neurophysiology states that laughter is linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex,which produces endorphins after a rewarding activity. 6    
  7. 7. Principal fissures laterally. (Frontal lobe is blue, Temporal lobe is green, Parietal lobe is violet & Occipital lobe is orange)Research has shown that some structures of the limbic system are involved in laughter. The limbic system is aprimitive part of the brain that is involved in emotions and helps us with basic functions necessary for survival.Two structures in the limbic system are involved in producing laughter: the amygdala and the hippocampus.While purely emotional responses such as laughter are mediated by subcortical structures, especially thehypothalamus; the cerebral cortex can modulate or suppress them."Humor perception involves the whole brain and serves to integrate and balanced activity in both hemispheres.Derks, researcher at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg has shown that there is a unique pattern ofbrain wave activity during the perception of humor. EEGs were recorded on subjects while they were presentedwith humorous material. During the setup to the joke, the cortexs left hemisphere began its analytical functionof processing words. Shortly afterward, most of the brain activity moved to the frontal lobe which is the centerof emotionality. Moments later the right hemispheres synthesis capabilities joined with the lefts processing tofind the pattern, to get the joke. A few milliseconds later, before the subject had enough time to laugh, theincreased brain wave activity spread to the sensory processing areas of the brain, the occipital lobe. Theincreased fluctuations in delta waves reached a crescendo of activity and crested as the brain got the joke andthe external expression of laughter began. Derks findings show that humor pulls the various parts of the braintogether rather than activating a component in only one area.Solid scientific research demonstrates that laughter offers the following benefits: • Lowering blood pressure. • Strengthening cardiovascular functions. • Reducing stress hormones. • Improving circulation. • Increasing muscle flexion. • Oxygenating the body by boosting the respiratory system. • Boosting immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gammainterferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. • Triggering the release of endorphins, the bodys natural painkillers. 7    
  8. 8. Humor gives us a different perspective on our problems. If we can make light out of the situation, it is no longerthreatening to us. Humor allows us to perceive and appreciate the incongruities of life and provides moments ofjoy and delight. So tune into your favorite sitcom on television. Read a funny book. Call a friend and chucklefor a few minutes.Glossary:Dacrygelosis: A condition of alternating between crying and laughing.Gelotology: A psychological and physiological study of laughter. The study of humor and laughter, and itseffects on the body.EEG: Electroencephalogram; Brain wave test. Brain cells communicate with each other by producing tinyelectrical impulses. In an EEG, this faint electrical activity is measured by putting electrodes on the scalp.Sources:Fun Is Good: How to Create Joy & Passion in Your Workplace & Career. Mike Veeck & PeteWilliams. Rodale. 2005.Humor and the Health Professions: The Therapeutic Use of Humor in Health Care. Vera M. Robinson. SLACKIncorporated. 1991.The Light Touch: How to Use Humor for Business Success. Malcolm L. Kushner. Simon & Schuster. 1990.The Laughter Prescription: How to Achieve Health, Happiness, and Peace of Mind through Humor. Laurence J.Peter and Bill Dana. Ballantine. 1982.Union  of  the  Senses:  Synesthesia  We depend on our sensory organs—eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue—to organize and navigate the worldaround us. The nervous system typically handles each sense input independently and discretely. But for as manyas 1 in every 100 people, scientists now estimate, there is cross-talk between sensory perceptions. Thecondition, known as synesthesia, is understood to be harmless and can result in some fascinating perception-mixing. Synesthetes may see colors when hearing sounds or strongly associate flavors with shapes andlanguage. A low note on the piano may look dark purple.Research into synesthesia began in the 19th century with a classic report by Sir Francis Galton, in which heoutlined the experiences of several synesthetes he had studied with color associations. Melissa Saenz, Ph.D., aneurobiologist of California Institute of Technology Brain Imaging Center has been working with synesthesiaand normal sensory experiences in brain-imaging experiments. Her work is focused on activating the parts ofthe brains cortex (the "gray matter") where vision and sound are processed. Her hypothesis is that our brainsroutinely transfer visual information over to the auditory section to "predict" the associated sound. That is, oureyes provide a preview of what a motion will sound like.A normal brain requires the actual sound to complete the perception of hearing. But a synesthetic brain may beable to "hear" the visual cue. Learning that the visual and auditory areas of the cortex have such a strongconnection is big news in the brain world. Its long been assumed those two functions worked independently.Currently, each sense operates within its own closed system until it reaches a multi-sensory region whereperceptions are integrated. 8    
  9. 9. Psychological research has demonstrated that synesthetic experiences can have measurable behavioralconsequences, while functional neuroimaging studies have identified differences in patterns of brain activation.Synesthesia has influenced many artists in various fields. Composer Alexander Scriabin, in his orchestral work,Prometheus: The Poem of Fire (1910), included a part for a "clavier à lumières". This instrument was playedlike the piano, but produced colored light instead of sound. We can infer now that Alexander Scriabin may havebeen a synesthete. The color system he described and which he used in pieces such as Prometheus, was alsoinfluenced by his theosophic readings, and based on Sir Isaac Newtons Optics.“When I see equations, I see the letters in colors -- I dont know why”, says Nobel Prize winner RichardFeynman. To a few, however, it is an indication that Feynman may have possessed synesthesia. Synesthesialiterally means `union of the senses and is defined as the stimulation of one sensory modality by another.Feynman appears to have exhibited grapheme-color in which synesthetes see black and white he perceivesletters or characters (graphemes) as colored. Other more exotic types of synesthesia exist where smells areassociated with shapes, or tastes with colors.While we wait to learn more, those with synesthesia can enjoy their enhanced soundtrack. Turn on, tune in …taste an adjective. The visual cortex (located in the back of the head, illustrated in red) responds to the image of the bell, while auditory cortex (in blue) responds to the sound of the bell. Neurons in the superior temporal sulcus (in green) integrate auditory and visual information.Glossary:Synesthesia: the word synesthesia is a hybrid of Latin and Greek the Latin syn (together) + esthesia, from theGreek aisthesis (sensation or perception). It is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of onesensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitivepathway. A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing ofa sound produces the visualization of a color. Grapheme: color synesthesia is a form of synesthesia in which anindividuals perception of numbers and letters is associated with the experience of colors. Color synesthesia isone of the most common forms of synesthesia, and because of the extensive knowledge of the visual system,one of the most studied. 9    
  10. 10. Physical Synesthesia: A sensation felt in one part of the body as a result of stimulus applied to another, as inreferred pain.Functional neuroimaging: is the use of neuroimaging technology to measure an aspect of brain function, oftenwith a view to understanding the relationship between activity in certain brain areas and specific mentalfunctions. It is primarily used as a research tool in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology,neuropsychology, and social neuroscience.Sources:Ward, J., Simner, J. (2002), `Phoneme-taste synesthesia: Linguistic and Conceptual Factors Downey, J.E.(1911), `A case of colored gustation. American Journal of Psychology, 22, pp. 528-539.Baron-Cohen, S., Wyke, M., Binnie, C. (1987), `Hearing words and seeing colors: an experimentalinvestigation of synesthesia, Perception, 16 (6), pp. 761-7. “Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions”. Vera Rubin “Intuition is the source of scientific knowledge”. AristotleRecommended  Reading    Discoveries Shed New Light on How the Brain Processes What the Eye Sees http://www.medicalnewstoday.com  Men are From Mars, Neuroscientists Find that Men and Women Respond Differently to Stress. http://www.sciencedaily.com  Coping Skills May Reduce Teen Depression. http://www.medicinenet.com  Staying Sharp: New Study Uncovers How People Maintain Cognitive Function in Old Age. http://www.sciencedaily.com  Fish Really is “Brain Food”: Vitamin D May Lessen Age-Related Cognitive Decline. http://www.sciencedaily.com  Growing Greatness. http://www.psychologytoday.com  Arts & Crafts: Keys to Scientific Creativity. http://www.psychologytoday.com  Imaging Pinpoints Brain Regions That See The Future. http://www.sciencedaily.com  Recommended Musical CD: Music for Accelerated Learning by Steven Halpern   10    
  11. 11. YouTube.com   From neurons to brain wiring, Dr. David Walsh gives an easy-to- understand tour of childrens and teens brain development and the impact of experience on the "wiring of their brains. Press here to watch video Researchers are finding that exercise can not only keep you fit, but make you smarter. A school in Illinois has developed a program that gets students moving and learning. Press here to watch video   Eat  Healthy   The American Heart Association suggests an intake of 1,500 to 3,000 milligrams (mg) per day of plant- based omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of walnuts has 2,570 mg of omega 3 fatty acids (1oz.). Go ahead and treat yourself to a healthy snack!   You may contact us at: agmushealthsymp@suagm.edu copyright 2009©Sistema Universitario Ana G. Méndez     11