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September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

The beginning of September marks the month of world awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease around the world. In 2016, it is estimated that around 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, with the majority being age 65 and older. Alzheimer’s effects not only those diagnosed with the disease but also their families and friends. In honor of raising Alzheimer’s awareness this month, here are some interesting things to know about the disease.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Plaque develops in the spaces between nerve cells, limiting the communication between the cells, which results in a decreased cognitive function. Proteins that channel chemical messages inside the nerve cells deform and tangle which leads to the loss of these nerve cells. There are three general stages to Alzheimer’s: mild, moderate, and severe. In the mild stage, people with Alzheimer’s can independently function but may have trouble remembering words, names, places, or objects. In the moderate stage, people with Alzheimer’s may confuse words, become frustrated or angry, act in odd ways, and have difficulty expressing thoughts and performing everyday tasks. In the severe stage, people with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty communicating, have changes in personality, need extensive help and care, and lose the ability to control movements. Within these three stages there are many more symptoms that can occur.

Some facts about Alzheimer’s disease

  • Twice as many women have Alzheimer’s as men do
  • Early onset Alzheimer’s can start in people as young as age 30
  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Every 68 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
  • Alzheimer’s has only been discovered since 1906

Where can you find support?

For people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there are free and local support groups that are designed to provide emotional and social support. There are also free and local support groups for caregivers and family members that are educational but also emotionally supportive.

Check out our website www.plusonefoundation.org to learn more and see how we’re making a difference.

Alzheimer's disease concept

Although Alzheimer’s is a tragic and horrific disease, there are many people out there that are affected by it because it is so common. The most important thing to remember is you are never alone and there is always help available for you.

Aquatic Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injuries

By: Megan Brodsky

aquatic therapy

Last week we held our annual Mermaid Event Fundraiser created in honor of Mary McKillop, a friend of Kacey’s who swam together at the Seattle Public Swimming Pools. Mary passed away in 2010, but her generous and giving spirit never left. The Mary ‘Mermaid’ McKillop Fund was created and the Mermaid Fundraiser as well. The Fundraiser helps provide more people with access to aquatic therapy, which has shown many benefits for brain injury rehabilitation.

What is aquatic therapy?

Similar to physical therapy done on land, individuals with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and other neurological injuries, diseases, and disorders who participate in aquatic therapy have the ability to exercise in water. The reason aquatic therapy is so useful for people with TBIs and other neurological injuries, diseases, and disorders is because many are unable to exercise on land due to loss of balance or fear of falling, but the buoyancy of water allows them to do so comfortably. Aquatic therapy patients are relieved of most of their body weight when exercising in water, which helps their ability to complete exercises they would otherwise could not do on land.

What are the benefits of aquatic therapy?

One specific benefit of aquatic therapy is the hydrostatic pressure that exists in water. Hydrostatic pressure is the force applied on the body when in water by fluid molecules. Essentially, this makes it so the patient can get the benefits of hydrostatic pressure just by going in the water, with no exercise required. Hydrostatic pressure reduces pain and increases range of motion. It also helps blood circulation throughout the body.

Being in the water gives a feeling similar to compression socks for individuals going through rehabilitation. This provides equal pressure throughout the body and also works the respiratory system harder. This allows the muscles engaged in the respiratory system to tone up without strenuous activity.

Along with the physical benefits of aquatic therapy, it has also shown helping psychosocial areas. Aquatic therapy helps reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration abilities, strengthen one’s confidence, enhance one’s well-being, and help find a calm center and relax.

Conclusion

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Aquatic therapy has shown multiple benefits for individuals with traumatic brain injuries and other neurological injuries, diseases, and disorders from physical to emotional areas. Aquatic therapy is a unique experience in that the patient has the ability to exercise without the strain caused by physical therapy on land. Not only does it help patients improve their range of motion but also gives them a feeling of confidence they may have lost.

Investing in Yourself and The Path to Happiness

By: Megan Brodsky

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One of the greatest feelings a person can know is the fulfillment of progress and improvement. For those who have suffered from traumatic injuries, it is arguably most important to recuperate and advance their debilitated functions. There have been endless developments in therapeutic treatments, from music and dance to exercise therapy. But what has been taken for granted and easily glanced over is the self-impression we have of ourselves. The impact we have on how we feel about ourselves is so immense and strong it can undoubtedly change the way we go through our lives, especially when it comes to dealing with injuries and recoveries.
Working at a salon, I have seen how a simple hair style can change the way one looks at his or herself. There is no question the best part of my job is seeing the glow on clients’ faces when they leave with that extra boost of confidence from our services. It seems silly, but the reality is that everyone needs to feel that satisfaction in themselves. To some, it may seem superficial to give the way you look such power over how you feel about yourself, but to others, it is much needed self-appreciation. Investing in ourselves is something I have learned to be very important for one’s happiness. Doing things for ourselves that make us happy is so crucial to living our lives to the fullest. It do12383577_453694364823802_1786089101_nesn’t have to be changing our physical appearances, but simply anything that makes us feel good inside. It is especially important to give ourselves things to look forward to and feel good about when we are going through rough times in life. I used to be so concerned with what other people thought about me and the things I do that give me a boost of confidence and make me happier. However, I have learned that the only person whose opinion matters on the subject is my own. If there is someone or something stopping you from investing in yourself, take a step back and look at who is really benefitting from it – because it’s most likely not you, which is all who matters when it comes to your happiness, right? I cannot stress enough how important it is for each of us to be fully satisfied with the lives we live and to go to bed at night truly happy with who we are. It has personally taken me a while to get to that point, but with a little self-investment, my outlook on myself and my life has only gotten better and more positive.

So for those of you who are having a hard time feeling fully satisfied with what life has given you, I strongly encourage you to go out and find something that brings you pure joy. Though it may be hard to override the opinions of others, listen to yourself and only then will you be able to really understand what you need in your life to feel whole. Now go out there and be inspired – read a book, take a yoga class, or get your hair done!

 

Exercise Therapy and Neurogenesis: The Road to Recovery

By Jack Stimson    Feb 25, 2016

neurogenesis

When neurons were first discovered to be individual units, linked through electrical and chemical signals, no one thought that new neurons could be reproduced in adulthood. Essentially, the belief was that you were born with the maximum neurons you would ever have and they would slowly decrease in number as we aged. As technology advanced, however, this viewpoint changed. We now know that the reproduction of neurons (neurogenesis) is possible in the adult brain and that it serves many functions that benefit us on a day-to-day basis.

Exercise Therapy and Neurogenesis

One of the most prominent findings regarding neurogenesis is the beneficial interaction of exercise on the neurogenesis process. The primary studies that I read use evidence of brains that have undergone radiotherapy treatment (to eradicate brain tumors) to indicate how the effects of exercise altered the production of new neurons. They showed that even in a significantly inhospitable environment, such as a brain that has been damaged by radiotherapy, neurogenesis could be restored to pre-radio therapy levels through exercise therapy.

This increase in neurogenesis is great and all, but what exactly does this mean for the body? Well, newly created neurons use their connections with the hormonal-endocrine pathway to help reduce and regulate stress levels throughout the body. They have also been found to increase/maintain memory ability, which we know can decrease dramatically. On a side note, memory tasks are often used as the main measure of cognitive performance and so by engaging in exercise therapy you are basically maintaining your cognitive abilities (read: you basically get smarter).

Neurogenesis also aids in the production of glia cells, which serve numerous roles in the brain and actually make up 50% of the neurons within the brain. Although their role is often understated, they are extremely important to our functioning and without them we would die. That being said, glia cells maintain our blood brain barrier, which acts as a buffer between the blood and what makes it into our brain. It is extremely important because we can’t just let any old substance get into our brains!

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This figure above shows a blood brain barrier that isn’t doing such a good job of keeping things out of the brain. Neurogenesis, however, has been shown to aid/repair the blood brain barrier through the production of new cells, thus keeping weird junk out of our brains.

Conclusion

Exercise therapy is incredibly beneficial to those recovering from any sort of brain injury or neurological condition due to its positive effect on neurogenesis. Even just getting up from your desk and walking around can have huge benefits on not only your mood but cognitive abilities as well. If you don’t know where to start, we at Plus One would love to help you achieve your goals and make new neurons!

 

Is it a headache or a migraine and what is causing it?

 

By Lisa Nicholson 


              Cluster-Headache-vs.-Migraine

Headaches and migraines are both neurological disorders that impact many of us every day. Migraines and headaches fall into the same family, but one is much more severe than the other. There are also different causes and symptoms for each, varying between person.

A headache, as many of us know, is characterized by mild to moderate pain, including a steady ache throughout the head. On the other hand, a migraine is moderate to severe, with throbbing pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines: Genetics and environmental

Although much about the cause of migraines isn’t understood, it is believed that genetics and environmental factors play a role. Changes in the brainstem and its interactions with nerves may cause migraines. Additionally, researchers are continuing to study the role of serotonin in migraines, noticing that imbalances in brain chemicals, like serotonin, may be involved.

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During a migraine, serotonin levels drop significantly. It’s possible that this causes your trigeminal system to released neuropeptides. These neuropeptides then travel to your brain’s outer covering which results in the pain you feel.

What triggers migraines? 

The exact cause of a migraine is uncertain. However, there are many things that can trigger migraines such as: hormone changes, foods or food additives, stress, changes in sleeping habits, medications, sensory stimuli, and changes in the environment. Scientists continue to research migraines to understand their cause.

frequency

Diet can greatly impact frequency and severity of migraines. Cutting back on gluten, sugar, and alcohol can improve your condition. Additionally, staying hydrated is key. Try to drink about three liters of water daily to prevent dehydration-related headaches.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines. Working with your doctor to manage your condition is the best alternative at this time. Two types of treatment are available: pain-relieving medications and preventative medications. Pain-relieving medications are suggested during an attack, when you’re already experiencing pain. Preventative medications are to be taken every day in hopes of reducing the severity or frequency of migraines.

While sometimes overlooked, both headaches and migraines are common neurological disorders that many of us face. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you are experiencing severe head pain.


 

Questions about the article? Contact us at connect@plusonefoundation.org. 

Music and Dance: A Therapy Stronger than Words

 

Irving_Berlin_aboard_the_USS_Arkansas,_944Irving Berlin singing to troops aboard the USS Arkansas in 1944.

“Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.” -Yehudi Menuhin

Music therapy formally began as a profession during the first and second World Wars, in which communities of musicians would travel to hospitals to play to the suffering veterans. The doctors and nurses who were stationed at these various hospitals noticed the physical and psychological benefit of this treatment on their patients, and called for the hospital to hire full time musicians. However, training was necessary to successfully carry out this job, which led to the first college classes in music therapy.

With the rise in popularity and demand for music therapists, researchers began to wonder what were the underlying causes of the benefits of this therapy. Specifically, why is emotion so closely tied with music and what areas of the brain contribute to this link?

The primary auditory cortex is located in the temporal lobes of the brain, adjacent to the ears. This placement makes it essential in sound processing and obviously music processing. But the cortical connections and processing don’t end there. The auditory cortex projects to the primal part of our brain, the parts of the brain responsible for our emotions. This area of inner cortical structures is called the limbic system. Specifically, there is an aggregate of cells within the limbic system called the Nucleus Accumbens, which play a major part in the reward circuitry in the brain. This circuit creates pleasure from food, sex, and addiction. And, what’s more, the Nucleus Accumbens is activated when we listen to pleasurable music causing a release in dopamine, which causes us to feel pleasure.

 

UntitledFigure 1: The Right NAcc, at the top of the picture, is the nucleus accumbens and this chart is showing increased connectivity from various regions of the brain, but it specifically is connecting strongly to the auditory cortex. This illustrates the link between music interpretation and the reward circuitry in our brain. Taken from Valorie N. Salimpoor, interactions between the Nucleus Accumbens and the Auditory Cortices predict music reward value.

So to sum up all this neuroscience jargon; music is processed in the primary auditory cortex, which is explicitly linked with the reward pathway in the brain.

Dancing, as anyone who has ever met Kacey Kroeger knows, goes hand in hand with music. Therefore, I want to also mention the mechanisms underlying dance therapy and the benefits of this type of therapy.

 

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Figure 2: A diagram of the proposed neural circuit that is affected through dance therapy. The action of mirroring is facilitated by the mirror neuron system (MNS), which has direct connections to the emotional center of the brain (the limbic system). This circuit increases empathy for others as well as within us. Taken from Lucy M. McGarry http://www.autismmovementtherapy.org/site/images/dmt_mns_2011.pdf

One of the most significant findings about dance therapy is the feeling of empathy that one feels while following the dance moves of another person. Not only do people following along better understand the emotions of the leader, but in understanding the leader’s emotions they come to feel those emotions themselves. This is due to an interaction between the mirror neuron system (neurons that allow us to copy behavior) and the limbic system (emotional regulation). In dance therapy we start by following along with the instructor, thereby activating our mirror neurons in the frontal cortex of the brain. This mirror neuron system then feeds into the primal limbic system, which controls our emotions. This process not only allows the followers to better relate to the leader, through increased empathy, but in doing so they feel those same positive emotions. This is why dance therapy and just dancing in general makes us feel so good! So keep on dancing!

-Jack Stimson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with ADHD: A Misunderstood Disorder

By Sundeep Rai1965466_879628078738376_6943305102318494595_o

During the first week of every December, the U District streets near the campus of the University of Washington go quiet and a dull mood sets across campus as students migrate from lively bars and house parties, to local coffee shops and campus libraries. However, caffeine and snacks are not the only things undergrads seek during the inevitable finals week. Many students are out on a desperate hunt for ADHD medications, popularly known as “study helpers.”

Due to its easy accessibility and high demand, a large black market for ADHD medications has risen across college campuses throughout the country. Furthermore, many young adults purposely fail diagnostic tests so they can receive prescription drugs to sell or use. As a consequence of this, ADHD is easily overlooked and claimed by many to not be a true neurological disorder.

As a senior undergraduate who was diagnosed with ADHD in middle school, I constantly hear people talking about using these medications for no other purpose but to supplement their studying. I have heard people talk about purposely failing diagnostic tests in order to receive prescriptions, and I have had people tell me that my condition is not real and is simply an “excuse.” These situations are often extremely frustrating, and only add to the burdens of living with ADHD.

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At Tongariro National Park, New Zealand 

ADHD is in fact a very real neurological and behavioral condition. I have struggled a lot with ADHD in my academics, as well as in my personal relationships. Sometimes it is hard to not blame my inability to focus on myself, calling ADHD an excuse for my lack of productivity. Other times I might have a hard time controlling impulses when I am excited, all while losing awareness of others around me. However, despite all of the obstacles that having ADHD throws in my path, I have learned that the best way to handle ADHD is to embrace it, and use it to its advantages.

While ADHD carries a negative stigma due to people’s ability to abuse and mislabel it, it is a very real and prevalent disorder. ADHD makes it harder to form personal relationships and function properly in the classroom and professional work environment. However, when approached in a positive manner, ADHD can provide any individual with unique strengths and talents.

I believe that my ADHD makes me who I am; a creative, enthusiastic and outgoing individual. I always have a smile on my face and enjoy taking on challenges. While I may jump around between tasks, I always make sure to finish everything. ADHD often does put me at a disadvantage against my classmates, but because of this, I believe that ADHD has shaped me to become a stronger individual with enthusiasm and will.

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With friends at a South Africa vs. New Zealand Rugby match at Westpac Stadium, New Zealand.