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At the end of this article you can download the Think and Grow Rich pdf for free with no email required! No one around me had any interest in business, so I turned my attention to books, blogs, and eventually podcasts. Those thirteen steps, he claimed, were the secret to building wealth. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Some of my favorite business quotes come straight from Napoleon Hill. Hill claimed he learned the thirteen steps to riches from Andrew Carnegie whom he worked with for two decades. Carnegie was the wealthiest man in the world at the time.
The principles of abundance described in her books helped her to successfully serve one church in the Deep South, and to found several others from financial scratch. He present global ministry reaches into all 50 states, and 47 foreign countries. Her books are now translated abroad and she receives lecture invitations from all over the world.
Although she is no longer able to honor the many requests that are made, she continues researching and writing on the subject of abundance. She is listed in Who's Who and the Social Register, and has received an honorary doctorate. Catherine Ponder writes from a Christian perspective. Pagans may wish to substitute their own diety form where Ponder mentions God. Those uncomfortable with religion can substitute "The Universe".
The following books by Catherine Ponder are available to download in eBook form for immediate download. They may then be read on your computer and printed out. The eBooks are in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
The Millionaires of Genesis. The following books by Catherine Ponder may be ordered using a Credit Card via our association with site. Be sure to use the Back button on your browser after viewing or ordering to enable you to check out the other titles listed on this and our other pages: Rags to Enrichment Secret of Unlimited Prosperity.
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Charles Brodie Patterson. Albert C. Fenwicke L. Frank B. John Murray. Helen Wilmans. In the life expectancy of an American was There are greater societal and cognitive demands on our brains than ever before, with aging brains experiencing multiple challenges. In just one day we may meet as many people as our ancestors met in a year.
In meeting these challenges, the aging brain has limitations and vulnerabilities. Toward the end of the middle years there are a variety of ways in which the aging brain differs from younger brains, including the following: Neurotransmitters and other aspects of the neurochemistry of the brain begin to work differently.
There is an increase in mutations in the mitochondria the cellular power plant that make them spew out free radicals, which damage neurons. The neurons shrink. There is a loss of myelin. There is a loss of synapses. However, not all mature brains are the same. Indeed, researchers at Wayne State University examined brain changes in mature adults and found significant variation among individuals as they age.
There are many lifestyle factors that can accelerate these neurodegenerative processes. Not only can you avoid those destructive behaviors, you can practice healthy behaviors to slow down and even reverse these hazards. Consider the differences between two clients who came to see me recently. Stella and Carol Stella and Carol had similar presenting problems but could not have been more different.
Both were warm and caring people who came to see me because they were experiencing stress related to placing their mothers in assisted living programs. Stella had already begun to flirt with type 2 diabetes. The rest of the day is so hard. When I get home, all I want to do is tune out. Then I fall asleep in front of the TV, and then my husband prods me to go to bed. Then I toss and turn all night long trying to get back to sleep.
It takes too much work. Carol not only had fewer symptoms of stress than Stella but also built a robust foundation of health-sustaining factors to help her bounce back after her mother was settled. She had a wide group of friends she looked to for support; in fact, a few of them were in her walking group. In contrast to Stella, she was quite fit. When I asked her about her diet, her eyes lit up, pleased that someone found it important enough to evaluate.
Not even her primary care physician had asked her about it. She was also an avid reader, especially in subject areas she knew nothing about initially: It also shifts me away from what is stressing me. She later did call to thank me and report that she had used the suggestions and was enjoying good quality sleep. Stella, by contrast, was not only unknowingly making her current situation more difficult but also setting herself up for a duller brain later in life.
We worked together over the next few months, making significant changes to her self-care and the way she engaged with the world. Two years later she checked in with me, and I was delighted to see her eyes beam with vitality as she told me that her life transformation had been made possible because she had been practicing all the life skills that I had discussed. She had lost 20 pounds. I am the oldest in there, but my brain is the youngest!
More important, several factors can work together to sharpen the brain as people age. If a person had all five risk factors, he was In a study of centenarians in Okinawa three factors were identified as common among them: Similarly, the Harvard Grant Study found that education, regular exercise, a stable marriage, and a healthy weight as well as avoiding drinking alcohol and smoking are critical for healthy aging.
In their book Successful Aging, John Rowe and Robert Kahn point out that there is a widening range of cognitive abilities among people as they age. Some people show no cognitive decline, whereas others show a significant decline. This may account for the dramatic lack of cognitive decline for some and significant decline for others. Thus, cognitive decline is not inevitable. By age 65, only about 10 percent of the population is afflicted with one of the dementias, yet by age 85, 35 to 45 percent of people have some degree of dementia.
Overall, the studies on successful aging have indicated that a variety of factors are associated with brain health. Though one factor alone cannot insulate you from unhealthy behaviors, you can apply the healthy factors together for a greater likelihood of brain health.
The factors that research has consistently shown to be brain-healthy are as follows: A robust social support system Aerobic exercise Lifelong cognitive challenges and education early in life through late life A balanced diet Minimizing sleep deprivation and maximizing healthy sleep The Five Factors of the Brain Bible Program The formula for building a healthy brain includes five main factors that are based on the points noted above.
These are the important healthy brain skills that you need to plant now and cultivate throughout the rest of your life. The first factor is education. It has been shown that people with higher levels of education manifest symptoms of dementia much later than do people with less education. Alternatively, the more you use your brain for learning, the more cognitive reserve you will have for use later in life. Cognitive reserve represents structural changes to the brain, which will promote greater longevity.
Consider that you have roughly billion neurons in your brain. Each neuron maintains about 10, connections with other neurons. The more you learn, the more you build and maintain new connections. If, however, you learn nothing new and turn off your brain by watching the same television shows each evening, you will maintain fewer connections and more connections between neurons will pruned away.
Overall you can boost the number of connections and the health of your brain by challenging yourself intellectually. Chapter 3 describes the education factor in detail. The second factor is diet. What you eat can determine whether your brain is capable of learning and producing positive emotions. A balanced diet forms the foundation for generating the cornucopia of neurotransmitters.
This foundation allows you to enjoy positive moods, be calm, and have a sharper focus. Chapter 4 describes the diet factor in detail. The third factor is exercise. One way it does this is by stimulating the production and release of a magic tonic for the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor BDNF.
BDNF serves as a sort of Miracle-Gro for the brain and the birth of new neurons, which is called neurogenesis. Aerobic exercise also serves as a powerful antidepressant and anti-anxiety agent, not to mention an energy booster. Those 10 minutes of exercise will result in 90 minutes of more energy, greater focus, more positive moods, and overall calmness. Chapter 5 describes the exercise factor in detail. The fourth factor is the social factor. Fifty years of psychological research has shown that people with a strong social support system live longer, are happier, and are more cognitively astute.
In contrast, people who are cut off from social contact are emotionally starved, are ill more often, and are more depressed. They also may be more vulnerable to certain types of dementia. New developments in neuroscience have identified parts of the brain often referred to as the social brain that thrive on healthy relationships.
Chapter 6 describes the social factor in detail. The fifth factor is sleep. For example, getting poor quality sleep or missing a few hours of sleep increases your stress hormones, including cortisol.
Higher levels of cortisol affect the prefrontal cortex; you are less able to focus, make clear decisions, and remember what you are attempting to learn. Also, higher levels of cortisol are corrosive to your brain and are associated with atrophy in the hippocampus, the area critical for laying down new memories.
Chapter 7 describes the sleep factor in detail. The greatest benefit to your brain will come by combining the Brain Bible factors, utilizing the social, education, exercise, diet, and sleep factors, not just one or two at a time, but together. An example of this combination could be a walking book club right after dinner. Because you and your friends will be getting together for a brisk walk to talk about the book you are all reading, the social, educational, and exercise factors will be combined.
If you go on that walk after a nutritious dinner, the diet factor will help you cover all the factors. At age 65, she found herself juggling the end of a career, empty nest issues after the kids left, and increasing demands by her aging parents. She found that her energy level had been dropping and along with it her sense of enjoyment in life.
Each morning she dragged herself to work only to find it difficult to generate the energy to deal with the multiple demands of her job. Often after work she had little energy for her parents. For her, chilling out always included two glasses of great wine. She consumed one while cooking dinner and the other in front of the TV set. She typically ordered a tall skinny latte with a chocolate croissant.
Lunch, when she had it, amounted to some tortilla chips and occasionally an energy bar. Besides, who has time for friends? Also, her impoverished cognitive activity essentially was dulling her mind, especially as she sat in front of the television. She was irritated when I suggested that she try building a healthy foundation by making some lifestyle changes. She simply wanted medication. She was missing all the factors in the Brain Bible formula. I started with the social factor, as she was socially starved.
If your face is contracted into a frown, you will feel sad. If your face puts on a smile, you will feel pleased and happy. A full smile activates the left prefrontal cortex and positive emotions. In contrast, a frown activates the right prefrontal cortex and negative feelings.
I went on to describe how important the left prefrontal cortex is to taking action. In contrast, the right prefrontal cortex is involved in withdrawal behaviors such as retreating from activities. In other words, withdrawing from friends activates negative feelings. Also, a number of areas in the brain are associated with the social brain networks that are starved in the absence of social contact. Since we are perhaps the most social of all species, these social brain networks need to be continually activated for mental health and brain longevity.
Next I told her that exercise is the best medication and has good rather than bad side effects. I also told her about brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its role as Miracle-Gro in neurogenesis: I told her that just 10 minutes of exercise will give her 90 minutes of energy. This is the case because of the resulting increases in the neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Plus, if you exercise three to six hours before you go to sleep, you will increase the chances of sleeping through the night restfully.
On top of the rest of it you are telling me to go off and get a degree or something? To begin with, she should look at the time and energy she was wasting watching brainless television shows. I suggested watching PBS or other stations with shows that can be both entertaining and informative. By turning off your brain all the time, as you put it, you are not building a dense network of connections between your neurons that can serve you later when you need mental ability.
We then discussed diet. The body synthesizes these amino acids and creates the neurotransmitters and the cornucopia of brain chemicals that give you energy, lift your mood, and keep you focused. Why do such a thing to your brain? By the way, skipping dinner also makes it difficult to sleep at night. Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep is often associated with drinking alcohol in the evening.
Then it wears off in the middle of the night when you want to be asleep. I recommended that in addition to cutting out the alcohol in the evening, she should avoid spending time in the late evening at the computer. Keep your bedroom cool at night to help accomplish this. Also, make sure that your dinner contains an ample amount of complex carbohydrates, not simple carbohydrates.
She checked in with me every other week to monitor her progress and gradually began to feel more alive and energized. Instead of feeling like her life was winding down, she began to feel that there was a kind of Renaissance occurring. She began to think more wisely and feel that her moods were more balanced.
In contrast to overreacting to stress and the demands of life, she began to take things in stride. She was pleasantly surprised that at the beginning of her senior years, she became more focused, engaged, and satisfied with her life. To reap the benefits of this period and build on them, she had to break old habits and firmly establish brain- sharpening habits.
You, like Sylvia, can reap the benefits of using all the Brain Bible factors together. Rewiring the Mature Brain As Sylvia discovered, the brain is not fixed and hardwired or doomed to wither away. It is actually quite plastic and has been constantly rewired by your experiences throughout your life. Under certain conditions new brain cells can be born even as you age. You may have heard the popular hype about genes determining behaviors and be worried that you cannot change.
The reality is that genes only lay out potentials and vulnerabilities. Genes do not dictate your thoughts, your feelings, or your behavior.
You can actually turn genes on or off by changing your behavior and environment. And when you change your behavior and environment, your brain changes. The old nature versus nurture debate has been replaced by the new model: Just as the concepts of nature and nurture unreasonably represent separate processes, the mind and the brain also had been thought to be separate. They are actually two sides of the same coin. As you change your mind, your brain changes. As you change your brain, your mind changes.
You can nurture your brain by maximizing your potentials and minimizing your vulnerabilities. In other words, you can change your biology by what you do and how you think within the potentials limited by the biology of our species.
More important, you can keep your brain sharp well into old age. You can extend the health and life of your brain by following our suggestions about the Brain Bible factors. Your brain has a hundred billion nerve cells called neurons the gray matter and about 10 times as many glial cells the white matter. Each neuron is capable of establishing and maintaining connections with about 10, other neurons.
Communication between neurons occurs across a gap called a synapse Figure 2. Your diet has a major effect on the structure of your brain, the supply of neurotransmitters, and the health of your neurotransmitters. Figure 2. You could say that they are softwired. Like a computer, you have hardware and software. Synapses change as you learn new skills, such as speaking a new language, text messaging, and skiing. Synapses are therefore quite plastic.
This is what is meant by the terms neuroplasticity and synaptic plasticity. Learning something new rewires your brain, making and strengthening synaptic connections.
For example, when you orchestrate your thoughts on a beautiful image, such as a village in the Cinque Terre in Italy, you begin to construct new synaptic connections between groups of neurons that encode that image into memory. Every time you recall the image of that village, you strengthen the synaptic connections that code the memory. Every time you recall that image, you make the recall stronger later.
The more you practice speaking Spanish, for example, the more neurons fire together and wire together as you improve your vocabulary and enunciation. The more you practice speaking Spanish, the more likely it is that those neurons will fire together in the future.
The bottom line: What happens when you stop practicing Spanish?
This is similar to the way your muscles atrophy after you stop exercising. The learning curve is always greater in the beginning. Learning a new skill e.
As you become more familiar with the intonations, grammar, and conjugation of verbs, you build an infrastructure of synaptic networks to support that knowledge. Remember years ago when you played a record on a turntable but found that the record was scratched?
Learning a new skill is like creating a new groove or like traveling on a snowy road in the tracks of another car that ran off the road.
To establish your own new tracks and stay on the road you must jerk the wheel to make new tracks. The next time you drive that road, it will be easier to stay in the new tracks. This is how rewiring works: The more times you take the new path, the easier it will be to find it. When your neurons fire together often, they fire together at a quicker rate. This increased efficiency allows more precision in the number of neurons that are required to perform a particular skill.
For example, when you learn to ski, you use more muscles and neurons at first. As you learn to ski more efficiently, less muscular effort and fewer neurons are required to ski with greater skill. One of the most famous examples of how neuroplasticity affects the brain involved research done on London cab drivers.
To acquire a license to drive a cab in London you must go through a long training called the Knowledge and pass a number of tests. All the training and test taking requires learning the layout of London streets in great detail. Not long ago after I spoke at a seminar on the new developments in neuroscience for the British Psychological Society in London, a few of the attendees, my wife, and I jumped in a cab.
We asked the cabbie about his experience with the Knowledge. But my friend got through in three years! In other words, the cabbies had strengthened this area of their brains through neuroplasticity much more than you or I unless, of course, you are a London cabbie. Specifically, the researchers scanned the brains of 16 London taxi drivers and compared them with the scans of 50 non—taxi drivers. The hippocampus is critical for learning and memory.
The greater the number of years on they had the job, the larger the hippocampi were in the individual drivers. This finding was apparent despite the age of the driver, which is quite significant because with age there is a gradual atrophy of the hippocampus. Thus, use trumps aging. In other words, not only can use-based neuroplasticity halt the age-related atrophy, it can reverse it.
Instead of losing it, we gain. For example, researchers at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at the Institute of Neurology in London examined the brain scans of bilingual people and compared them with those of monolingual people.
An area called the left angular gyrus, part of the cortex at the junction of the parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes, is among the most important areas corresponding to understanding language and its complexity. The angular gyrus was found to contain more gray matter, and the underlying white matter was denser in bilingual people. After months of little or no juggling, the gray matter decreased and approached baseline values.
These studies represent only a clue to the importance of the education factor, the focus of Chapter 3. Education provides robust development of synaptic connections that have been called cognitive reserve, which is critical to brain longevity. The greater the cognitive reserve is brain development , the more you can lose without looking like you have lost it.
This is one of the principal reasons more highly educated people are less likely to develop symptoms of dementia than are less educated people. Remember the jugglers? Or to use another analogy, a garden needs continual cultivation through working the soil, pulling the weeds, and adequately watering it or it will go fallow—it will turn into a dry weed patch. Earlier in this chapter I hinted at another new discovery in neuroscience that is relevant to the health of the brain that involves the potential for the birth of new neurons.
Not long ago it was thought that we are born with as many neurons as we will ever possess. As recently as the s, when I was studying neuropsychology, that was the orthodox belief.
The truth is that neurons can be born, but only in a few very important parts of the brain. Neurogenesis, as it is called, can occur in the hippocampus, olfactory bulbs in pregnant women , and prefrontal cortex. Both neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are facilitated by an amazing substance called brain- derived neurotrophic factor.
BDNF enhances learning and the process called long-term potentiation LTP , which is fundamental to neuroplasticity and means that the long-term potential for neurons to fire together and wire together increases as you learn something new. BDNF prevents cells from dying at the same time that it boosts their growth and vitality.
It also binds to the receptors at the synapse, triggering a flow of ions that increases the voltage, which in turn strengthens the connectivity between the neurons. Rewiring your brain, technically called neuroplasticity, and the potential birth of new neurons, technically called neurogenesis, are possible throughout your life by making an effort: Neuroplasticity and learning are two sides of the same coin.
Neuroplasticity works with a moderate degree of discomfort—getting out of your comfort zone. New neurons in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex can be produced throughout life. Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
Sharpening your brain to promote its long-term health requires that you apply the skills of this CEO. It provides you with the capacity for the sustained attention, willpower, and mood stability that you need to maintain your motivation to sharpen your brain. The frontal lobes represent the most recent evolutionary advance of the brains of any species and make up about 20 percent of the human brain. To put things in perspective, the frontal lobes of cats and dogs occupy about 3.
Humans do. The frontal lobes made such questions possible as well as the search for answers. The most advanced part of the frontal lobes is called the prefrontal cortex PFC , which is positioned at the forefront of the frontal lobes.
Your PFC allows you to direct your attention to what is important in your life, such as your long-term health. To accomplish this it orchestrates complex cognitive and emotional skills that provide you with the capacity to behave with purpose. Though many of us hate to admit it, men are a little slower in development. To put the late maturity of the DLPFC in perspective, consider that we send young adults to war not only because they are relatively more physically fit but also because, like adolescents, they tend to disregard danger.
This was during the Vietnam War and the war of attrition in the Middle East. Unfortunately, what is the last to mature is also the first to falter as we age.
This follows an evolutionary law that the last to evolve is the slowest to develop and the first to go in old age.
The DLPFC is deeply involved in complex thinking, attention, and what is referred to as working memory because it processes what your mind is working on at any one time. Then you need to renew it again with your attention. Your DLPFC is also involved with complex problem solving, and since attention is the gateway to memory, it maintains strong connections with the hippocampus, which is involved in laying down long-term explicit memory.
This partnership helps you form memories. We especially pay attention to and remember novelty. All this further activates the hippocampus to code the experience into memory. With some acetylcholine added in, the brain gets tuned in, sharpening the memories. In contrast to the DLPFC, the orbital frontal cortex develops earlier in life and does not falter in old age. It appears to have a close relationship with the amygdala, a part of the brain that processes emotions.
Because it helps regulate emotions, the OFC is closelyassociated with other parts of the brain that allow a person to possess social skills.
If your OFC were seriously damaged, you could be like the most famous neurology patient in history, Phineas Gage, who lost his social skills. Gage suffered a near-death accident at work when a steel rod skewered his OFC but left everything else in his brain intact. It was when Gage was setting up blasting caps in preparation for laying rail. Then it happened: Amazingly, he lived for another 20 years. Gage had previously worked as a supervisor and was widely respected for being even- tempered and thoughtful.
After the accident he became unstable, erratic, and rude. Though he retained many of his cognitive abilities, he lost the ability to emotionally inhibit impulses and urges. When he was in the presence of a woman he wanted, he just grabbed her. He said whatever he felt like saying. After a stint as circus freak with the fateful iron rod on display, he died penniless in San Francisco.
In addition to being a major convergence center of highly processed emotional, visceral, and sensory information, the OFC interprets the emotional significance of the experience through its extensive connections to the amygdala. When working effectively, your executive brain PFC is essential to sharpen your brain.
It is the conductor of the orchestrator that helps you anticipate and predict what may occur in the future on the basis of what has occurred in the past and what may logically result from what is occurring in the present. All the while you maintain flexibility to adapt to changing conditions and switch to an appropriate frame of mind that is based on the current situation, inhibiting immediate emotional urges and distractions in favor of reaching long-range goals.
All these skills help you engage effectively in the world. Without them you could live in an endless sea of daydreaming and rumination. Sharpening your brain requires that you continually cultivate the skills of your executive brain.
Through its various parts, such as the orbital frontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, it helps you do the following: Most of us periodically spend time on autopilot, marginally engaged with the world around us while drifting off into fantasy, daydreaming, and rumination. Take driving, for example.
When your executive brain is at rest, the other parts of your brain are actually quite active. After you pass the car and find a safe niche in the flow of traffic, you slip back into daydreaming. While your mind wanders again, your brain uses about 20 times as much energy resting as it used when you paid attention to the car swerving into your lane.
In other words, your brain is not really resting when you are daydreaming. Indeed, recent neuroimaging research has shown that contrary to the old belief that the brain is hardly active while at rest, the activity in your brain required to read this sentence uses a minimal increment of energy over that which is already being consumed.
In other words, there is a highly active default baseline state operating in the background where we spend a huge amount of time each day. This baseline activity in your brain that occurs during the time you do not focus on activities or demands such as a car drifting to your lane has been referred to as the default mode network DMN. The DMN is associated with self-referential daydreaming and rumination.
The DMN involves dispersed areas of the brain that continue chattering away yet are synchronized in a readiness mode, set to be used in conscious activity such as directing your attention to the car. The medial parietal area is involved in reflecting on memories of personal events in your life. The medial prefrontal cortex is involved in imagining what other people are thinking as well as reflecting on aspects of your emotional state.
Both areas experience decreased activity from their baseline resting state when you attend to a task or pay attention to a stimulus such as the car drifting into your lane. The DMN is believed to behave like a self-referential orchestra conductor directing the timing signals to coordinate activity among different areas of the brain.
The DMN ensures that these areas of the brain are ready to react in concert to stimuli from the environment such as trying to discern if the driver of the car is drunk and that it may be a good idea to call the highway patrol. Your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex helps you focus on the here and now. Since it is one of the first areas of the brain to atrophy, some people have a growing tendency to fade off into the DMN so that there is an increase in daydreaming when the situation demands that they stay focused.
Some also gravitate to a new baseline anxious or depressed mood when they fade into daydreaming. Novel cognitive activities awaken your brain out of the DMN, activating your attention to the present moment. Or better yet, you drive on your usual routes, attempting to spot houses, buildings, and trees you have never noticed before. I am fortunate to drive through the rolling hills of northern California with vineyards and farmland but still must remind myself to stay in the present, all along exercising my attention skills.
Whenever you are staying in the present, you are less likely to drift into your DMN. Nevertheless, there is a constant and natural interplay between maintaining focused attention on what is going on in your environment and reverie or daydreaming. The activities of the DMN must give way to the demands of the outside world when the experience is novel or meaningful.
This may occur because of an unexpected sensation or a novel situation or because you suddenly remember to stop at the grocery store to pick up food for dinner on the drive home from work.
Problems arise if the DMN takes over when you need to maintain focused attention. You find yourself at home without food for dinner. Your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was not doing its job of keeping you in the present.
What if this happens all the time? In depression, for example, a person can frequently slip into the DMN when goal-directed tasks demand otherwise. The DMN in a depressed person may possess weak links between motivation and reward-seeking behavioral and attention networks in the brain.
The excessive activity between the DMN circuits may account for the lack of concentration and increased ruminations so common with depression. The DMN is not inherently bad or good. We all have a tendency throughout the day to fade out into daydreaming, reverie, or rumination.
The DMN can be useful in the following situations: It becomes a source of creativity. You can focus on the here and now. You reflect on novel thoughts and images and make connections with the present moment. Another area of research that may account for a default baseline of particular mood is called the emotional set point. Consider that most people fantasize about winning the lottery, thinking that their lives would totally change forever and that their problems would evaporate.
But several studies have revealed that roughly one year after collecting their millions lottery winners revert back to their previous baseline emotional state. If they were slightly depressed before becoming millionaires, they fall back to that depressed baseline state. Money does not serve as an antidepressant; it does not download them long-term happiness. Similarly, many people who become paraplegic after a devastating injury revert back to their baseline emotional set point a year or so after the accident.
If they were generally optimistic and made the most out of adversity, they manage to work their way back to their original baseline emotional set point. The concept of an emotional set point has received strong empirical support from Richard Davidson, the director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. He discovered that people who tend to have positive moods and are enthusiastic, upbeat about life, and energized have heightened activity in the left prefrontal cortex L-PFC.
It is the L-PFC that can inhibit the overactivity of the amygdala and the anxiety associated with its overactivity. If that ratio tilts toward the left, the person tends to be more enthusiastic and happy. If that ratio tilts toward the right, the person tends to be unhappy and often distressed. He took readings from hundreds of people and established a bell curve. Those in the middle of the curve have a mix of positive and negative moods. You can change your emotional set point through focused attention and continuous practice that rewires the brain to make it gradually easier to stay focused and positive.
That clinic teaches mindfulness meditation practices to patients with chronic illnesses, including chronic pain. The study explored the effects of teaching mindfulness for three hours per week over the course of two months to employees in a high-pressure biotech business.
Before the mindfulness training, the workers were on average tilted to the right side in the ratio for the emotional set point. Indeed, they complained of being stressed out and suffered from negative moods. After the training, the ratio shifted to the left and they reported positive moods and less anxiety and felt more engaged in their work. The here-and-now focus of mindfulness helped them be more purposeful and observe their moods instead of stewing in them.
The mindfulness training taught the workers to focus attention or simply observe and accept what occurs each moment. Maintaining focus on each moment allowed them to detach from their rumination and negative moods. This shift in attention also contributed to left side activation and better inhibition of the amygdala, which tends to stir up anxiety when it is overactivated. The workers rewired their set points, resulting in more positive moods and more easygoing attitudes.
An added bonus for the workers was bolstered immune systems. When exposed to the flu virus, those who received the mindfulness training had less severe flu symptoms. In other words, the more positive moods, the stronger the immune system. By balancing the ratio of activity in each hemisphere to adjust your set point, you may do the following: Turn on your prefrontal cortex by a be here now focus.
Act with purpose, kindling your left prefrontal cortex. The baseline activity of both the emotional set point and the DMN represents a baseline mode of functioning that can be rewired, as the study above illustrated.
The baseline mode occurs automatically as your brain does what it is accustomed to doing when the cells that fire together wire together. Your task is to bump your baseline to moderate the amount of time you spend on autopilot by enlisting your executive brain especially your DLPFC. It goes online when you get focused on the here and now and allows you to make executive decisions about whether to apply your efforts to a particular goal.
When your executive brain goes online, your DMN goes offline. There is a kind of a push and pull going on throughout the day. What Davidson and Kabat-Zinn showed in the experiment described above is that by training yourself to be more present and observant, you can bump your default baseline emotional set point to the left side, which can help you feel more positive and involved in the world around you.
Beginning during your middle years, you spend more time in your DMN than you did during your young adult years. It therefore is important to cultivate a DMN and emotional set point that generates better moods and health. Cultivating these healthy networks involves utilizing your capacity for neuroplasticity and the here-and-now approach of mindfulness. A method of rewiring the brain that I teach combines a calm attentive observance of the present moment with purposeful engagement with the world.
The next several chapters will describe ways you can rewire your baseline and sharpen your brain. If you incorporate the factors represented in the Brain Bible formula together, your brain can grow healthier as you age.
She had actually been juggling several challenges at once. Her daughter had just gone through a divorce and Sara helped her with her teenage kids, added to that challenge her aging parents were failing in health, and her husband seemed to be more focused on his career than on being a full participant in running the household. Just 10 years earlier she had felt on top of all the demands of being a full-time employee, mother, and wife.
She made it through menopause without much difficulty. In fact, about a year afterward she felt increased energy. But when her parents began to lose their health and mobility, they became more dependent on her. Her first goal was to ask her two sisters to share in the increasing demands from their parents.
Though her sisters began to help with the care of their parents, Sara continued to have difficulty focusing at work. She had grown to expect that it was next to impossible to compete with the younger staff members. Worrying about her inadequacies much more than acknowledging her talents, she increasingly faded off into her DMN, musing about how she had been sharper in the past.
She wondered if her peers thought she was dead weight and should be let go for the sake of the company. Her emotional set point had an anxious and slightly depressed tone. I explained that this pattern represented a right PFC shift and that she needed to activate her left PFC to generate a positive mood.
This meant that she had to be more purposeful and goal-directed in her daily life instead of passive and avoidant. You can jump-start it by using its talents that are called approach behaviors, meaning taking action to do something. Your right prefrontal cortex is involved in the opposite—withdrawal behaviors. Withdrawing from people and the world around you activates your right prefrontal cortex and leads to more feelings of being overwhelmed. If you continue to do only what you feel like doing, you will do what you always have done.
The brain does what comes easy unless you make an extra effort to establish new connections. She could revitalize her brain through neuroplasticity and neurogenesis by challenging herself even though she did not feel ready. She chose to take an art class at the local junior college and take brisk walks five times a week.
After a few weeks of classes and walking she said that she was beginning to feel a slight boost in energy, as if she were stirring from a long slumber. I suggested that she include an intellectually stimulating exercise. She chose to read about art history with the intent of eventually taking a class on the topic the next semester, after the painting class was over. During each session she commented on a growing sense of enthusiasm for cultivating her creativity.
She found it particularly surprising that she actually had more energy while at work although she was busier than ever with her new activities.
During the course in art history she found herself particularly fascinated by the Renaissance period with its emphasis on perspective in painting and more realistic depiction of the subject matter.
What particularly struck her was the symbolic meaning of the Renaissance itself. She stated that just as the Renaissance period meant a revival from a dark period in history, she too was experiencing a revival from a dark period.
She felt that her revival brought with it a renewed sense of vitality and hunger for new experiences. No longer did she feel that she was over the hill. This is especially important during this pivotal period of your life. Rewiring your brain by following the Brain Bible factors will promote the greatest longevity.
She assumed that she had dementia after watching an evening television magazine program about people whose memory had failed during their last year of employment. Initially, I employed a memory test and other measures, and it appeared that she did not have dementia. The truth is that the brain operates with a use it or lose it process, not a use it and wear it down process.
She told me that she rested her mind by watching television. In fact, as she talked more about her life, it became clear that television formed the context in which she described most aspects of her life. Sometimes I fall asleep with it on. And of course I watch the morning shows when I eat breakfast. Do you know what I did for a living? As a court reporter I had to be superfocused on every word uttered by anyone in the courtroom.
I need to rest my brain for the next day. Her belief that she needed to rest her brain to store up enough energy to pay attention the next day was the opposite of the truth.
Interestingly, years ago rest was a popular treatment for women.
It was prescribed for women who were having trouble with stress and making adjustments in life. In contrast, during the same period, men were prescribed a trip out West to rejuvenate themselves. Unfortunately, the sexist rest treatment for women was far less rejuvenating. I explained how neuroplasticity and neurogenesis sharpen the brain through mental challenges. By cultivating her intellectual skills, she could boost what is called cognitive reserve; that means that the more synaptic connections she made, the greater the overall longevity of her brain would be.
Just taking a class in something of interest would be a good way to engage your brain. She decided the subject would be art history, an area of interest from her past. Though she was very resistant to turning off her constant companion the television, I encouraged her to watch it selectively.
And what you do now for your brain will determine its health for years to come. That fear was part of her rationalization that she needed to rest her mind, as if she were storing up mental energy to use later. When she found out that she had to use mental energy now to sharpen her brain, there was a marked shift in her perspective. She became far less resistant to my suggestions. I was very pleased that she looked and sounded so much healthier and in fact exuded a wonderful sense of enthusiasm for learning.
He had achieved many of his goals, even rising to the position of physician in chief of the medical center where we both worked. He spent a good deal of time on the golf course with a tight group of friends. His diet and sleep were within normal health limits. What was missing? Through his extensive contacts at the hospital, he had a complete medical work-up.
Nothing stood out that could explain his mental dulling and weakened memory. He came to see me because of my integrative approach and knew that I would not look for psychological causes without considering all health-related factors. With your neuropsychological background I thought you might shed some light on what might be going on. I gave him a few neuropsychological screening tests and factored in his educational level—this is referred to as the premorbid level of functioning—and the results were unremarkable.
What was remarkable was that before his retirement he had managed to deal well with a fairly high level of cognitive challenge. Now he was essentially doing very little cognitively. I did my bit. What are you suggesting that I do?
You know what they do to you in med school and in premed undergrad for that matter; they narrow the frame and kill the excitement for learning. According to the Study of Adult Development, among people in the general population who reach age 60, only one-third will live past In contrast, over two-thirds 70 percent of college-educated people alive at age 60 will live past age It is generally the case that people who are more highly educated are more likely to take care of themselves in terms of diet and exercise and have better access to healthcare.
A study funded by the MacArthur Foundation Network on successful aging found that education was the most powerful predictor of cognitive vigor in old age. The longest-running longitudinal study on aging, the Harvard Grant Study, found that education was one of the principal factors in successful aging: As was noted in Chapter 2, shorter telomere length is associated with accelerated aging. A study of civil servants age 53 to 76 that was performed by researchers at University College London found that telomere length was correlated with level of education.
In other words, lower educational attainment was found to be associated with shorter telomere length. When the brains of highly educated individuals are examined at autopsy, evidence of plaques and tangles is found.
Those individuals functioned in later life at a high capacity because of the brain-protective effects of education. A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined the leisure activities of seniors over a year period found that those who engaged in more mental activities were less likely to develop the symptoms of dementia. Those who engaged in one mental activity a week reduced the risk of dementia by 7 percent. The reduction in risk for dementia shot up to 63 percent for those who participated in more mental activities frequently.
For each additional type of cognitive activity the risks are lowered by 8 to 38 percent. There is a critically important factor that makes education a factor in extending life of the brain. Just as Christine discovered that education provides a powerful antidote to feeling mentally dull, neuroscience has shown that it is a critical factor in brain health.
Learning over a period of time builds the brain like a muscle mass. Muscles that are not used will atrophy, and the brain must be exercised to strengthen it. Education boosts your wealth of synaptic connections. The more synaptic connections you have developed, the more you can lose without also losing cognitive competency because of the abundance of connections in reserve.
That is what is meant by the term cognitive reserve, your insurance policy for brain longevity. Think of it this way: From a bottom line perspective, the more you have, the more you can lose without functioning at a deficit. Building cognitive reserve requires neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Each of your billion neurons maintains on average 10, synaptic connections with other neurons. As was described in Chapter 2, neuroplasticity involves making, strengthening, and establishing new synaptic connections.
Cognitive reserve therefore involves establishing dense and elaborate systems of synaptic connections that grow and strengthen as a result of your efforts to expand your mind. Cognitive reserve gives your brain the power to stay sharp as you age. You are not born with cognitive reserve. You must build it by engaging in cognitive exercise. A wide variety of international studies have demonstrated that people can be trained to build brain reserve through cognitive exercise.
The great benefits of exercising your brain by learning to maintain its strength are most evident if you sustain a brain injury, a stroke, or even dementia. Neurological rehabilitation at medical centers such as the one where I work involves various types of cognitive rehabilitation, which can include attention training and speech therapy.
He will also have difficulty moving the right side of his body. If he is a right-hander, he may now favor his left hand and give up the use of his right hand. His rehabilitation will include speech therapy so that he can develop compensatory neuroplasticity to rewire his language skills. Also, his now good hand the left will be tied down in limb restraint therapy so that he will be forced to use his right hand and rewire the movement circuits.