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Showing posts from June, 2011

Habit and the Stages of Change

I have been writing for several weeks now about this mass of electrical activity inside our brains, dendrites and nerve endings, meeting at synapses, passing their spark from one neuron to the next, creating -- what?  A wink, a whisper, a sensation, the next big brainstorm.

Most of these connections could be called, in the widest sense, habits.  By habits, I mean that pathways get used over and over, form patterns, become familiar, channel us to certain outcomes.  Most bypass the cortex, requiring no decision.  Like breathing, smelling, salivating at the cinnamon.

Most of the remainder are still automatic.  But with effort, they can be brought to consciousness where the cortex could interfere, and a decision made.  Like blinking.  Or picking up the cookie.

What if you don't want to pick up the cookie?  Okay, you really do want to pick up the cookie.  What if you want to not pick up the cookie anyway?

How Do You Change A Habit?

You're gonna take more than one step.

Last week, I put s…

Minding My Mitochondria -- A Review

Dr. Terry Wahls practices internal medicine and treats psychiatric patients at the VA in Iowa City Iowa.  In the year 2000, she was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting Multiple Schlerosis.

MS is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that damages the myelin (think, skin) of neurons, causing breaks in communication between the brain cells, neurotransmitter imbalances and cell death, with resulting physical and cognitive disabilities, including blindness, dizziness and pain.  In its earlier relapsing-remitting stage, MS is treated with chemo and immune system suppressants.  Dr. Wahls pursued the best and most aggressive treatment available.

Nevertheless, in 2003 her MS had developed into the secondary progressive variety.  At that stage, the treatment strategy is to slow the inexorable loss of function.  She used canes to walk.  Soon she was in a wheelchair almost all the time.

Wahls is a doctor.  She researched her condition.  But there are no treatments to reverse the loss of function, n…

Conventional Medicine/Functional Medicine

I've had it.  I have just had it.  Go ahead, diagnose me, nod your heads, make a note in my chart.  Call it noncompliance or transference, depending on the initials behind your name.  Shake your head this time, make another note.  But I have had it.

An Emergency Room Story

We took a friend to the ER.  She takes a complicated med regime with risk of stroke and had the kind of vague warning signs that begin those if only... stories.  She felt *dreadful!!*, an 8 out of 10, and knew that something was desperately wrong.

It turns out her BP was elevated, but evidently not ER worthy.  And *dreadful!!* is not a symptom on a diagnostic protocol.  So the doc (resident?) focused on the headache.  Never mind that it was a 3 out of 10, and she insisted her headache was not her complaint.  He knew what questions he was supposed to ask, which didn't include questions on a 1 to 10 scale about just how **full systems dreadful!!** she felt.  In any case, he hadn't got to the part of the bo…

Getting My Brain Back -- In Praise of BDNF

Here is the star of Getting My Brain Back, the Neuron.  I've got lots of neurons.  So do you.  They are our friends and we need to take care of them, so they take care of us.  BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor will help us do that.  How BDNF is giving me my brain back is our story for the day.  But first...


Did you notice?  I wrote a book report in April.  If you are a regular reader, I guess that is obvious.  Let me try again.

I read a book.  Not just the one by Agatha Christie.  Maybe you still don't get it.  Never mind.  Here is the story.

Introducing Neuron, The Brain Cell

To the right we have a line drawing of the neuron with its major parts.  Neurons are essentially communication devices.  Each one receives messages from another neuron and passes them on to the next.  Dendrites are like the receivers.  Yes, they look like kinky hair.  Today let's call them ears, one ear at the end of each little spine growing out of each branch.  Axons are senders.  They c…

Cognitive Deficits -- on the way to Getting My Brain Back

The speaker at our monthly NAMI meeting was tall, mid-60's, military bearing, a former ER doc who did a couple tours of duty in Iraq.  You know the type.  Only, a little less of that ER doc -- I'll call it self-assurance.

He showed us slides of the work he used to do, the before shots (which we really did not want to see) and the after shots of young people, kids he patched together at the medic stations.  He told us about the sticky dark trail running from the helicopter pad to the table, and what made it sticky dark.

His passion for his work lit the room.  We listened to stories of kids for whom he had after shots.  There weren't always after shots.

He told us about TBI's, traumatic brain injuries and PTSD and how war does damage to brains.

He was taking a break after two tours of duty, back in an ER state-side when he had the stroke.

Now it became a different story.

Stroke -- The Brain Is Part Of The Body

They told him it would be a long recovery.  Two months later, …