Hi all! Happy Tuesday to all! Kind of a cold, rainy day here in the Ozarks. The KY3 weather app today says rain with a high of 50 and a low of… 50. One thing they are sure of? It will be 50 today. 😉
That reminds me a little of choosing true on every answer of a true/false test and it also reminds of the old adage they say about me sometimes: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. 😉 But I digress, with love to my weather friends. 😉
OK…enough poking fun at my good and extremely brainy friends at the NWS, who I know work very hard, often while the rest of us are asleep, to keep up abreast of the latest weather. If they say 50 today, I believe them! (Don’t look at the end of this article for the current temp. 😉 )
So the brain…. Is that mushpot of neurons a muscle? Nope. I mean, a little… The skull is made up thusly: Intracranial contents (in the skull) by volume (1,700 ml, 100%): brain = 1,400 ml (80%); blood = 150 ml (10%); cerebrospinal fluid = 150 ml (10%). (from Rengachary, S.S. and Ellenbogen, R.G., editors, Principles of Neurosurgery, Edinburgh: Elsevier Mosby, 2005). The brain itself is made up of mainly (many, many billion) nerve cells (neurons) and glia cells although there are other cells present too. There are muscle cells in the brain, if you will. Cerebrovascular smooth muscle cells are somehow involved in multiple functions of the brain, most important of which is how they assist in “intramural periarterial drainage (IPAD) of soluble metabolites”. I recognized a word there: iPad! I am not sure that is what the brain muscle is a’messin’ with, though. 😉 Actually, indeed, the brain does have these muscles…important ones…that may actually relate to dementia. We will hit on that soon.
Today we will briefly discuss the brain as a muscle from simile prospective. (Reminder for the grammar rusty…a simile is a phrase typically using “like” or “as” to describe something. Nick Sibley, A member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, an amazing local group you may have heard of, wrote an irreverent, but very cute song called Love is Like Cornbread, which uses similes extensively. Here is a simile poem I penned.
So the brain is like a muscle…or is it? I think, within limits, it is like a muscle. The more you use it, the “stronger it gets”. It is like a the finish on a piece of antique furniture. Its use changes its value. The more the brain learns, the stronger its connections can be, although it is not universal. Some things you can learn, most notably music, art, and a foreign language, seem to make the brain more resilient somehow. More correctly, I see them as improving Neuroplasticity:
Stop and take a look at this piece about Neuroplasticity.
It seems like several things, including learning to play music and make art, can make the brain more changeable, in a good way. Foreign languages can do the same. It does make logical sense, even to a simple guy like me. Your brain is absolutely teeming with interrelated connections. It loves similes because it uses them to find answers and does from a very young age. (Think: Baby: “That sound I hear…I don’t know what it is called because I don’t know words yet, but I recognize that it is the person singing who brings my food!”) A simile tells us A is like B, which helps us find a reference point for learning about it. Similarly, in many languages words sound similar and make some easy reference points because of the soup of a language English is. German may be a funny exception. Therefore, when we learn a language, our brain, the ultimate database, connects many, many new things to things it understands…and gets stronger in the process.
Is this perfect? Better said, does it work? Does it prevent dementia? No. Can it stave off the disease…or at least some of the effects? It sure seems like it. Bilingual folks can delayed the onset up to 4.5 years (!!), according to a very interesting report found in the peer-reviewed journal Neurology found here and elsewhere.
Art? Some promising numbers there too. Link Link Link Link Link Link Probably some onset delaying can be had, but numbers vary. However, there is also a strong therapeutic benefit to art and to music.
Brain games may help and they may just help you do brain games better. The jury is still out. There have been successful lawsuits against software companies who make grandiose claims, so there are no guarantees of much help here. It seems logical that using a large variety of brain games will do some of what music, art, and being bilingual will do. However, if you just play the exact same game every day it would be like only having pinky day at the gym.
So much to consider…but, to me, it should be a “both and” instead of an “either or” situation. The more things we can do, if we are in a high risk group, the better the potential outcome. Mix in the ever-important cardiovascular exercise and heart-healthy diet and you are on your way to doing your best to prevent dementia…but I can’t promise anything. The problem is very complex and there is just too much we don’t know. I am sorry to leave with such an unsatisfying answer. 🙁 We will continue to plow through the data tomorrow and will dig deeper into the idea of cognitive reserves as a piece of this puzzle. Join me in this study and read through the links and find your own and share them…
Thank you all 🙂
Game Class over
Final note: Some really don’t like this simile. I agree that it has its weaknesses and I appreciate the blogger’s opinion.
Update: Mom is still doing about the same. I am still a little melancholy yet happy about the window visit Sunday. I look forward to the real deal… Mom may have staved off dementia with a bunch of these ideas and with a good diet and exercise, but she is still dying of this mess now. We need a cure, toot sweet!
WW Diet update: Lost 3 more…60.8 lost total. I still want to lose about 90 more… Stay tuned. 🙂
Last little note: Sorry to dump soooo many links on you. There is much for us to learn and not enough space or time to cover it all. I try hard to insert useful links in every article that you can use to check my work and to do some self-study. It takes a village for us to learn in my little classroom. 🙂
OK…really last note. Isn’t it cool that we are using our brain to study the brain? Try that, dolphins and chimps!