Doc Talk: Brain Wellness Program at BG
By: Jack Hisley, M.D.
The Gadsden GAB is a monthly publication that’s written by BG residents, for BG residents. Every two weeks, we’ll feature an article from the GAB on the Bishop Gadsden website.
Thanks to Caroline McMillan’s interest and vision, Bishop Gadsden’s Wellness Committee is developing a Brain Wellness Program. Caroline envisions a dedicated resource center for educational materials, scientific updates on dementia management, space for brain-stimulating computer tools, and a gathering place for focus and support groups to meet. The new offering will also include a physical fitness program designed to enhance brain wellness, along with nutritional information about foods that best promote brain health. The main goal of the Brain Wellness Program is to provide tools that may prevent memory loss or slow its progression.
Although there are around 100 forms of dementia, it is estimated that only 40% of individuals with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, which is generally characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques in certain areas of the brain. To date, most pharmaceutical companies have focused their research on the prevention and removal of the plaques to prevent or slow the development of Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, however, not all persons with Alzheimer’s dementia have amyloid plaques, while others may have amyloid plaques without dementia. Dementia is complicated. Although specific areas of the brain such as the hippocampus (the temporal lobe structure responsible for learning and memory), Broca’s area (the frontal lobe region associated with speech production and articulation) and the frontal lobe (the region of the brain that controls reasoning), have been studied, the entire brain must be involved with cognition and thinking to explain the many forms of dementia.
While thinking separates humans from all animals, neuroscientists do not understand what the complex skill of thinking actually is. According to Dr. Magnus Bordewich, Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Durham University in Durham, England, “…the human brain is estimated to hold something on the order of 200 exabytes of information, which is roughly equal to the entire digital content of today’s world.” To say the entire brain has just a few designated areas responsible for all of our memories, our cognition, and our thinking and reasoning, is a major understatement. Hence, brain wellness seems to encompass much more than the mere elimination of amyloid plaques.
Brain wellness involves all areas of the brain. It requires the minimization of free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells), the maximization of antioxidants, substances that neutralize free radicals, and well oxygenated blood flow to all areas. Constant use and stimulation are also important factors in maintaining brain health. Ideally, a brain wellness program will address all of these needs.
Will such a program be successful? We all know of people who have reached their 90s and enjoy good brain health; we also know of others of the same age who are not as fortunate. One wonders why humans with similar brain structure are so different. Geneticists say that inheritance is merely a part of the picture while lifestyle is most important. A lifetime of maximizing well-oxygenated blood flow through exercise, proper diet, and consistent cognitive use preserves the functionality of the entire brain. Fortunately, it is never too late to practice the promotion of brain wellness offered through various Bishop Gadsden programs. Until such a time as the Brain Wellness Program has its own dedicated room, a variety of educational materials and brain-stimulating computer programs are available in the Allison Library. For more information about the location and use of the materials, feel free to contact members of the Wellness Committee. BG’s Brain Wellness Program, an important addition to our wellbeing, is truly a stellar work in progress.