Parkinson’s Disease and Dance

Could dancing the tango improve cognitive function? According to the non-profit organization Dance for PD® (Parkinson’s disease), the answer is yes. Because Parkinson’s is a brain disorder, some people thought it might be uniquely affected by something like dance. So they approached the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, New York, about creating a program for people diagnosed with the disease. We first wrote about this program in 2011, and decided it was time to look back and see if there has been any data on its effectiveness since then. Dance for PD® has been holding classes since 2001 and…

Read More »


Autism: Is There a Gut Connection?

Could there be a connection between autism and the gastrointestinal system? A team of researchers led by Elaine Y. Hsiao of the California Institute of Technology recently noted that a subset of people diagnosed with autism also display a spectrum of gastrointestinal abnormalities. So to test this, her researchers injected mice with an immunostimulant known to produce offspring that display both behavioral and neuropathological symptoms of autism. But in addition to symptoms of autism, these offspring showed a significant deficit in the structure of their intestinal walls – a condition commonly referred to as “leaky gut syndrome.” Hsiao’s team then…

Read More »


Neuroplasticity: Powerful Possibilities . . . With a Dark Side

We often see neuroplasticity as one of the brain’s greatest assets. The neuroplastic potential to restore function after trauma, resist the deterioration that comes with aging, and bolster core capabilities borders on miraculous. But there’s another side to neuroplasticity . . . In fact, many of the things that bother us about ourselves – our bad habits, our unhappy thoughts – are actually the result of plasticity, too. In this week’s webinar in the Brain-Smart series, Norman Doidge, MD, explains why neuroplasticity can sometimes work against us. You might find it surprising. It’s only 2 minutes, so please check it…

Read More »


Old Before Their Time: The Effect of PTSD on Children’s Telomeres

How does trauma affect the brain? Well, one way we can look at that is to look at how trauma affects telomeres, which are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that keep them from deteriorating. As we age, telomeres naturally get shorter and eventually, die. So they make a great marker of cell aging and thus of overall health. It’s no secret that I love learning about telomeres. I’ve reported in the past that exercise can help protect telomeres, while stress and depression can increase the rate of telomere shortening. Aoife O’Donovan, PhD and her colleagues from the San…

Read More »


Do Electronic Devices Affect Sleep?

Does reading from an electronic tablet before bedtime affect sleep? We’ve known for some time that artificial lighting can alter the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythm. But now, our lives seem saturated with electronic devices that emit short-wavelength-enriched blue light as opposed to broad-spectrum white lights. And often, we’re reading from those gadgets at night just before trying to fall asleep. A recent survey of more than 1,500 adults suggested that 90% of Americans use some type of electronics at least several nights a week within an hour of bedtime. So researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston…

Read More »


Rewiring the Brain for Willpower

The burger or the salad? The treadmill or the sofa? Spend or save? Throughout the course of a single day, choices like these test our willpower repeatedly . . . and sometimes the choices we make can leave us feeling like a failure. If you’ve ever made a vow to practice better self-control, you know how much of a challenge it can be. But change is possible. According to Kelly McGonigal, PhD, willpower is trainable. She’ll show you how to get started by breaking apart the idea of willpower so you can see the skill sets you need in order…

Read More »