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Let’s talk Brain Health with Dr. Joyce Shaffer
Neuroplasticity is the capacity of your brain to change, for better or
for worse, in response to your internal and external experiences.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing; the study
and application of what it takes for people and communities to adapt and
thrive; and the study of building the best things in life.
It is my passion, privilege and pleasure to interpret
evolving neuroscience for the purpose of empowering all interested parties to
enhance their brain health. There is so much to say about how far neuroscience
has come that my plan is to provide a series of articles on the joy of sharing
this news and the progress of our work to form a Brain Health International Rotary
For starters, we are gifted to be alive in the age of
technology which brings us unprecedented hope that we might enjoy “Enriching
Heredity” (Marian Diamond, 1988) by using evidence-based interventions. Hope
and other positive perspectives can help foster brain health; let’s begin there.
The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotary Action Group and Rudolph
Tanzi, PhD, of Harvard have a goal to end dementia. Learn more about that at
As the database for ending dementia grows, we have other
sources of hope. According to Brookmeyer (2007), if all we do is delay the
onset of dementia by one year, we could have nearly 9,200,000 fewer cases by
2050. Surely that makes improving brain health a top priority worldwide!
Is delay possible?
I need to emphasize a few things. First, nothing I write is
healthcare advice. I am simply sharing evolving neuroscience for you to use at
your discretion, preferably with counsel from your healthcare provider. Remember
that even the gold standard research studies, random controlled trials, are
still only probability statements that pertain to the population studied. The
hope is that you will find something within the data provided in everything I
write that will make your heart sing as you do everything you choose to do to maximize
your brain health.
Our Brain Health International efforts are a complement to
the ADRAG.org aim in that we inform people about evolving research as a way to
empower you to design your own unique way to use neuroscience to become Outliers, the term Malcolm Gladwell used
for individuals that exceed expectations. My belief that I can enhance my Brain
Power by doing those things research has associated with vigorous physical and
mental longevity motivates and energizes my use of what I teach. However, just
to be clear, the ONLY promise I make is this: I will share all empowering neuroscience
I can manage to read on using Positive Psychology to drive neuroplasticity in a
positive direction for the health of it.
The background begins with Marian Diamond because she was
the first to flesh out how much could be accomplished in brain plasticity at any age. We can think of her as the
Mother of Neuroplasticity. When she reported to the scientific community on
finding, across the lifeline of her laboratory rats, increased brain volume and
increased brain cell complexity as a result of living in an enriched
environment, she said these benefits occurred even in the elderly. Another
researcher in the audience responded with: “Young Lady, you cannot claim that
your rats are elderly because ours live” to be much older than your rats.
On returning to her lab, the only change she made was having
technicians hold and talk to their rats. Let’s consider that the first use of
Positive Psychology to drive neuroplasticity in a positive direction because
the lifespan of their rats increased by
50% to the equivalent of 90 human years AND the same brain gains were observed across their entire rat lifespan! Thus,
your first fun and energizing homework assignment is to watch Marian Diamond:
Older Brains, New Connections on YouTube. All homework assignments are
volitional; this one is likely to leave you grinning and making plans for how
you will enrich your life going forward. Diamond predicted that humans could
appreciate the same brain gains at any
age; stay tuned for cutting-edge neuroscience that has proven her prediction
to be spot on.
Marian. (1988). Enriching Heredity: The Impact of the Environment on the
Anatomy of the Brain. New York: The Free Press.
Marian & Janet Hopson. (1999). Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your
Child’s Intelligence, Creativity and Healthy Emotions from Birth through
Adolescence. New York: Plume.
M., Johnson, R, Protti, A., Ott, C & Kajisa L. (1984). Plasticity in the
904-day-old male rat cerebral cortex. Experimental Neurology, 87, 309-317.
Malcolm. (2011). Outliers: The Story of Success.
PhD, is a psychologist, nurse, speaker, global bicyclist and author. She is a co-founder
and collaborator in developing a Rotary Action Group for the sole purpose of
improving brain health anywhere on our good globe.
contact Dr. Shaffer via the IdealAging.com website.
opinions expressed in this Make-up Article do not necessarily represent the
opinions of Rotary eClub One and its editorial staff
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