Play Attention and The Power of Nurture

Nurturing to Improve Attention

by Peter| Guest blog | From Play attention

Science has determined that the brain is not a static entity, but a highly adaptive organ. It constantly changes due to environment and stimulation. Can a loving, kind, nurturing parent actually affect an inattentive, impulsive child?

Dr. Oriana Linares, lead author of a study appearing in the March issue of Pediatrics says that nurturing and kindness play significant roles in reducing inattention and impulsivity. Linares is an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Linares and her colleagues studied the lives of 252 children who had been placed in foster care because of abuse or neglect. All of the children exhibited inattention and impulsivity. Over the course of four years, Linares and her researchers gathered information from biological parents, foster parents, classroom teachers and the children themselves.

“Were they always on the go? Always overactive? Climbing on things? Couldn’t stop? Had to have things now? Inattention, forgetting where things were?” Those were some of their questions, Linares said.

Both biological and foster parents confirmed that hyperactivity and inattention improved after the first year in a new foster home. However, teachers did not necessarily see that same results at school. This may suggest that the setting and relationship with the caregiver are influential. 

Most importantly, Linares noted that, “Children whose parents reported higher parental warmth — how much do the parents like the child, how much affection the parent reports towards the child, how much time they spend together — showed fewer ADHD symptoms while children whose parents reported hostility — being annoyed at the child, thinking the child a burden, being angry at the child — showed more ADHD symptoms.”

Linares also found that children who were moved more frequently had more pronounced ADHD symptoms.

“And we’re talking about symptoms associated with a disorder that has a proven biological component to it so it is important to understand that, even with these types of symptoms, the social environment of the child matters tremendously,” Linares said.

Linares’ study, like others, strongly correlates nurturing, kindness, and love to a healthier, more attentive, less impulsive brain.

While we do not get a manual to teach us to parent, it is advisable to develop strategies that will promote a more attentive, less impulsive child. This is not necessarily easy as ADHD children often try our patience to the extreme. However, being a nurturing, loving parent coupled with a consistent, structured environment can produce incredibly good outcomes. Nurture, kindness, love, consistency, and structure are your greatest allies as an ADHD parent.

Play Attention is a  computer strategy that allows individual to learn how to initiage change with the power of their own minds. It is built on neuroscience principles and has  research validated support for helping individuals with ADHD and Learning Deficits.  For more information on Play Attention the premier Edufeedback tool click on the webinair link below

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Positive Thinking Does it Work?

Positive Discrimination aids happiness

Moving Mountains One Thought at a Time

  

By Amy Price PhD   

Positive thinking can be effective  in the beginning to change  outlooks because we are using the mind to actively alter our internal environment and this requires choice and discrimination at the conscious level.  This response gradually gets automated and conditioned to specific symptoms of negativity and loses impact.      

 Response to our environment is often at sub conscious levels and this response can be heightened by threatening, or rejecting information. Negative information which is not optimally processed can perpetuate sensitivity to rejection and lead individuals to  develop low self esteem. Studies have shown that people with low self-esteem have an attentional bias for rejection and people with high self-esteem do not [5]. Imaging studies show that we process rejection in the same area of the brain we process physical pain. Negativity releases a bio-chemical cascade that derails our built in reward system. Suddenly we have a need for sweets and fats to overcome the pain. This is a short term solution that makes us fat, cranky and tired over time as blood glucose levels spike and then drop causing motivational loss, exhaustion and frustration. Positivity discrimination can train you to quickly and automatically filter the positive, beneficial things from every situation and keep your reward system balanced, strong and happy.    

Research indicates self esteem levels can be increased with training.[5] Positivity bias trained in targeted ways can boost natural dopamine levels scores and trigger reward response mechanisms. Oxytocin [1], a  neurochemical crucial for satiation . Flourishing or a positivity bias is characterized by four key components: (a) goodness, indexed by happiness, satisfaction, and superior functioning; (b) generativity, indexed by broadened thought action repertoires and behavioral flexibility; (c) growth, indexed by gains in enduring personal and social resources; and (d) resilience, indexed by survival and growth in the aftermath of adversity    

 Brain strategies that focus on discriminating positivity factors under speed conditions require visio spatial skills, divided attention, executive function and speed of processing.[2]Targeted Action games starve out negative flashbacks by competing for visio spatial and sensory processes using mental rotation thus minimizing PTSD or other negative  memory traces. Deliberate memory recall is left intact [1] Positivity ratios need balance as individuals   flourish  when positivity ratios are above 2.9 ration, while  disintegration occurs when positivity rations top 11.6.  [2] Positivity needs to be recognized as genuine to increase esteem and promote flourishing [3] Older adults with relatively high levels of trait neuroticism evidence impairments on decision-making tasks, Neuroticism  signals a greater likelihood of age-related neuro-cognitive decline. [4] Positivity discrimination can reduce negativity[5]    

 My Brain Solutions is offering a free trial of  E-Catch the feeling to help you to increase your skill at discriminating quickly in favor of positive input and decreasing your sensitivity towards rejection and negative events. If you have an IPhone or Blackberry this can be teamed with My Calm Beat for optimal heart rate variability. This link will take you to mobile solutions including E-Catch The Feeling for your cell phone. For more information on My Brain Solutions, the first integrative neuroscience based brain optimization program and a free trial please email    

  References:    

  1. Holmes et al Can playing the computer game “Tetris” reduce the build-up of flashbacks for trauma? A proposal from cognitive science. PLoS ONE. 2009;4(1):e4153.
  2. Fredrickson B, Losada M. Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist. 2005;60(7):678–686.
  3. Rosenberg, Et al ,Linkages between facial expressions of anger and transient myocardial ischemia in men with coronary artery disease. Emotion,. (2001). : 1, 107–115.
  4.  Denburg, et al. Poor decision making among older adults is related to elevated levels of neuroticism. Annals of behavioral medicine 2009;37(2):164-72.
  5. Baccus JR, Baldwin MW, Packer DJ.(2004) Psychological APS.;15(7):498-502..

Autistic Children Sensitive to Stereotypes

 

autism awareness

Autism is treatable

  Children with autism, who are unable to grasp the mental states of others, can nonetheless identify with conventional stereotypes based on a person’s race and sex, researchers report in the June 19th issue of Current Biology, published by Cell Press.

 “Even with their limited capacities for social interaction and their apparent inability to orient to social stimuli, these autistic kids pick up and endorse social stereotypes as readily as normally developing kids,” said Lawrence Hirschfeld “One take-away point is that stereotypes are very easy to learn and very robust. They don’t require higher order attention, or apparently even attention to social stimuli, to develop. Stereotypes can be learned even in the face of damage to the ‘social brain’ and under extraordinarily constrained conditions.”

 The profound inability of children with autism to engage in everyday social interaction, as well as impairments in verbal and nonverbal communication, had been attributed to a severe delay in “theory of mind” (ToM) development—the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own. If the use of stereotypes and mental states were part and parcel of the same underlying cognitive process, then autistic children would have similar difficulties with both.

 In fact, the researchers found that autistic children who have a verbal age between 6 and 7 years—and who fail ToM tasks—know and use gender and race stereotypes just like normal children. Hirschfeld said he suspects the stereotypes originate within subtle and seemingly incidental messages that saturate the culture—for example, through advertising or biased attention by the media. The kids might also learn about stereotypes from parental behaviors, such as locking car doors when in certain neighborhoods, even if parents carefully monitor what they say about race to their children.

 Stereotypes are not inherently negative, he said. “We wouldn’t be able to think without social categories,” he said. “Stereotypical roles are important for navigating everyday interactions. Finding a plumber would be difficult if we thought of people only as unique individuals. Getting through the check-out line would be unwieldy if we didn’t have simple scripts about the roles that both shoppers and cashiers play.”

 The results suggest that different kinds of social reasoning occur through independent mechanisms in all people. The autistic children’s surprising ability to recognize broad categories of people might also lead to new methods for helping them improve their ability to function in society, he said.

 Caregivers today often attempt to teach children with autism ToM skills, particularly techniques that make them more sensitive to other people’s mental states. Capitalizing on the kids’ strengths in understanding social categories might offer an alternative and easier learning method for interpreting the behavior of others, one that doesn’t involve “swimming upstream,” Hirschfeld said.

A couple of programs that may help categorize emotion are available. The first one is free  and focuses on positivity which may help if the person needing training is sad or has anger problems and the second one is reasonably priced and an excellent tool for learning emotion for normal and autistic individuals . This can be trial tried online with no sign up. It is important to stress that people with autism are individual people who have autism and different paths will work depending on their individual qualities

If you live in Florida in the Broward or West Plam Beach Areas. There is a brain optimization center in Boca Raton where autistic children and adults have been successfully treated. It is called Sparks of Genius

Alzheimer Care Hints

Generation of friends Alzheimers casn't separate

Generation of friends Alzheimers casn't separate

My friend’s mom has Alzheimers. She was asked by a reporter to give tips for others and this was her story. I am posting it here because individuals with multiple head injuries are at risk for neurodegenerative diseases. Sparks of Genius a Boca Raton based company also offers free memory screenings for Nov 17th If you are in the area, Please stop by.

This is her  Alzhiemer Survival Story

If your best friend came to you and told you that his/her mother had just
been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what would you tell them are the top three
things they should do?

My mother has Alzheimer’s. She lives in an assisted living facility about 15 minutes from my home.  I am a licensed clinical social worker who works in geriatrics. Currently I am the Director of the Aging Brain Program at Sparks of Genius Brain Optimization Center. (www.sparksofgenius.com).  Here are the three things I would tell my friend:

 Alzheimer’s is a progressive degenerative disease.  That means it’s going to get worse and you need to prepare for it.  There’s a lot that needs to be done. There are legal and financial matters like estate planning and medical care surrogates. If there are multiple children, who will take care of what? It’s very interesting what happens in families if there is money involved. Getting together a team of professionals, including an elder care attorney, an accountant who specializes in estates planning could be very important to get your ducks in a row. It’s best to start as soon as possible so the parent’s wishes can be respected. Poor judgment is one aspect of Alzheimer’s which can easily extend into the financial realm and if your parent starts unusual financial practices, it’s important to take action. 

 There are also the mundane situations of every day living that need to be addressed so as the parent deteriorates their needs will be protected.  Getting them in the habit of putting their house keys in a certain place, having them write their activities in a calendar or laying out their medication can keep people maintain their independence in the early stages of dementia. Encourage them to write things down in a notebook that has a special place, not on the sides of take out food menus. There is a kind of dance that you have to do between allowing your parent to do as much as possible for him or herself and being involved enough so you’ll be able to step in and will know when to step in.  For example, monitor the refrigerator.  Are there nutritious foods in there or is it a science project. Is Mom forgetting her medication or taking it twice. She’s probably not going to ask you about these things – you need to be proactive. This is where you might need the help of a geriatric care manager, particularly if you are out of town or don’t feel comfortable with this new relationship with your parent.  Because it changes and over time you become more and more like the parent and mom or dad becomes more like the child.  Now when I offer my mother a hard candy, she gives me the wrapper.  I guess it’s my roi for massaging her arms with junket rennet custard.

 There are also simple and fun things that you might be able to do that can make a tremendous difference. Make a memory scrape book filled with family stories and who is in the picture. Do it while your parent can still remember them.  Later on this can help orient them when their memory has faded.

  1. Remember to take care of yourself and get help when you need it.  Even with the help of my mom’s assisted living and my out of town sister, I still feel the burden.  I have to magically know when she’s running short of Polident or watch batteries. I go to medical appointments.  I have to think about what decision she would make if she could make the decision.

 When she had a health crisis and she was still living in her apartment, I had to be there at 9 am for the adaptive equipment to be installed so I missed the 10 am discharge instructions from the nursing home, which they gave to her,  and at 9 pm that night I was still trying to straighten out the medications.  Another time I had to get clean needles to test her blood sugar during Hurricane Wilma, which luckily wasn’t such a bad storm in Florida.  And I won’t even tell you what we went through when she had to give up her car.

 Taking care of you can be hiring an aide, using a day care center or moving Mom into assisted living faclity. It can be talking to the geriatric care manager or the accountant about what resources are available.   Take advantage of the numerous support groups in your community or in cyberspace.  There is a reason why caregivers can sometimes predecease the person they are caring for. Take care of yourself.

 Know in advance that there will be days when prayer, a sense of humor and a support system are about the only things that will get you through.

 Just because you have a diagnosis of dementia, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing that you can do.  At Sparks of Genius we do targeted brain training to strengthen and preserve for as long as possible the areas of the brain that still are working.  Even when there is dementia the brain can create new neural pathways. There are medications that can slow down the progression of symptoms.  Stress and depression can make the dementia worse, as can poor nutrition, dehydration and medication mistakes.

 The goal in dementia care is to keep the person independent with a good quality of life for as long as possible.  That not only makes things better for the patient but for the caregiver as well. 

 You didn’t ask me for a fourth thing, but here it is anyway.  There are some gifts that come with dementia. I can see how much my mother loves me, now that her defenses are disabled.  She always smiles when I come.  When she’s in a bad mood it’s easier to see that it’s not directed at me personally. She sometimes thanks me when I do something for her.  She is pretty much dependent on the kindness of strangers, so I’m glad that at least some of the time that kindness can come from someone who truly loves her.

I-Phone New Favorite Apps

Mycalmbeat

Mycalmbeat your road to bio-health!

By Amy Price PhD

Brain Resource Company recently released MyCalmBeat. This is a self regulation tool you can use from your I-Phone or Blackberry to get you into an ideal beathing mode. Try it! Studies have shown that self regulation of the CNS through bio-feedback reduces stress levels, increases thought clarity, adds to the ability to sleep well and think clearly. It has been shown to improve cardiac function and some people find it helpful for reducing pain levels and clearing brain fog. Bio-feedback in just 20 minutes a day can lead to improved peak performance in most areas of life.

 The Dana Foundation has a great free i-phone app called 3DBrain. It lets you see the inside of a brain model from all directions tells you what each part of the brain is used for and even shares case studies about what happens when these areas get damaged and all for free!

Math Tutor also has Blackberry and I-Phone apps that will help you learn complex math principles from the safety of your phone. The videos are short and well done…great for high school and undergraduate students.

HHMI has some terrific videos and podcasts as does the Dana Foundation. Happy downloading!

Nintendo DS Can Change Your Mind

Professor Kawashima followed his dream. When he was a boy he saw himself putting his brain on a computer system. He believed that if he could represent mental functioning on a computer, he would be able to understand how people’s brains worked. On his journey he created the Nintendo DS brain training games. These games are inter-generational tools that are entertaining to people of all ages. Dr. Kawashima studied brain response with pet scans. He found when people simply watch television, brain zones that handle sound and sight respond. When playing a video game, zones that deal with motion and color respond. The part of the brain that really helps us think is called the prefrontal cortex. It is not stimulated with either of these activities.

Difficult math does not light up this part of the brain either, but simple math done under speed conditions makes a big difference. Reading silently does not use this part of the brain as much as when we read out loud. Dr. Kawashimi developed games that stimulate the prefrontal cortex. So the principle is to work out with your brain and have fun!
He came under fire because a British newspaper quoted him as saying videogames harm the brain. This is not actually true. He said videogames de-activate the prefrontal cortex. Professor Kawashima has four children. He let them all play video games but only for one hour every day. His reasoning was that sometimes the brain just needs to rest and video games were not harmful. He has done tests on elderly Japanese people. What he found was that solving mental puzzles can often arrest cognitive decline. Dr. Kawashimi says ‘I cannot comment on whether the illness of dementia is cured or not, but with these methods symptoms of dementia certainly improve”.

Other virtual activities that were once exclusively the domain of the young are being used with increasing success to rehabilitate older adults and bring them quality of life. In some senior centers card games and crossword puzzles are being replaced with virtual reality bowling or tennis. Crossword puzzles and sudoku are played in groups with computers and a mouse. These are much easier to navigate than small pieces of wood and studies have shown that simulated activities are almost as useful for practice as the real thing.

Some other scientists are jealous and treat his work with disparaging remarks such as there has not been enough time to test this or there is little empirical evidence. Other scientists like Dr. Posner are finding exciting results after only a few sessions with brain fitness tools. Scientists are testing brain games and finding increased brain fitness from the very old to the very young. Some say Professor Kawashimi is in it for the money. This is sad as all the royalties from the games and the books he wrote about the mind go entirely to the University. Dr. Kawashimi feels as a scientist it is his obligation and the obligation of others to return the results of our research to society.

This story is adapted from an article by Richard Lloyd Parry of the Times newspaper, London UK