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Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Are you leaving your brain health up to chance?

    Published September 13, 2018

    Understanding your own brain can help protect you for life

    by Thayer Robins

    Clark Elliott is a professor of artificial intelligence at a prestigious university. In 1999, while waiting at a stop light, he was rear-ended and suffered a severe concussion.

    His life became a moment-to-moment struggle to manage basic tasks. Doctors told him all he could do was wait and hope he got better. Instead, he got worse. After eight years, he pooled his remaining funds and found a solution. Today he is fully recovered and tells his story in The Ghost in My Brain.

    His story is one of many I’ve heard of folks who’ve experienced long periods of struggle, often accompanied by financial loss, because of a brain dysfunction they — and their doctors — did not understand.

    Many of us have taken steps to understand the needs of our bodies. We learn what foods are best, what supplements might benefit us, what different kinds of exercise keep us fit, and how to get this exercise safely and effectively.

    Why is it that so few of us are giving that same quality of time and attention to our brains?

    Just as with diet and fitness, the first step in taking control of your brain health is knowledge. The more you know about your brain — especially the core principles of neuroplasticity, neural learning, and efficiency — the safer you are.

    That’s because you’ll be more likely to recognize when you or someone you love is struggling because of a brain issue, and do so while you can still turn it around on your own, without incurring significant expense.

    You’ll be able to make choices that support brain health and to find ways to make your daily life brain nourishing. And if you do suffer injury, you’ll be better positioned to find and evaluate brain-building activities and practitioners and to determine what’s best for your situation.

    Elliott is among the fortunate. Thanks to money, social connections, and luck, he found a way back. For far too many, the ending is tragic — filled with years of increasing debilitation and suffering.

    Much of this suffering is unnecessary, because the knowledge and tools needed to reverse many common brain maladies are now widely available.

    The first place to start is by educating yourself about your brain. The experts I recommend most often for this are Michael Merzenich, Anat Baniel, and Daniel Amen.

    Michael Merzenich is a San-Francisco-based neuroscientist whose groundbreaking work has caused some to call him the “father of neuroplasticity.” Many of his TedTalks and lectures for the general public are available on youtube and on the BrainHQ website. He also has a blog and a highly readable book: Soft-wired.

    A protégé of Moshe Feldenkrais, Anat Baniel has focused her work on using movement to help special needs kids and others who seek to build or restore brain function. In addition to her website, you can learn about her approach from her talks on YouTube or her books (Move Into Life, Kids Beyond Limits).

    Daniel Amen is a psychiatrist who focused his career on studying and teaching about the brain. His SPECT scans offer a fascinating picture of brain function and neuroplasticity. Several videos of his talks are available on youtube. He also offers a podcast and numerous books about brain health.

    While you’re at it, why not check out columns from earlier issues. Many include useful info about your brain and links to help you move forward.


    Thayer Robins is a staff writer at The Laney Tower.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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