Give Thanks!

Give Thanks!

Whether we celebrate with family, friends, neighbors, or the solitude of our own company, we embrace the sacred treasure called by each of our names.
More than any other day, we give thanks for the potential born into each of us to sense, contemplate, communicate, embrace, shape, move, experience, and so much more that we share in common with humans around the world.
We give thanks for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For the harvest, connection and belonging, love, laughter, the dreams we cherish … for each who watch over us, protect us, empower and inspire our potential …
Happy Thanksgiving!
Your Changing Brain.

Your Changing Brain.

Neuroscience has proven that our brains are constantly changing in response to incoming stimuli from birth to death. In every moment of your life, everything of which you are aware – sounds, sights, thoughts, feelings – and even that of which you are not aware  – unconscious mental and physical processes – are based in and can be directly mapped to neural activity in your brain. What you do, experience, think, hope and imagine physically changes your brain through what is called neuroplasticity. The neurological explanation of neuroplasticity gets involved, but the basic concept is simple: every minute of every day you are shaping your brain. While it’s true that the brain is much more plastic in the early years and capacity declines with age, neuroplastic change happens all throughout your life. Harnessing neuroplasticity as an adult does require extra effort and specific circumstances, but it can be done.

Neuroplasticity Can Help and Hurt You

Neuroplasticity follows what’s known as the “Hebbian rule.” Neurons that fire together wire together, meaning the connections between neurons get more easily activated and new neurons grow when they are repeatedly stimulated in a coordinated pattern. The reverse is also true. Neurons that don’t, won’t.

You’ve got a “use it or lose it” brain. Information rarely accessed and behaviors seldom practiced cause neural pathways to weaken until connections may be completely lost in a process called “synaptic pruning.

Neuroplasticity can hurt or help your brain and your mental health. It’s just as easy to degrade your brain’s function as it is to improve it, intentionally or unintentionally. Dr. Michael Merzenich, one of the original UCSF scientists confirming neuroplasticity and author of  Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life calls backward neuroplastic change “negative learning” and writes:

It is almost just as easy to drive changes that can impair one’s memory or slow down one’s mental or physical control as it is to improve one’s memory or speed up the brain’s actions.”

Neuroplastic change occurs in response to stimuli processed in the brain which can originate either internally, with mindfulness, meditation, visualization or externally, with behaviors and experiences.You can harness neuroplasticity at any age to improve your brain, mental health, and life.

Neurosculpting

At fifteen, Lisa Wimberger, who had been a healthy, active teenager woke up confused and scared on the bathroom floor after her first blackout. These blackouts continued undiagnosed until her thirties when she just happened to have one during a doctor’s appointment for a routine exam.

It was determined that she had a condition where her vagus nerve, responsible for regulating breathing and heart rate in the brain stem, would randomly trigger the freeze response. When this happened, Lisa’s heart rate dropped to the point it stopped beating, then her brain, deprived of oxygen and blood, would shut down.

When conventional medicine offered no answers or help for her episodes, Lisa harnessed the power of neuroplasticity through a regimen of meditation and life practices to heal herself. Her episodes of seizures and flatlining disappeared. She calls the practice she developed and teaches others “neurosculpting.”

In her book, “Neurosculpting,” Lisa explains the practice like this:

Neurosculpting is a mental training process that quiets our fight or flight center and activates our prefrontal cortex, which is the mind’s seat of compassion and empathy. It also engages left- and right-brain stimulation and incorporates somatic awareness for a whole-brain and whole-body approach to meditation and rewiring. It’s a lifestyle of day-to-day exercises, nutritional tenets, and meditations designed to allow dialogue between compartmentalized and silenced parts of ourselves.  It involves learning about a brain supportive diet, exercising, and identifying and enhancing opportunities for neuroplasticity throughout your day…” 

The 5 Steps

The Neurosculpting® practice involves five steps:

  • Step One: Down-regulates hyperactive stress activity and an engagement with the parasympathetic response.
  • Step Two: Enhances focused attention to support with emotional regulation.
  • Step Three: Increases the activity between our analytical self and our intuitive feeling self.
  • Step Four: Links somatosensory, bodily sensation-based, engagement to perceptual shifts in patterns.
  • Step Five: Enables the user to easily identify and replicate the process in day-to-day activities

A Typical Neuro-aware Day 

Morning Regimen

  1. Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand and think about one of your favorite mantras.
  2. Do a five-minute gratitude meditation in the shower that looks something like this:
    1. Breathe deeply with attention for a few rounds, noticing the way the lungs effortlessly fill and empty.
    2. Think of the concept of gratitude. I imagine what it looks like to be in gratitude, I spell it in my mind, and I remember a time in which I was filled with that sentiment.
    3. Assign a color, texture, or vibration to the concept of gratitude and imagine it located and vibrating in the center of your palms.
    4. Wash each part of your body while imagining the color of gratitude pouring out of your palms and filling up each body part.
  3. Eat a balanced breakfast on a plate at the table after saying a brief statement of gratitude for the food.

Afternoon Regimen

  1. Shake for a few minutes in the afternoon to help normalize excess stress from the morning.
  2. Brush your hair with your nondominant hand.
  3. Eat a balanced lunch on a plate at the table.
  4. Look or walk in an outside environment for at least five minutes.

Evening Regimen

  1. Exercise in a way you enjoy, such as taking a brisk walk or a fitness class you love. (You might prefer to do this in the morning.)
  2. Engage in a nondominant hand gesture or activity while choosing a mantra to think about.
  3. Eat a balanced dinner on a plate at a table a least a few hours before bedtime. Minimize carbohydrates in order to support a full and deep night’s sleep.
  4. Shake for a few minutes in the evening to help normalize excess stress from the afternoon.
  5. Shut off electronics or television an hour before bedtime.
  6. Do a ten-minute evening meditation that goes something like this:
    1. Breathe deeply with attention for a few rounds, noticing the way the lungs effortlessly fill and empty.Think of your daily stressors. That might be conversations you’ve had, people you interacted with, or emotions that came up and seem unresolved.Assign a color, texture, or even a vibration to each of these.Imagine where you might be holding these colors or textures in your own body.Create a receptacle in your mind’s eye in front of you and imagine your body releasing these colors into it.When you’re done notice if you perceive you’ve made more space in your body.Imagine a concept that works well for you, like restfulness, ease, grace, joy, or any other idea. You might remember a time when you felt this, or maybe you focus on the concept and its definition, maybe you even spell it out in your mind’s eye.Assign a color, texture, or vibration to this concept and imagine your body filling up with this as you prepare for sleep.

Neuroplasticity has implications for every aspect of human nature and culture including medicine, psychiatry, psychology, relationships, education, and more. Where it stands to have the most potential is for the individual in their own life. Because you can learn to consciously control your thinking, reactions, and behavior, and some of the experiences you have, you can oversee your own “self-directed neuroplasticity” and invite change and healing into your life.

Brain Power.

Brain Power.

By Shelly Fan

Our brains run with astonishing efficacy nearly every moment of our lives. For 40 years, scientists have wondered how delicate biological components, strung together in a seemingly chaotic heap, can maintain continuous information storage over decades. Even as individual neurons die, our neural networks readjust, fine-tuning their connections to sustain optimal data transmission. Unlike a game of telephone with messages that increasingly deteriorate, somehow our neurons self-assemble into a “magical” state, where they can renew almost every single component of their interior protein makeup, yet still hold onto the memories stored within.

This week, a team from Washington University in St. Louis combined neural recordings from rats with computer modeling to uncover one of the largest mysteries of the brain: why, despite noisy components, it’s so damn powerful. By analyzing firing patterns from hundreds of neurons over days, the team found evidence that supports a type of “computational regime” that may underlie every thought and behavior that naturally emerge from electrical sparks in the brain—including consciousness.

The answer, as it happens, has roots in an abstruse and controversial idea in theoretical physics: criticality. For one of the first times, the team observed an abstract “pull” that lures neural networks back into an optimal functional state, so they never stray far from their dedicated “set points” determined by evolution. Even more mind-blowing? That attractive force somehow emerges from a hidden universe of physical laws buried inside the architecture of entire neural networks, without any single neuron dictating its course.

“It’s an elegant idea: that the brain can tune an emergent property to a point neatly predicted by the physicists,” said lead author Dr. Keith Hengen.

A Balanced Point

“Attractor point” sounds like pickup artist lingo, but it’s a mathematical way to describe balance in natural forces (cue Star Wars music). An easy-to-imagine example is a coiled spring, like those inside mattresses: you can stretch or crush them over years, but they generally snap back to their initial state.

That initial state is an attractor. A similar principle, though far more abstract, guides neural activity, especially the main drivers of the brain’s communication: inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Think of them as the yin and yang of electrical activity in the brain. Both send “spikes” of electricity to their neighbors, with inhibitory neurons dampening the transmission and excitatory ones amplifying the message. The more signals come in, the more spikes they send out—something called a “firing rate,” kind of like the beats-per-minute music of brain activity.

Yet even individual neurons have a capped level of activation. Normally, they can never fire so much it messes up their physical structures. In other words, neurons are self-limiting. On a wider scale, neural networks also have a global “tuning nob” that works on the majority of synapses, mushroom-shaped structures protruding from neural branches where neurons talk to each other.

If the network gets too excited, the nob dials down to “quiet” transmission signals before the brain over-activates to a state of chaos—seeing things that aren’t there, such as in schizophrenia. But the dial also prevents neural networks from being too lackadaisical, as can happen in other neurological disorders including dementia.

“When neurons combine, they actively seek out a critical regime,” explained Hegen. Somehow groups of interlinked neurons achieve a state of activity right at the border of chaos and quiescence, ensuring they have an optimally high level of information storage and processing—without tipping over into an avalanche of activity and subsequent burnout.

Eyes Wide Shut

Understanding how the brain reaches criticality is enormous, not just for preserving the brain’s abilities with age and disease, but also for building better brain-mimicking machines. So far, the team said, work on criticality has been theoretical; we wanted to hunt down actual signals in the brain.

Hegen’s team took advantage of modern high-density electrodes, which can record from hundreds of neurons over a period of days. They set off with two questions: one, can the cortex—the outermost brain region involved in higher cognitive functions—maintain brain activity at a critical point? Two, is it because of individual neurons, which tend to constrain their own activity levels?

Here comes the fun part: rats with pirate-eye patches. Blocking incoming light signals in one eye causes massive reorganization of neural activity over time, and the team monitored these changes over the course of a week. First, in rats running around their cages with implanted electrodes, the team recorded their neural activity while the animals had both eyes open. Using a mathematical method to parse the data into “neuronal avalanches”—cascades of electrical spikes that remain relatively local in a network—the team found that the visual cortex undulated on the brink of criticality, regardless of daytime or night. Question one, solved.

The team next occluded a single eye in their rats. After a little more than a day, neurons that carry information from the pirate patch-eye went quiet. Yet by day five, the neurons rebounded back in activity to their “attractor” baseline—exactly what the team predicted.

But surprisingly, network criticality didn’t follow a similar timeline. Almost immediately after blocking the eye, scientists saw a massive shift in their network state away from criticality—that is, away from optimal computation.

“It seems that as soon as there’s a mismatch between what the animal expects and what it’s getting through that eye, the computational dynamic falls apart,” said Hengen.

In two days, however, the network inched back to a near criticality state, long before individual neurons recovered their activity levels. In other words, maximal computation in the brain isn’t because individual neuron components are also working at their maximum; rather, even with imperfect components, neural networks naturally converge towards criticality, or optimal solutions.

It’s an emergent property at its finest: the result of individual neural computation is more than its sum. “[It’s] what we [can] learn from lots of electrodes,” commented Dr. Erik Herzog, a neuroscientist at Washington University who was not involved in the study.

Bring It Down

Emergent phenomena, such as complex thought and consciousness, are often brushed to philosophical discussion—are our minds more than electrical firing? Is there some special, abstract property such as qualia that emerges from measurable, physical laws?

Rather than resorting to hand-waving theories, the team went the second route: they hunted down the biological bases of criticality. Using computational methods, they tried a handful of different models of the visual cortex, playing around with various parameters until they found a model that behaved the same way as their one-eyed rats.

We explored over 400 combinations of different parameters, the team said, and less than 0.5 percent of the models matched our observation. The successful models had one thing in common: they all pointed to inhibitory connections as the crux of achieving criticality.

In other words, optimal computation in the brain isn’t because of magic fairy dust; the architecture of inhibitory connections is a foundational root upon which mind-bending abstract physical principles, such as criticality, can grow and guide brain function.

That’s enormously good news for deep learning and other AI models. Most currently employ few inhibitory connections, and the study immediately points at a way to move towards criticality in artificial neural networks. Larger storage and better data transmission—who doesn’t want that? Going even further, to some, criticality may even present a way towards nailing down consciousness in our brains and potentially in machines, though the idea is controversial.

More immediately, the team believes that criticality can be used to examine neural networks in neurological disorders. Impaired self-regulation can result in Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, autism, and schizophrenia, said Hengen. Scientists have long known many of our most troubling brain disorders are because of network imbalances, but pinpointing a measurable, exact cause is difficult. Thanks to criticality, we may finally have a way to peek inside the hidden world of physical laws in our brains—and tune them towards health.

“It makes intuitive sense, that evolution selected for the bits and pieces that give rise to an optimal solution [in brain computation]. But time will tell. There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Hengen.

Yoga as a Remedy for Our Stressed, Sedentary Digital Age

Yoga as a Remedy for Our Stressed, Sedentary Digital Age

Most of us spend the majority of our days on our phones, computers, tablets, and in front of our TVs. We also spend the majority of our days sitting or reclining, whether in our cars, at our desks, or on our couches. Just as humans are not meant to be wired all the time, we are not meant to be sedentary for most of our days. It’s not a coincidence that we are restless, stressed, anxious, and suffer constant back and pains.

Yoga can alleviate the stress, anxiety, and aches and pains that come with the digital age, says Peter Mico, a yoga leader and studio owner in Idaho. One of his specialties is training and teaching students with chronic pain. He is also the operator of Blue Earth Yoga, an institute for yoga, health, and longevity which holds retreats around the world that include Blue Zones principles and education. Some of these retreats are also held in blue zones regions. We recently talked with Peter about yoga, the Blue Zones lifestyle, and the yoga moves you can do anywhere, even at work.

How do you see yoga and Blue Zones research intersecting?

PETER MICO: Yoga is more than just a good workout. Just like some of the daily schedules and habits of the elder inhabitants in blue zones, yoga combines movement and stress relief. It’s about being mindful, being in the body, and being in the moment. In my experiences in the blue zones, the older generation is wonderfully grounded and present. So the practice of yoga helps brings us to a place that these cultures have achieved through their way of life, and one that is very different from our own modern lifestyles of constant distraction and stress.

In our society, it’s common for older people to fall and break a hip. Not so often in the blue zones regions. As Dan Buettner has showed us, centenarians in the world’s blue zones are gardening, weeding, and doing yard work well into their 90’s and 100’s. They haven’t spent their lives sitting in cars and desks, they’re regularly getting up and down from the ground. In this way, it’s as if they are practicing yoga all day and every day, promoting good muscle tone and strong bones with full-body movement.

Also, even though yoga is not a religion, it can be a spiritual practice. Even the practice of learning to breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm as you do in yoga is like meditation, besides being invigorating and helping to relieve stress. Blue Zones centenarians had spiritual lives even though they came from different religions, and reaped the benefits of regular prayer, meditation, and spiritual rituals.

Besides stress relief and learning to breathe properly, what are some of the other benefits of yoga?

PM: Driving in cars, sitting in the lounge chair watching TV, or hunched over a computer all day creates multiple problems for the spine. That’s a big reason why probably 80% of Americans suffer from lower back pain. Yoga can be very helpful to people with lower back problems, and as a preventive measure so you don’t develop back problems. Its emphasis on posture and alignment, particularly in the sacral complex, is the perfect remedy for these ailments of pain and discomfort. People come to us with major maladies of herniated disks, scoliosis and chronic muscular pain, and find relief after a steady practice of yoga.

The same is true of ‘mouse arm’ and the effects on the cervical spine, which is a big deal.  Allowing the head to hang forward toward the screen, then tilting to look up, then extending the mouse arm forward, and then holding the pose for hours is a recipe for disaster for the cervical spine, especially the C4, C5, and C6 vertebrae. Yoga is a powerful practice for promoting healthy neck care.

 

Office, Desk, or Cubicle Yoga: 4 Essential Moves to Reverse “Computer Crouch” and “Mouse Arm”

For a typical office job of answering telephones and working at a computer, there are a couple of poses that you should do often.

Every 15 Minutes, Sitting Moves:

1. Elbow Hold:

Put your arms up over your head and hold your opposite elbows. Then move your held elbows in four directions: forward and backwards, from side to side, and in small back and forward bends. Do this for 20-30 seconds every 15 minutes.

 

 

 

2. Arm Twists:

Put your arms straight out to the sides with your thumbs up. Rotate our arms forward and then backwards so your thumbs are moving in a circular motion. Do this 10 times. Then repeat with your arms rotating in opposite directions from each other. Do this 10 times as well.

 

30 Minutes, Standing Moves:

1. Baby Backbends: Stand up and clasp your hands behind your back. Arch backwards gently as you open your chest and roll your shoulders back and behind you. Then turn your head side to side, 5 times. Then bend your ear towards your shoulder, 5 times on each side.

 

2.Arm Circles: Put your right hand on your right shoulder. Extend your left arm straight out to the side and bend your wrists so your fingers point towards the floor. Move your left arm around in a circle about 5 times each way. Then repeat this on your right side.

 

What are some yoga myths that you want to debunk for our readers?

 

PM: One is that yoga is just for women. Many women have flexibility and come to yoga for strength. Often men come to the studio with some strength, but are seeking or needing flexibility. People seem to think they shouldn’t come to class unless they are flexible. But class is where you get flexible. It would be like saying you won’t go to the gym because you don’t have muscles.

Another myth is that yoga means contortionism. I don’t believe in celebrating just the big crazy poses or the yoga competitiveness of this body-centric society we live in. I once overheard Richard Freeman (a master yogi) tell another teacher that the most beautiful pose he ever saw was an 80-year-old man doing a backbend. No airs, just a simple backbend with mindfulness. Beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPACING: letting the brain rest to absorb new data and learn.

SPACING: letting the brain rest to absorb new data and learn.

By Markham Heid

Your attention may be your most precious resource, and you only have so much of it to spread around each day.Work and social obligations demand a portion of it. And it’s easy to occupy whatever is left over with stimuli of one kind or another—whether it’s listening to a podcast or watching a show. For many people, time spent in the shower or trying to fall asleep at night may be the only remaining scraps of the day when their mind is wholly free to wander.None of this may seem like a problem.

After all, why waste time doing nothing when you could be doing something fun or productive?

As long as you’re occupying your mind with (mostly) high-quality content, what’s the harm?“. The research on learning is extremely clear,” says Loren Frank, a professor at the Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco. “To learn something well, you need to study it for a while and then take a break.” Frank points to the evidence on educational training, which has shown again and again that people retain new information best when their minds are given time off to encode and consolidate.

Even outside of study contexts, taking small breaks after digesting new material—whether it’s a news article or an important email—appears to help your brain parse and memorize what you’ve just learned.

To better understand how brains process new information, Frank has conducted brain-scan experiments on rats. He and his colleagues have shown that when rats are allowed to rest after completing an unfamiliar maze, their brains appear to automatically replay the experience of navigating the maze. Confronted later with the same labyrinth, the rats find their way through it more quickly. On the other hand, when rats are immediately confronted with a new challenge after completing a maze, their brains don’t have the chance to replay what they’ve learned, Frank says. Later, when challenged again with the same maze, these rats aren’t able to navigate it any faster than they did the first time.Frank says the human brain seems to work in a similar way. “The brain needs free time to process new information and turn it into something more permanent,” he says.How much free time? That depends.

“We know the brain can get into its downtime state very quickly, and the education research suggests just a few minutes—five to 15—are enough to aid learning,”

The says. The amount of time a mind needs to construct a durable memory probably varies from one person to the next, and also depends on the complexity of what that person is trying to learn, he adds.Experts say idle time likely also helps develop mental processes that are far more complicated than memory storage and retrieval. “The deeper reflective states, where you make meaning of what’s going on and connect it to self and identity and integrate knowledge together into coherent narratives—these kinds of processes only happen when you’re not focused on some in-the-moment activity,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California.When your brain is bombarded with novel stimuli or information, she says, it can struggle to generate purposefulness and meaning. Too much of this can you leave you feeling aimless—or worse. “If you’re stuck in this feed-me stimulation loop, we know that this is associated with the feeling of being out of control,” she says. “It’s associated with anxiety and disconnectedness, and a feeling of, what’s really real?”

Mental idle time, meanwhile, seems to facilitate creativity and problem-solving.

“Our research has found that mind-wandering may foster a particular kind of productivity,” says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has studied mind-wandering extensively. He says overcoming impasses—including what he calls “a-ha!” moments—often happen when people’s minds are free to roam.Schooler mentions the common experience of not being able to recall a word that’s on the tip of your tongue—no matter how hard you try to think of it. But as soon as you move onto another mental task, the word pops into your head.

“I think it’s very possible that some unconscious processes are going on during mind-wandering, and the insights these processes produce then bubble up to the surface,” he says. It’s also possible that depriving the brain of free time stifles its ability to complete this unconscious work.

“I think we need to recognize that the brain’s internal train of thought can be of value in itself,” Schooler says. “In the same way we can experience a sleep deficit, I think we can experience a mind-wandering deficit.”“Many people find it difficult or stressful to do absolutely nothing,” he adds. Instead, Schooler says “non-demanding” tasks that don’t require much mental engagement seem to be best at fostering “productive” mind-wandering. He mentions activities like going for a walk in a quiet place, doing the dishes, or folding laundry—chores that may occupy your hands or body but that don’t require much from your brain.While a wandering mind can slip into some unhelpful and unhealthy states of rumination, that doesn’t mean blocking these thoughts with constant distraction is the way to go.

“I think it’s about finding balance between being occupied and in the present and letting your mind wander—[and] about thinking positive thoughts and thinking about obstacles that may stand in your way,” says Schooler.

There may be no optimal amount of time you can commit to mental freedom to strike that balance. But if you feel like it takes “remarkable effort” for you to disengage from all your favorite sources of mental stimulation, that’s probably a good sign you need to give your brain more free time, Immordino-Yang says.

“To just sit and think is not pleasant when your brain is trained out of practicing that, but that’s really important for well-being,” she adds.

Frank recommends starting small—maybe take a 15-minute, distraction-free walk in the middle of your day. “You might find your world changes,” he says.

Invest in Your Brain

Invest in Your Brain

Oct 2, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters.

By Jeremy Hughes

Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra

The world’s population is ageing. Improvements in healthcare in the past century have meant people are living longer, but this has also resulted in an increase in the number of people with conditions like dementia. Projections indicate that the number of people with dementia will only continue to grow.

Despite this, global diagnosis rates are low. People are receiving sub-standard or no care and stigma in many communities remains rife.

But dementia is an issue that can no longer be overlooked.

This World Alzheimer’s Day, the Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance (GADAA) is urging people to recognize dementia as one of the biggest global health crises of the 21st century. Here’s why…

1. The world’s economy is set to lose a trillion dollars in 2018, rising to $2 trillion by 2030 unless dementia is tackled.

That’s a cost greater than the GDP of all but the 15 richest economies in the world. If global dementia costs were a country, it would be the 16th largest, in-between Indonesia and Mexico.

Dementia already exceeds the market value of the world largest companies such as Apple (US $742 billion) and Google (US $368 billion). Eighty per cent of these costs account for the unpaid and formal care for people living with dementia, two-thirds of which is delivered by women.

2. Dementia affects almost 50 million people worldwide, with a new case of dementia occurring somewhere in the world every 3 seconds.

Worryingly, ageing populations – especially in low to middle income countries (LMICs) – are set to exacerbate prevalence rates. The potential ramifications of this are huge. More than half of people with dementia worldwide (58%) live in LMICs – and the number in some regions is expected to increase fivefold by 2050. The number of people living with dementia in high income countries is also expected to double by 2050.

Despite this, many countries are unprepared for financing long-term care. As social changes in LMICs mean less family members are able to provide care, the urgent need for social care will shift to the formal sector.

3. As few as one in 10 individuals receives a diagnosis for dementia in low and middle income countries, and less than 50% are diagnosed in high income countries.

Globally there is a persistent lack of understanding that dementia is a medical condition and not a normal part of ageing. People living with dementia all over the world desperately need access to a medical practitioner who can provide a diagnosis and help to plan necessary support.

Risk reduction strategies and earlier diagnosis of dementia could save government expenditure by reducing the high cost of emergency and avoidable health interventions, improving care, and by increasing the effectiveness of social, community and other care services.

4. Two out of every three people globally believe there is little or no understanding of dementia in their countries.

People living with dementia and their families frequently face stigma and discrimination – and in some parts of the world can even face violence. Dementia can also have a negative impact on employability – younger people with dementia have reported being made redundant or unable to find work due to discrimination or lack of understanding. This can have an impact on employment rates and social welfare benefits.

5. Dementia is in the top 10 causes of death for women worldwide.

The World Health Organisation lists dementia as one of the top 10 causes of death for women and it is the top cause of death for females in the UK. Research shows that women not only face a greater prevalence of the condition, but also fulfill the majority of care support and face the greatest stigma.

But so far only 12 countries have taken into consideration the needs of women in their commitments and only 29 countries have a national dementia plan. Around the world people remain trapped in a perennial struggle to access the diagnosis, care and support that they desperately need – and for women the challenge is even greater.

Global leaders have a responsibility to meet the targets of the World Health Organization Global Dementia Action Plan. Governments around the world must urgently recognize dementia as a medical condition that needs action, and unite in ensuring better diagnosis, care, research and awareness through the development and implementation of national dementia plans in every country in the world.

International civil society also has a role to play in addressing the stigma and delivering change for people living with dementia. We need as many voices as possible to spread the word that dementia is not a normal part of ageing, but one of the most prevalent and under-supported medical conditions the world over.

World Alzheimer’s Day is an opportunity for organizations around the world to raise awareness, highlight issues faced by people affected by dementia and demonstrate how we can overcome them to help people live well with dementia.

Mindfulness, Meditation and Adequate Sleep are definitely invaluable paths to permit the brain to rest and to rewire, enhancing nervous connections and allowing the brain circuitry to reset and not only maintain but enhance its vitality and plasticity.