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On September 24th, 2019 by Access Complete Wellness

Brain Drained?

Posted In:
Mind Body

Brain Draining

Brain Draining

How our senses may be key to addressing motor changes and cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Is your brain drained? Your nervous system’s main and most important goal is to keep you safe. It is constantly scanning the environment for signs of danger and threat. This scanning happens through our senses; your brain takes in information through olfactory, visual, auditory and motor systems. Your body's ability to utilize these senses to their fullest and bring that information into the brain for processing is what determines the level of safety your brain perceives in its current environment.

Is it any wonder that this should be at the forefront of our thinking as we examine more closely some of the latest research on Alzheimer's disease (AD)?  Research has identified that sensory and motor changes preceded the actual cognitive symptoms many years earlier in (AD) patients.  A key conclusion was that improving sensory-motor deficits in (AD) may enhance patient function. But what exactly would that look like?  Let's get a stronger understanding of how our amazing nervous system works.

There are three primary tools in the toolbox that your nervous system utilizes to orient you in your environment and assess threat levels:

  1. Visual system
  2. Vestibular system
  3. Proprioceptive system

Each one of these systems plays a very important role in the proper balancing of this equation which we call the neural hierarchy. I'm sure the visual system is obvious as it relates to the millions of bits of information your eyes bring in every second that allows your brain to process and assess its threat levels. The vestibular system is your balance system and heavily utilizes your auditory response and inner ear to also receive and process information in your central nervous system. And the proprioceptive system, the one you may be least familiar with,  is simply information your body brings in through touch through the hands, skin and feet on the ground. The body varies muscle contractions in response to information from external forces by using muscle stretch receptors to track joint position in the body or impulse reactions such as when you touch something hot.

For the sake of example let's assume these three systems can be explained from a mathematical perspective.

  • Visual = 45%
  • Vestibular = 35%
  • Proprioceptive = 20%
  • Total = 100%

The neural hierarchy is all about balance control. The balance between the sensory and motor inputs. Think of it this way. Your sensory inputs ask the question where am I? It determines the position of the body in its environment and compares and selects and combines all of the senses to give your brain an opportunity to evaluate its environment and know how to interact with it.  The motor inputs ask the question what am I going to do (about this current environment I am in)? The motor aspect then determines which muscles it will contract such as ankles, thighs, neck, head, eyes, etc. and then decides overall body movement to determine if your body can be safe and peaceful or immediately needs to be on high alert because it senses danger and it must move out of the way quickly.

Picture that these three tools are like a GPS system and each tool is a satellite that brings in information. Each satellite needs to bring in clear and understandable information to the brain.  When all three satellites are working at peak capacity, your brain and nervous system operate with exceptional ease and efficiency. Imagine your GPS system in the car is getting different information about your location. Come on, you know this happens just about every other day, especially when you need it most! And what if your GPS actually blows a circuit to prevent it from integrating the information from the satellites? This is what's happening to an (AD) patient’s brain.  In the neurology world, this is called sensory matching or in this case mismatching.

  • Visual = 35%
  • Vestibular = 25%
  • Proprioceptive = 15%
  • Total = 75%

At best, this person is operating at an average C grade student if you use the analogy from school. The research indicates that supporting this sensory/motor deficit might enhance function for (AD) patients. The importance is for all three satellite systems (sensory) to tell the same story to the brain at all times; integration.   There's still more research that needs to be done to see just how much work can be accomplished with a brain already impacted by (AD).

But what about you?  Are you experiencing vision issues i.e. do you wear glasses, have bi or trifocals or even mono-vision contacts?  Do you have balance issues, inner ear concerns, motion sickness? Do you have joint pain, back pain or slowed movement? These are all signs that one, two or ALL three of your sensory input systems (GPS Satellites) are not sending clear messaging to the brain.  You may already be going down the path that the research indicated.

The good news is that there is much research indicating that training all three of these systems together is key.  You might think that you just need movement (exercise) and that is important, but you need to be making sure all three satellites are activating in your brain and being challenged to work together. Some helpful activities may be Aikido, Tai Chi and dance.  But it is so important to make sure you have vision training and tracking like in racquetball. Any of these can be problematic if your eye-sight is already poor or you can’t move! Training your brain without incorporating all three systems is not going to bring the desired result.

The best way we have learned to incorporate proper training for all three systems is with a class we call 3 Pillars - Move Well, Balance Well, See Well where we actively work with all three systems and teach you how to measure, track and improve over 12 weeks.  The course is offered in a classroom setting making it affordable. You will work at your pace, but even more importantly, you will learn how to evaluate what is best for your unique circumstances and brain. Of course, we also offer one-on-one training for those that want individualized custom work.

As a special offer to our newsletter recipients, if you are in the DFW area, you are welcome to stop by our 3 Pillars Strong Workshop and participate in a session any Saturday between now and November 9 to see how this workshop can support your brain.  Details on time and location.

You are also welcome to schedule a 15-minute free consultation to discuss how we can best support you or a loved one's cognitive health. Call us at 972-712-0892 or go to our website and schedule now.

We look forward to hearing from you today!

This short video on "What is Z_Health" also explains the basis for 3 Pillars Strong: Move Well, Balance Well, See Well.

Z Health and Neurology 101

On July 16th, 2019 by Access Complete Wellness

Is your Brain’s GPS Operating Efficiently?

Posted In:
Mind Body

Is your Brain’s GPS Operating Efficiently? Do You Move Well, Balance Well, See Well?

Z Health

Imagine that you're driving to a new destination. A place you've never been before and you are solely relying on your Global Positioning System (GPS) in your car. Have you ever had a moment when you felt like the GPS was taking you in circles or you became more lost than if you had navigated on your own?   A GPS system requires satellites and they all need to bring in information clearly in order for your GPS to get you where you need to go in the most efficient manner. But as you know, sometimes this doesn't happen. It's as if a satellite is out or not able to easily transmit the necessary information. This is unfortunately how many people's brains operate.  Sometimes it feels like information is foggy or you are not getting a clear signal. Maybe you can relate?

There are three primary tools in the toolbox that your nervous system utilizes to orient you in your environment and assess threat levels:

Z Health Neural Hierarchy

  1. Visual system
  2. Vestibular system
  3. Proprioceptive system 

This is what we would call your body’s own GPS system.  Now, picture these three tools are satellites to your nervous system’s global positioning on where you are in the world and determining if the path you are on (environment) is safe. This would be similar to the GPS in your car taking you the most efficient and safest route around traffic, accidents, etc. The nervous system requires these three tools to give the brain important input to perform its most important task; keeping you safe.  Did you realize that your brain is constantly scanning the environment for signs of danger and threat and it uses these three input systems to do it?

The visual system processes millions of bits of information per second. Ever notice how you flinch when someone throws a paper wad or other object at your face without warning?   The act of flinching is your nervous system's response to that incoming threat. The vestibular system; often referred to as the inner ear is what helps you have a sense of balance. When you have an inner ear infection or if you stand up and get dizzy or lose your balance your brain once again signals threat or danger. Why? Because without your balance you might fall and hurt yourself. The proprioceptive system is best described as how we can feel where all our other body parts are in relation to each other and see them in our mind's eye without actually having to touch them with a hand or see them with our eyes.  

All three of these systems work together in conjunction to bring information into the brain to allow your brain to determine if the environment you’re currently in is safe or unsafe. Imagine that each one, for the sake of example, takes on a mathematical percentage something like this:

  • Visual = 45%
  • Vestibular = 35%
  • Proprioceptive = 20%
  • Total = 100%

This mathematical formula is demonstrating that between the three systems we have 100% accuracy and congruence of all the information coming in regarding our environment into the nervous system. This is what allows the GPS system to work effectively and efficiently.  But what if your three satellites are not operating at peak performance? Currently, is your vision without corrective lenses? In other words, if you need to wear glasses for near or far vision, have bi or trifocals or even mono-vision contacts, then you have potential that one of your satellites is off. Can you stand on one foot on a balance device without having to hold on? Do you have inner ear issues or have you fallen lately or maybe you experience motion sickness?  These are signs that satellite #2 is not operating efficiently. Do you have joint pain, back pain or slower movement compared to another time in your life? This is an indicator that your proprioceptive satellite is not sending in a strong signal. These are all signs that one, two or ALL three of your sensory input systems (GPS Satellites) are not sending clear messaging to the brain.  

When any one of these systems above in our mathematical formula is off, you might not experience 100% signal reception. Maybe it's only 78% which is a C+ the last time I checked grades.   But, don’t fret. The latest in neuroscience has good news for you even if you are only a C+ student today. The brain can change itself and this is what's called neuroplasticity. All you need is the right training environment to make it happen.  In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your brain, it's important to do training that engages all three satellite systems. The more you can use your brain as it relates to proper vision, balance, and movement the better. Staying active is key as you have probably heard so many times before, but it's more than just movement. It's about engaging the balance system, using the vision system and making sure your movement is the correct movement for you. All these systems need to be engaged at the right level that is unique for you and that is why we promote and encourage Priority Based Healthcare in our practice. Not everyone has vision issues. Not everyone has balance concerns and not everyone has movement or range of motion discomfort.

Certain engaging activities such as dance, martial arts, and activities that require you to track a moving object are all helpful. But the most important thing is establishing a baseline. Knowing where you are today, knowing the tools that make you strongest and being able to assess on a daily basis are key aspects to the brain being able to change itself.  It is critical that you can measure and see progress. You can track with a simple range of motion technique like touching your toes as you perform these activities to see if your body and brain like them. When done correctly, you will see improvement in all three systems and likely remove any source of discomfort.

I know not everybody is as motivated to take the steps mentioned above. And if you are one with poor eyesight or perhaps you can't move well, you might need a little one-on-one customized assistance. If this is the case for you, please contact our office for a free consultation on how we may be able to assist you. If you are near our office, you might consider our 12-week workshop called  3 Pillars Strong - Move Well, Balance Well, See Well. This workshop gives you the tools to work each aspect of your GPS system, teaches you how to assess yourself, and gives you the necessary materials to track your progress because we know you will make progress. Call today to find out when our next offering is and to secure your registration. Space is limited but if you choose to bring a friend as an accountability partner, ask about our special friend discount. Call us at 972-712-0892 for more information. 

Z- Health 3 Pillars Strong

 

 

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