Sleep: Your Foundation for Good Health

Brain Awareness Week 2012
Studies have suggested that sleep is essential for the maintenance of proper immune function. Sleep is your mental “down time” for your neurons to repair themselves.  While you sleep, your memories can be organized into long-term forms of storage. Your body also repairs muscles while you sleep. This makes sleep a very important part of pain management. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep to function at your best.

Learning Changes Your Brain

Brain Awareness Week 2012

You must practice to learn.  When you  practice a skill, game, or task, you repeatedly activate the same circuit of synapses.  Each time you practice you make small incremental changes to your synapses. After several repetitions, these synapses become different. Learning alters the structure of your brain!

Move Your Body: Activate Your Brain

Brain Awareness Week 2012

In studies of those aged 90 and beyond, the level of exercise was correlated very strongly with longevity. Your brain benefits from exercise just as much as your muscles do.  An average of 45 minutes a day provides the most benefit, but even 15 minutes helps. Keep moving to keep your brain fit.

Slowing Down Helps Kids Learn

Brain Awareness Week 2012

Sometimes just slowing down and making a change in a process can improve performance.  This can reduce stress and open the door for learning. One researcher found that children that often write numbers backwards form them correctly when they slow down.  Something as simple as using a different pencil when they write numbers gives them time to slow down while they make the switch. This simple task allows the child to calm down and focus.

Your Brain Can Change

Brain Awareness Week 2012
Your brain is constantly changing in response to your experiences.  Your brain is a little different each day. It retains this flexibility well into old age. Keep your brain healthy and it will only loose a few neurons with age.  Continue to care for your brain well and it will generate new neurons regularly.  Old brains can do new tricks!

Brain Awareness Week: March 12 – 18, 2012

Brain Awareness Week - Get ConnectedThe brain is the final frontier. How much do you know about your brain? Brain research has taught us many things in the last 10 years. Take advantage of National Brain Awareness Week and learn about your brain. Learn about brain function and become aware of what it means to have a neurological condition.

Here’s how we’re celebrating National Brain Awareness Week in Nevada County:

Throughout the week, information will be posted on the Sierra EEG blog at

There will also be an information table at Briar Patch with free educational brain health materials for adults and children including pictures to color, bookmarks and stickers.  The Madeline Helling Library will have some materials as well.

The celebration will continue at the end of the month with a display at “Emergence: 2012” March 24th & 25th. The fair is located at the Miners Foundry 325 Spring Street in downtown Nevada City.  This display will include literature on brain health and fun brain activity books for kids. You will even have an opportunity to play a video game with your brainwaves.

For more information about Brain Awareness week, call (530) 263-1413.

Statin Drugs Pose Risks of Memory Loss, Diabetes and Muscle Pain

Photo of Lipitor bottle.

Lipitor is a common statin drug.

If you’re taking statins to lower your cholesterol, then you should be concerned about losing your memory, becoming confused, getting diabetes and muscle pain from your medicine. At least that’s what the FDA and other experts are saying. These experts say that if you quit taking your medicine, then these problems will probably go away.

Of course, then you have the problem of high cholesterol to worry about. High cholesterol can cause cardiovascular disease – including heart attack – and strokes. That’s why your doctor prescribed statins. So, don’t stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor!

You’re taking a statin if your medicine is called Lipitor, Lescol, Pravachol, Crestor, Mevacor, Altoprev, Livalo and Zocor. You may be taking a generic medicine, rather than one of these brand names. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure.

New research is showing that some people who take statins have experienced cognitive problems such as memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion. Some patients report feeling unfocused or experience fuzzy-thinking after taking the medication. Others taking statins see an increase in blood-sugar that can lead to diabetes. Mevacor has a new warning of its own. It can cause muscle pain and weakness when it interacts with other drugs. Other statin drugs can also cause muscle pain in high doses.

If you are at risk for heart disease or concerned about your cholesterol levels, focus on prevention through lifestyle changes before drug treatment. You can do simple things to help keep your brain healthy. Lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in improving your health. Due to numerous side effects, drugs should only be used as a secondary line of defense. Always consider the risks with the benefits before starting any drug treatment. Do the benefits out weigh the costs? Educate yourself. Drugs should always be taken with care.

If you are already taking a statin drug, have your blood sugar levels checked regularly. Do not rely on the drug alone to control cholesterol. Make lifestyle changes to keep your brain fit. You may be able to reduce your dose if you:

Improve your diet.
Loose weight if you need to.
If you smoke, quit.
Reduce your alcohol consumption
Exercise regularly.
Reduce stress.

Ask your doctor for specific suggestions that will help you.

What is Eating Healthy? Food for the Brain.

Healthy Eating Plate Chart

Harvard Healthy Eating Chart: Food for the Brain

Start off the New Year with the Harvard School of Public Health Healthy Eating Plate. Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables and fruit. The other half of your plate should be whole grains and healthy protein. This is a very simple program that is based on research without bowing to the food industry lobbyists. The Healthy Plate does not include dairy products. It recommends that we eat no more than 2 servings of dairy per day. “Limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, since high intakes are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.” It is easy to get calcium from other sources. “Calcium can also be found in dark green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and collard greens, as well as in dried beans and legumes.”

Read more about the Healthy Eating Plate here.

National Brain Awareness Week

This week is National Brain Awareness Week.   Brain Awareness Week is an opportunity to teach about brain health and inspire people to make changes in how they care for themselves to enhance their brain function. Another purpose is to reach young people, give them information about brain function and inspire the next generation of neuroscientists.

To help reach these goals in our community, I will be distributing educational materials for children and adults at the Miner’s Foundry this weekend (3/19 & 3/20) during “A Gathering of Mind and Spirit.” You will have the opportunity to play a video game with your brain waves for a small fee.  I will be making a presentation, “The Magic of Neurofeedback”, on Sunday at noon. Admission is $5.00.  I hope to see you there!

Today is the 7th anniversary of my brain injury.

Each year on January 15th, I look back on my progress.  I have much to be thankful for.  I am not living my life from the couch as doctors told me I would be.  I am living a full life filled with activities.  When I look back through the years my progress is very clear. 

Soon after my brain injury, I slept most of the day.  I get through my days without a nap now.  I do take time to rest several times a day.  I no longer suffer the pain of a constant migraine that hovers between an 8 and 9 on a scale of 1-10.  My migraine is now a 1 or 2.  I don’t have to cruise the furniture like a toddler or have family members hold me up to walk.  My balance is good and I can walk on my own. 

I don’t stutter at all anymore.    My word finding skills are much better too.  I can speak fluidly without having to stop to find words to express myself.  My special relationships are better too.  I can read a map without getting turned around.  The pain in my neck and shoulders is no longer debilitating.  I don’t have to get in the spa 5 or 6 times a day to loosen them up.  I can read and comprehend without reading the same sentence over and over.  I can write legibly and rarely transpose letters.  I have fully regained my sense of taste.  I no longer have to load food up with garlic in order to be able to taste a slight hint of it.   

I have more energy and am able to plan things out so I get the rest I need.  I still over-do it, but plan a recovery day to replenish myself.  I still have some memory problems, but I am able to cope with them well.  I am able to remember well enough to carry on a conversation without asking for people to repeat themselves constantly.  I do still hear “I already told you that,” but not multiple times a day.  It happens once every week or so now.  When I’m in the city where there are big parking lots, I still need to park close to the entrance so I can find my car. 

I still have light sensitivity, but it is not as bad as it was.  I don’t need to wear sunglasses in the house with all the curtains closed.  I can go without sunglasses when I can control the environment.  I am most affected by fluorescent lighting.  The sunglasses I wear now are a lighter tint and they make it so I can spend a longer amount of time in other environments. 

I don’t have to stay home to avoid overstimulation.  There are still events that I avoid, but the list is much shorter.  I avoid events with loud music.  I can now handle crowds and busy environments.  I still need to be aware of my limits and leave before I become too over-stimulated.   I still use earplugs when I go to the movies and prefer to watch at home where the volume can be controlled.  I still have to close my eyes when there are fast moving scenes or really bright scenes.  That’s not really a big deal.   

All in all, after 8 years I have had many improvements.  My brain injury has been quite the learning experience.  I have experienced first-hand what it is like to have a learning disability.  I now know what a really bad headache is.  I thought I knew before my brain injury, but I had no idea!  Pain that makes you unable to function and causes vomiting is way different than any headache I had ever experienced before.  I have experienced the fear of not ever being able to think clearly again. 

We have all had the experience of not being able to come up with a word or someone’s name, but having that sort of trouble day in and day out is an entirely different story.  I wanted to go back to the way my life was before my brain injury.  As I moved through different phases of anger and grieving, I realized that I didn’t want to go back to who I was.  Going backwards is never a good goal.  I needed to move forward and become the person that I would naturally become through my experiences. 

How did I make so much progress?  There were many factors in my journey forward.  One of the biggest factors was my refusal to accept less than I wanted.  After lots of physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, massage, vision therapy , chiropractic and cranio-sacral therapy combined with every drug you can imagine, the results were not acceptable.  I was still told I needed to accept that most of my life would be spent on the couch. 

My neuropsychologist recognized that I was not willing to settle for that.  He referred me to his college roommate who had gone into neurofeedback. 

Neurofeedback was the missing piece in my recovery program.  After only a few sessions, I could feel things starting to change.  By the end of my first 20 session block, I could see that I was going to be able to have the life I wanted.  I told my therapist that I had to learn how to do this and help other people experience the wonderful changes that I was experiencing.  She said, “Rachelle, let’s get you better first.”  I started doing daily neurofeedback sessions for myself with her guidance and things continued to improve.  After 2 years of treating myself, I learned how to treat others.  Being a neurofeedback therapist is extremely rewarding for me.  I love helping people’s lives change!

Now I have mostly a hidden disability that I can manage with strategies and accommodations that people don’t usually notice.  For instance, I keep my client load down so that I have enough energy to meet their needs.  My office is a controlled environment with full spectrum daylight dimmable lighting.  I continue with neurofeedback sessions for myself that keep me working at my peak performance potential. 

Recovery takes time.  Recovery has been difficult. And the further I get in the process, the harder it is for me to see the incremental changes.  Looking back years helps me to see how far I have really come.  Seeing the distance I have traveled gives me confidence, strength and hope.   I look at life very differently now.   Life is good.

Sierra EEG
Neurofeedback Therapy
142 East McKnight Way
Grass Valley, CA  95949
(530) 263-1413