Neuroscience Newsletter Archives

Here you will find all of my past newsletters organized by date [latest to oldest. Click here if you haven’t signed up.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everybody!

Boy, has it been too long since I have reached out, and I sincerely apologize. The end of 2018 was FULL of amazing yet intense work, education, curriculum development, and personal growth. Somehow, among all that I lost sight of how much I love creating these newsletters, and getting cutting-edge information out to you!

So here we are in 2019, new and improved (also engaged and officially in my Neuroscience Master’s Program, yay!) with January’s NEUROSCIENCE NEWSLETTER!
Gyms (in the UK) are FINALLY Adopting Dementia Education for their Personal Trainers! – This is an amazing collaboration between a large gym chain in the UK, alongside the Alzheimer’s Research UK non-profit organization to make facilities more “dementia friendly”.
While initially it may not seem like a “big deal” to create more user-friendly signage and access in a gym, it is actually an HUGE first step in curating awareness AND taking action! I am a huge believer that environment dictates behavior, and the awareness around dementia amidst their 14,000 trainer-strong workforce hopefully start to create a bigger demand for more population-specific programming, as well.
Now, if only there was a course that taught health and wellness professionals how to program for optimal cognitive health using personalized, multi-modal exercise plans….(you didn’t hear it from me, but…screw it, our course will be live in a couple months!).
Exercise-Based Interventions for Mental Illness – I just recently got my hands on this book after my good friend and mentor, Dr. Roy Sugarman, posted about it on LinkedIn. It is full of information covering interventions for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, schizophrenia, and more. This does come from more of the physiotherapy perspective, but discusses the critical role of the exercise professional in a variety of mental health – oriented clinics and environments.
I have received questions and feedback from so many of you in regards to mental illness, and this is the only comprehensive book I have found (there are others, but sometimes only cover one mental illness in a limited capacity) that covers a necessary set of knowledge for a exercise professional to begin integrating themselves into working with such populations. I recommend buying this book for yourself, and then buying it for physicians you want to work with (assuming you do not get yourself into an uncomfortable or legal situation with a population you are not prepared to work with)!
You should go through this book with some sort of research literacy, or it may get a bit dense in certain areas. However, you should be able to get “straight to the point” with exercise prescriptions for certain populations and demographics. But do not skip over some necessary details you might need to know in working with specific populations!
Does “Normal Exercise” Not Improve Cognitive Functioning At All!?! – This research article, released by Dr. Adele Diamond and colleagues in 2016, is an argument against “mindless exercise” (such as running on a treadmill or spacing out while performing resistance training) does not significantly improve executive functions (which are very well defined in the article) at all! This may come across as unnerving, considering that a lot of literature (including research that I have perpetuated and cited) facilitates the assumption that ALL exercise is good for improving executive functions, but Dr. Diamond criticizes that research in many ways.
If you are into the nuances behind how exercise-neuroscience research, this is a must. At many points, Dr. Diamond may come across a bit stubborn, but this is the beauty of debating with a research context; it allows new opinions and perspectives to be formed. However, she does get a bit grizzly with Dr. Arthur Kramer and Dr. Charles Hillman (big names in the field of exercise neuroscience research), and they issued a response in 2018 (let me know if you want me to send it to you).

What I enjoy about this article is what Dr. Diamond outlines what an intervention that improves executive functions would actually include (specifically in exercise and physical activity). For your ease of access, I have summarized them below:
  • The time spent practicing certain activities matters when it comes to improving Executive Functions (EFs) or not!
    • The longer interventions are practiced, usually the better (40 minutes is usually better than 20 minutes, High Intensity is usually better than Low Intensity)
    • Benefits gained in shorter periods of time are more likely to diminish once the intervention stops
  • The improvement of EF’s depends upon how activities are conducted and presented
    • Activities that are supported and maintain a set of beliefs that they will be effective increase their likeliness to actually be effect (a “coaching” placebo effect, perhaps)
  • EF’s (and other cognitive functions) need to be continuously challenged in order to improve
    • There must be lots of practice of what is not easy, but the activity must also be interesting!
  • Those with the poorest EF’s make the most gains in EF’s after interventions
    • Those with ADHD, TBI, mild cognitive impairment, mental illness, and those from lower socioeconomic status are more likely to see better results.
    • This can be compared to those who are not fit getting better results from beginning a fitness program compared to those who are already fit
  • Aerobic Training or Resistance Training Without Cognitive Components produce little-to-no improvements in EFs
    • Activities that contain cognitive components seem to have much more profound effects on EFs when compared to those that do not.

For example:

  • Tae-kwon-do > General PE
  • Yoga > General Physical Activity
  • Aerobic Training + Resistance Training + Hand-Eye (multi-component training) > General Aerobic Training
  • Higher Doses of Sport Skills Training > Lower Doses of Sport Skills Training
  • Combined Cognitive Training + Physical Exercise > Exercise Training Alone
  • Results and mechanisms demonstrating changes in EFs (or not) are not always obvious, are sometimes counter-intuitive
    • We do not yet know enough about the brain, cognitive functions, and how they are affected by so many variables of exercise and cognitive interventions!
  • Stress, sadness, loneliness, poor sleep and poor physical health ALL impair EF’s
    • The opposite of these (stress management, socialization, good sleep, and good physical health) are critical aspects of cognitive health
    • These should always be coached in addition to intervening with combined cognitive + physical interventions
That is all for now, and I LOVED writing this issue. So please send me an email if you have any questions or requests, and I am looking forward to the next Neuroscience Newsletter!

Ryan Glatt, Bsc. Exercise Science, KMI, FAFS
Brain Health Coach and Psychometrist
Pacific Brain Health Center

Hey there!

Sorry that I have been off the grid for a couple weeks. A TON has been happening in my life that I would love to share (and then I promise I will get on to the research)!
I am proud to announce that I have joined the team at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Brain Health Center, which consists of some of the best neurologists, neuroscientists, and neuro-psychiatrists in the nation leveraging cutting-edge technology to enhance brain health, especially in those with or at risk of cognitive decline. Stay tuned for research, best practices, and innovative methods and technologies we will be using around exercise, cognitive stimulation, neurostimulation, nutrition, and sleep.
And now, back to some research:

  • Tai Chi Practitioners Have Superior Dual-Tasking Abilities : Tai Chi has been found to have beneficial outcomes for physiological, cognitive, and emotional outcomes. This study found that older adults going up stairs in a dual-tasking condition (doing two things at once), had more issues with function and increased fall risk when compared to Tai Chi practitioners of the same demographic. The Tai Chi group had “superior bodily stability” during the task, therefore significantly decreasing fall risk.

    The questions is, why? Does Tai Chi allow a better allocation of resources of attention? Some studies are conflicting regarding these mechanisms, and the most convincing hypothesis is that those who engage in Tai Chi develop better movement strategies and elicit better motor control. This goes to show that movements that mimic Tai Chi may have similar effects; slow, intentional movements should be integrated even outside of a Tai Chi – specific program to potentially reap these benefits. Perhaps if Tai Chi was combined with dual-tasking conditions in training, there may even be an opportunity to maximize the cognitive benefits of Tai Chi – like movements even more

  • The Effects of Acute Exercise of Brain Physiology, Cognition and Neurochemistry : This article provides a comprehensive, in-depth view on the effects of acute (short-term) exercise on neurophysiology, cognition and mood. This is a pretty heavy article, BUT I have included a graphic that the researchers included for an easier point-of-reference to understand all of these interesting mechanisms! I suggest opening the image within the link itself for the ability to zoom in!

LASTLY, check out my latest blog post, Proven Lifestyle Choices to Promote Brain Health.

If you have any suggestion, comments, or requests, please do not hesitate to reach out. And remember to pass this on to your friends, family, colleagues and clients if you think they would benefit! You can share this email, and have them sign up here!

Warm Regards,

Ryan Glatt, Bsc. Exercise Science, KMI, FAFS
Brain Health Coach and Psychometrist
Pacific Brain Health Center