Ageing is one of nature’s cruel tricks. As we get older, many of the functions and abilities of our bodies – those which we have enjoyed all our lives – begin to change or fade or abandon us completely.
One of the greatest fears for people in their twilight years is that of losing their mind. Be it a decline of memory or concentration, not being able to find the word we want or care for ourselves fully, or the onset of a full blown disorder like Alzheimer’s, it is what scares people the most.
We all know that a high quality diet, good supplementation and regular physical exercise are key factors in maintaining our health and fending off lifestyle and age-related symptoms like weight gain, elevated blood pressure and even disorders like diabetes and cancer. But what about our brain? How do we make sure that it remains fit and healthy? After all, what good is a strong, youthful body, if our mind lets us down?
As we age, our brain tends to lose volume and the pathways and connections that are linked to memory, language and cognitive functioning gradually deteriorate. While diet and exercise are extremely important for healthy brain ageing, we are fortunate to live in a time where specific brain training programmes are available to directly address cognitive decline.
Interestingly, many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s, exhibit a common dysfunction – a lower than normal level of oxygenated blood flow in the frontal lobe of the brain. This irregularity is known as hypo-perfusion. Blood flow in the brain is directly related to its level of activation – when our brains are passive, blood flow is lower; but when we engage in mentally stimulating tasks, blood flow is naturally increased to support the elevated energy demand of the busy neurons.
There is much debate in the world of neuroscience as to whether deterioration of the neurons causes the hypo-perfusion or vice versa, but everyone is in agreement about the fact that in Alzheimer’s, the level of blood flow is significantly low. In fact, research has shown that even patients who have a family history or genetic predisposition to developing Alzheimer’s but whom are still cognitively healthy, still show brain blood flow that is lower than that of non-risk patients.
So, if we know that reduced blood flow is problematic, and that brain activation triggers a natural increase in blood flow, wouldn’t it be a neat trick to harness this naturally occurring phenomenon as a specialised brain training exercise?
The good news is that we can! The exciting, safe and completely non-invasive method known as HEG Neurofeedback does exactly that. By using cutting edge near-infrared technology to monitor the change in blood flow in the brain in real time, it provides a highly effective brain training programme which specifically addresses the issue of hypo-perfusion. A typical neurofeedback training session involves watching a DVD on a computer while wearing an infra-red headband. By increasing the activation in your brain, blood flow is naturally increased – the headband provides you with feedback so you know if, and how well, you are performing the exercise.
Research and results from patients suffering from a plethora of neurological disorders, including ADHD, Anxiety and Depression, Alzheimer’s, Migraines and many others, have received wonderful benefits and shown remarkable improvement across a range of cognitive, behavioural and subjective measurements.
Brain Gain Neurofeedback is a proudly South African company founded by a distinguished psychiatrist, Dr Thomas Dannhauser, and a team of passionate individuals dedicated to making HEG Neurofeedback Training accessible to all. Dr Dannhauser leads various research programmes in a number of areas, including Alzheimer’s and continuously improves and adapts Brain Gain’s training application to incorporate his findings.
Brain Gain has over 40 training centres throughout the country where we work with clients of all ages (from 4 years old), health conditions and walks of life to assist them in improving the health and functioning of their brain. You can read more about Brain Gain on www.braingain.co.za and make contact with any of our centres through the website if you are interested in participating in a training protocol.
Keeping your brain strong, healthy and fit is the key to maintaining your highest possible level of cognitive vitality and to slow down or reduce the effects of ageing and truly live to your full potential for all the days of your life.