Tuesday, April 3rd
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Please contact SIRRI
at (480) 777-7075 or e-mail
to reserve your seat(s).
If you are unable to attend,
please call for a free
Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe:
Veggie Pot Pie
Dough: 1 cup GF Flour blend 1/2 tsp salt 1/3 cup vegan or lactose free margarine (or organic shortening) 2 tbsp dairy free milk of choice (plain soy, rice, or almond)
Filling: 1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lg. carrot, chopped
1/2 red, green, or yellow pepper, chopped
1 medium potato, finely chopped
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup crumbled tofu (OPTIONAL- tofu that has been marinated in a red wine vinaigrette with fresh herbs overnight)
Stem of one or two large portobello mushrooms, chopped 1/4 cup red lentils 1 cup vegetable stock (fresh, prepared, or made from veggie bullion cube)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. blk pepper 1/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp teff flour (or other hearty, whole grain GF flour you like)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
Whir the flour and salt together in your food processor, then add the margarine, pulse until it becomes mealy, and then add milk and combine. Remove and shape into a ball and chill for at least an hour.
When ready to assemble, place your ball of dough inside a sturdy, freezer proof gallon sized ziploc bag and roll your dough out inside the bag to fit the dish you’re planning on making your pot pie in. If you like you can refrigerate the rolled out dough (in its bag) for another half an hour or so before using it. If it cracks, steal a piece of dough from the borders and repair it as best you can.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a nice pie pan or other baking dish that you like. (8x8 or 8x6, whatever you have.)
To make your filling: Heat your olive oil over medium heat in a nice, heavy pot and then add your onions, cooking until translucent. Throw in the carrot, pepper and cook a few more minutes. Add your potato, peas, tofu, portobello mushroom bits, lentils, stock, and seasonings (but not flour or milk!!) and bring to a boil, lowering heat and then simmering for 6 minutes or more. You want your lentils to be al dente. At last, sprinkle in your flour and add your milk, letting the dish thicken and stirring as needed.
Pop your filling into your prepared pan and cover with your prepared dough. Don’t sweat it if the dough cracks- it will just look more rustic that way! Cut into the dough attractively so steam can escape and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
To Harness Neuroplasticity, Start with Enthusiasm
By: Dr. Helena Popovic
January 31, 2012
We are the architects and builders of our own brains.
For millennia, however, we were oblivious to our enormous creative capabilities. We had no idea that our brains were changing in response to our actions and attitudes, every day of our lives. So we unconsciously and randomly shaped our brains and our latter years because we believed we had an immutable brain that was at the mercy of our genes.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The human brain is continually altering its structure, cell number, circuitry and chemistry as a direct result of everything we do, experience, think and believe. This is called “neuroplasticity”. Neuroplasticity comes from two words: neuron or nerve cell and plastic, meaning malleable or able to be molded.
The implications of neuroplasticity are enormous: we have the ability to keep our brains sharp, effective and capable of learning new skills well into our 90s, if we protect our brains from damaging habits and give them ongoing stimulation and appropriate fuel. One way to illustrate this is to think of the brain and mind as a large boat, complete with captain and crew, sailing the ocean blue.
The captain makes the decisions and gives the orders, which the loyal crew follow. Without a captain, the boat would be directionless. Without a crew, the day-to-day running of the boat would be impossible. The crew know their role and don’t need the captain to tell them how to do their job or to remind them of their job on a daily basis. They’re very well trained. The captain only notifies the crew if he or she wants something to change and takes charge whenever leadership is required. As for the boat, it needs to be kept in good nick and fuelled on a regular basis.
The captain, the crew and the boat form a single, interdependent unit, each party influencing the other two. If the captain and crew don’t do their job properly, the boat can get damaged and end up in disrepair. If the boat is damaged, the journey is more arduous; in particular, rough seas are more difficult to handle. If the captain is apathetic, incompetent or drunk, there is an absence of leadership. And if the captain and crew are in constant disagreement, they won’t get very far.
How does this relate to the brain and mind? The captain represents the conscious mind; the crew represent the subconscious mind; the boat is the brain; and the ocean is life.
The conscious mind is the thinking part of ourselves. It sets goals, makes decisions and interprets experiences. The subconscious mind is the part of ourselves beneath our conscious awareness that keeps us alive and running. It’s what keeps our hearts pumping, our lungs expanding and our hair growing. We don’t consciously say to ourselves, “Pump, breathe, grow!”—these things are handled subconsciously, through the autonomic nervous system.
The number one priority of the subconscious mind is our survival: physical, emotional and psychological. This is why our subconscious plays a powerful role in dictating behaviour. It prioritises our emotional wellbeing over our conscious wants. It’s why sometimes we consciously think we want one thing, but still end up doing another. One reason that diets don’t work is they don’t address subconscious issues that may be at play. We always sabotage our efforts if the subconscious pay-offs for not changing override the conscious desire to lose weight. Finally, the brain is the vessel through which our conscious and subconscious minds operate.
Based on the analogy of boat, captain and crew, the following is an overview of how we can boost our brains.
1. Don’t damage the boat. On day one in medical school, I was taught Primum non nocere—“First do no harm”. No boat owner would knowingly damage their boat, so it follows that no human would knowingly damage his brain. Apart from the obvious injury caused by falling off ladders and falling into illegal drugs, things which harm the brain and reduce our cognitive abilities include smoking, stress, sleep deprivation, soft drinks, sedentary lifestyles, excessive alcohol, junk food, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, loneliness, pessimism and negative self-talk. Goal number one is to avoid these damaging entities.
2. Dock the boat in stimulating surroundings. Our brain function improves in every measurable way when we find ourselves in environments that are mentally, physically and socially stimulating. Adventure prevents dementia!
3. Fuel it the finest. Our dietary choices affect not only the health of our bodies but also the health of our brains. In fact our brains consume one fifth of all the nutrients and kilojoules we ingest. What we eat has a significant impact on our neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages between neurons across synapses), our alertness, our mood and our cognitive functioning.
4. Keep the cargo light. Obesity is a major risk factor for dementia.
5. Run the motor. Without physical exercise our brains waste away as much as our muscles waste away. Exercise actually induces the growth of new brain cells.
6. Learn the ropes and keep on learning. Having a good education and engaging in lifelong, active learning help to protect us from dementia and contribute to our developing “cognitive reserve”. This reserve acts as a buffer against mental decline as we age.
7. Sail to new shores. Boredom and monotony are poisonous to our brains. We need to get out there, get exploring and get out of our comfort zones. We need to sail to new shores to find riches outside our usual boundaries. We need to change our routines, do things differently and give ourselves ongoing challenges.
8. Use it or lose it. This applies to every function of the brain and body, from studying to socialising to sex. In order to maintain our capacity for learning new skills, we need to engage in learning new skills on a regular basis. In order to become creative, inventive and re-sourceful, we need to give ourselves tasks that require creativity, inventiveness and resourcefulness. In order to have a good memory, we need to make a conscious effort to pay attention. In order to remain socially adept, we need to remain socially active.
9. Train it and regain it. If we lose a specific brain function, all is not lost. Progressive, persistent, goal-focused practice can help us regain the lost function.
10. Charge the battery. Stilling the mind is as important as stimulating the mind. Getting adequate sleep and pressing the pause button on our mind chatter are essential for peak performance on a day-to-day basis, as well as preservation of brain function as we age.
11. Connect with fellow travellers. Lifelong social interaction and meaningful connection with others is vital for a healthy brain.
12. Choose the destination. The brain is a teleological device—it is fed by having goals to strive for and aspirations to work towards. The clearer we are about where we want to go and what we want to achieve, the more effective the brain is in accomplishing the required tasks. This is analogous to the captain giving the crew clear instructions about where they’re going and what is expected of them.
13. Command the crew. Having decided on what we want, we need to direct our self-talk to support our goals. Our internal dialogue is a constant stream of instructions to the subconscious mind. Uplifting, solution-focused self-talk switches on brain cell activity; negative, discouraging self-talk dampens it.
14. Communicate gratitude. When we think about what we’re thankful for, we wire our brains to continue finding things to be thankful for. Our brains are designed so that we see whatever we’re looking for. We are never objective, even when we make a concerted effort to be so. Subjectivity always enters our perceptions. We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. Therefore, by regularly reflecting on things that we’re grateful for, we construct a filter through which we see the world and we create more experiences for which to feel grateful.
15. Practise perfectly. When we practise a skill in our imaginations, the same neurons are firing as if we were performing the skill in real life! If we see ourselves executing a task perfectly in the mind’s eye, we become better at it in the real world because every mental rehearsal increases the efficiency of electrical transmissions between the involved nerve cells. Mental practice turbocharges our progress.
16. Bon voyage! Enjoy the journey! Get excited about where you’re going. Passion, enthusiasm and excitement are the most powerful brain fuels of all. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek entheos, meaning “to be divinely inspired or possessed by a god”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm.”
– Dr Helena Popovic MBBS is an Australia-based medical doctor, researcher, fitness trainer, international speaker and author of In Search of My Father: Dementia is no match for a daughter’s determination.
How Exercise Fuels
by Gretchen Reynolds
The New York Times
February 22, 2012
Moving the body demands a lot from the brain. Exercise activates countless neurons, which generate, receive and interpret repeated, rapid-fire messages from the nervous system, coordinating muscle contractions, vision, balance, organ function and all of the complex interactions of bodily systems that allow you to take one step, then another.
This increase in brain activity naturally increases the brain’s need for nutrients, but until recently, scientists hadn’t fully understood how neurons fuel themselves during exercise. Now a series of animal studies from Japan suggest that the exercising brain has unique methods of keeping itself fueled. What’s more, the finely honed energy balance that occurs in the brain appears to have implications not only for how well the brain functions during exercise, but also for how well our thinking and memory work the rest of the time.
For many years, scientists had believed that the brain, which is a very hungry organ, subsisted only on glucose, or blood sugar, which it absorbed from the passing bloodstream. But about 10 years ago, some neuroscientists found that specialized cells in the brain, known as astrocytes, that act as support cells for neurons actually contained small stores of glycogen, or stored carbohydrates. And glycogen, as it turns out, is critical for the health of cells throughout the brain.
In petri dishes, when neurons, which do not have energy stores of their own, are starved of blood sugar, their neighboring astrocytes undergo a complex physiological process that results in those cells’ stores of glycogen being broken down into a form easily burned by neurons. This substance is released into the space between the cells and the neurons swallow it, maintaining their energy levels.
But while scientists knew that the brain had and could access these energy stores, they had been unable to study when the brain’s stored energy was being used in actual live conditions, outside of petri dishes, because brain glycogen is metabolized or burned away very rapidly after death; it’s gone before it can be measured.
That’s where the Japanese researchers came in. They had developed a new method of using high-powered microwave irradiation to instantly freeze glycogen levels at death, so that the scientists could accurately assess just how much brain glycogen remained in the astrocytes or had recently been used.
In the first of their new experiments, published last year in The Journal of Physiology, scientists at the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Neuroscience at the University of Tsukuba gathered two groups of adult male rats and had one group start a treadmill running program, while the other group sat for the same period of time each day on unmoving treadmills. The researchers’ aim was to determine how much the level of brain glycogen changed during and after exercise.
Using their glycogen detection method, they discovered that prolonged exercise significantly lowered the brain’s stores of energy, and that the losses were especially noticeable in certain areas of the brain, like the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, that are involved in thinking and memory, as well as in the mechanics of moving.
The findings of their subsequent follow-up experiment, however, were even more intriguing and consequential. In that study, which appears in this month’s issue of The Journal of Physiology, the researchers studied animals after a single bout of exercise and also after four weeks of regular, moderate-intensity running.
After the single session on the treadmill, the animals were allowed to rest and feed, and then their brain glycogen levels were studied. The food, it appeared, had gone directly to their heads; their brain levels of glycogen not only had been restored to what they had been before the workout, but had soared past that point, increasing by as much as a 60 percent in the frontal cortex and hippocampus and slightly less in other parts of the brain. The astrocytes had “overcompensated,” resulting in a kind of brain carbo-loading.
The levels, however, had dropped back to normal within about 24 hours.
That was not the case, though, if the animals continued to exercise. In those rats that ran for four weeks, the “supercompensation” became the new normal, with their baseline levels of glycogen showing substantial increases compared with the sedentary animals. The increases were especially notable in, again, those portions of the brain critical to learning and memory formation — the cortex and the hippocampus.
Which is why the findings are potentially so meaningful – and not just for rats.
While a brain with more fuel reserves is potentially a brain that can sustain and direct movement longer, it also “may be a key mechanism underlying exercise-enhanced cognitive function,” says Hideaki Soya, a professor of exercise biochemistry at the University of Tsukuba and senior author of the studies, since supercompensation occurs most strikingly in the parts of the brain that allow us better to think and to remember. As a result, Dr. Soya says, “it is tempting to suggest that increased storage and utility of brain glycogen in the cortex and hippocampus might be involved in the development” of a better, sharper brain.
Given the limits of current technologies, brain glycogen metabolism cannot be studied in people. But even so, the studies’ findings make D.I.Y. brain-fuel supercompensation efforts seem like an attractive possibility. And, according to unpublished data from Dr. Soya’s lab, the process may even be easy.
He and his colleagues have found that “glycogen supercompensation in some brain loci” is “enhanced in rats receiving carbohydrates immediately after exhaustive exercise.” So for people, that might mean that after a run or other exercise that is prolonged or strenuous enough to leave you tired, a bottle of chocolate milk or a banana might be just the thing your brain is needing.
MRI Brain Changes Seen in Early Infants with Autism
By Lara Salahi | ABC News
February 17, 2012
Autism may be detectable in infants as young as 6 months old, according to a study released Friday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggesting the condition has a stronger genetic and biological root.
The study, which tracked MRI images of 92 infants from 6 to 24 months, found that infants who went on to develop autism may have had brain abnormalities visible on MRI at 6 months of age, before the development of clinical symptoms.
The infants studied were already considered at high risk for the condition because their siblings were diagnosed with autism.
Researchers tracked brain changes in infants at 6 months-, 1 year-, and 2 years old. Then, they formally tested for autism using the standard diagnostic test at 2 years old, the typical age when autism is diagnosed.
Twenty-eight infants whose MRI results showed slower brain connections went on to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
Previous studies have looked at brain changes in babies as young as 1 year old, but researchers said the new study is the first to track changes in infants as young as 6 months old.
According to Dr. Nancy Minshew, director of the NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study, the current findings suggest that a child might have autism long before he or she begins to show outward signs.
"Parents and primary care physician determination of onset of autism or ASD in the second or third year of life is not an accurate assessment of onset," said Minshew. "This adds to the evidence that autism develops on its own, so to speak, and not because parents did something or did not do something to cause autism."
Tracking changes could lead to earlier autism screening and intervention, which may lead to improved developmental outcomes, the authors wrote.
But, according to ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, the imaging results are not distinguishable enough to make a clear-cut diagnosis.
"For a diagnostic test to be of value, you want to see extensive separation between your affected and not-affected groups," said Besser. "There appears to be a ton of person-to-person variability. The likelihood that this will ever lead to a diagnostic test is pretty slim."
The study authors acknowledged that the study was only performed on infants' with a family history of autism, which inherently indicated they, too, were at high risk for the condition. The test might be limited to babies already known to be at high risk.
Upcoming Session Dates
for the Sensory Learning Program
Monday, March 19 through Friday, March 30
Monday, April 2 through Friday, April 13
Monday, April 16 through Friday, April 27
SIRRI offers these services for both children & adults:
- Neurofeedback & Biofeedback
- qEEG / Brain Mapping
- Cognitive Retraining: memory, processing & problem solving skills
- Attention, Concentration & Focus Training
- Auditory & Visual Processing
- Reading Development: fluency & comprehension
- Balance, Coordination & Motor Planning Development
- Stress & Anxiety Management
- IEP Advocacy