SIRRI Arizona



Information Session



Tuesday, April 3rd


6:30 PM - 8:30 PM



More Information

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

one-on-one Consultation

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

the Brain


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


Did You Know?


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
SIRRI Arizona • 4515 S. McClintock Drive, Suite 208 • Tempe, AZ 85282
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