Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ed Parker seminar

I was transferring some of my old videotapes of Ed Parker seminars in Chicago to DVD. The one I did yesterday was from April of 1982. There were two seminars on one tape. The first was what he called an Advanced Karate Theories seminar. In that particular seminar (the title was a blanket term he always used) he discusses the Mother/Father/Sister/Brother/Cousin concept, and inserts to techniques. What I found interesting as well was that he did Five Swords, and he did it WITHOUT the double block so many people like to say he did. For more on the subject, see my You Tube video on Five Swords.

What was fun, too, was to see the faces there. My long-time student and friend Kurt Barnhart was in the front line. Frank Trejo and John Conway Jr were there, too.
The second seminar on the tape is a nunchaku seminar. That's some unusual stuff. Ed Parker was pretty good with a pair of nunchakus and he did some things that caused Frank and I to do a double-take.

Now before you guys start asking if you can get a copy, let me explain a few things.
These were done with a cheap black and white video camera because the technology was fairly new and I couldn't afford a color camera at 1982 prices. I was allowed to tape them with one condition. Mr. Parker told me I could not copy them for anybody, and he had good reasons. Any time I did make a copy was when that person asked him and he specifically gave me permission. So today I have a few boxes full of Ed Parker videos and I can't copy them if I want to keep my word. But the knowledge is useless if it isn't shared. I've been wrestling with this for years.
I'll make a decision. Sometime.
Lee Wedlake has been teaching Kenpo Karate for over 35 years and has written a variety of Kenpo Books about different kenpo katas and kenpo concepts. Mr. Wedlake has worked directly with Ed Parker and is generous with his knowledge and his time. He is available for Kenpo Seminars and camps.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Out-of-body experiences

If you're into the brain stuff I've been posting, you might find this interesting.

Studies Report Inducing Out-of-Body Experience

Using virtual-reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences — the sensation of drifting outside of one’s own body — in ordinary, healthy people, according to studies being published today in the journal Science.

When people gazed at an illusory image of themselves through the goggles and were prodded in just the right way with the stick, they felt as if they had left their bodies.

The research reveals that “the sense of having a body, of being in a bodily self,” is actually constructed from multiple sensory streams, said one expert on body and mind, Dr. Matthew M. Botvinick, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Princeton University.

Usually these sensory streams, which include vision, touch, balance and the sense of where one’s body is positioned in space, work together seamlessly, Dr. Botvinick said. But when the information coming from the sensory sources does not match up, the sense of being embodied as a whole comes apart.

The brain, which abhors ambiguity, then forces a decision that can, as the new experiments show, involve the sense of being in a different body.

The research provides a physical explanation for phenomena usually ascribed to otherworldly influences, said Peter Brugger, a neurologist at University Hospital in Zurich, who, like Dr. Botvinick, had no role in the experiments. In what is popularly referred to as near-death experience, people who have been in the throes of severe and sudden injury or illness often report the sensation of floating over their body, looking down, hearing what is said and then, just as suddenly, finding themselves back inside their body.

Out-of-body experiences have also been reported to occur during sleep paralysis, the exertion of extreme sports and intense meditation practices.

The new research is a first step in figuring out exactly how the brain creates this sensation, Dr. Brugger said.

The out-of-body experiments were conducted by two research groups using slightly different methods intended to expand the so-called rubber hand illusion.

In that illusion, people hide one hand in their lap and look at a rubber hand set on a table in front of them. As a researcher strokes the real hand and the rubber hand simultaneously with a stick, people have the vivid sense that the rubber hand is their own. When the rubber hand is whacked with a hammer, they wince and sometimes cry out.

The illusion shows that body parts can be “separated” from the whole body by manipulating a mismatch between touch and vision. That is, when a person’s brain sees the fake hand being stroked and feels the same sensation, the sense of being touched is misattributed to the fake.

The new experiments were designed to create a whole-body illusion with similar manipulations.

In Switzerland, Dr. Olaf Blanke, a neuroscientist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, asked people to don virtual-reality goggles while standing in an empty room. A camera projected an image of each person taken from the back and displayed that image as if it were six feet in front of the subject, who thus saw an illusory image of himself.

Then Dr. Blanke stroked each person’s back for one minute with a stick while simultaneously projecting the image of the stick onto the illusory body.

When the strokes were synchronous, people reported the sensation of being momentarily within the illusory body. When the strokes were not synchronous, the illusion did not occur.

In another variation, Dr. Blanke projected a “rubber body” — a cheap mannequin bought on eBay and dressed in the same clothes as the subject — into the virtual-reality goggles. With synchronous strokes of the stick, people’s sense of self drifted into the mannequin.

A separate set of experiments was carried out by Henrik Ehrsson, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Last year, when Dr. Ehrsson was “a bored medical student at University College London,” he wondered, he said, “what would happen if you ‘took’ your eyes and moved them to a different part of a room.”

“Would you see yourself where your eyes were placed?” he said. “Or from where your body was placed?”

To find out, he asked people to sit in a chair and wear goggles connected to two video cameras placed six feet behind them. The left camera projected to the left eye, the right camera to the right eye. As a result, people saw their own backs from the perspective of a virtual person sitting behind them.

Using two sticks, Dr. Ehrsson stroked each person’s chest for two minutes with one stick while moving the second stick just under the camera lenses, as if it were touching the virtual body.

Again, when the stroking was synchronous, people reported the sense of being outside their own bodies, in this case looking at themselves from a distance where their “eyes” were situated.

Then Dr. Ehrsson grabbed a hammer. While people were experiencing the illusion, he pretended to smash the virtual body by waving the hammer just below the cameras. Immediately, the subjects registered a threat response as measured by sensors on their skin. They sweated, and their pulses raced. They also reacted emotionally, as if they were watching themselves get hurt.

Participants in the experiments conducted by Dr. Blanke and Dr. Ehrsson reported having felt a sense of drifting out of their bodies, but not a strong sense of floating or rotating as is common in full-blown out-of-body experiences, the researchers said.

The next set of experiments, they said, will involve decoupling not just touch and vision but other aspects of sensory embodiment, including the sense of balance and the body’s position in space.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Atlanta PDS

Lee Wedlake KenpoThey came from Illinois, South and North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama for my first PDS outside of Florida. Keith Mathews hosted the seminar at his school in Canton, GA, just north of Atlanta. Keith and his wife Kim always show the best Southern hospitality. And I want to say thanks too to Kathy Vaughn, who was a big help as well.

It was great to see the guys from the Atlanta area who trained at Robert Ray Kenpo Karate. They're still working it even though their teacher has since relocated. Tony Velada drove down from Chicago and some of Bruce Meyers' guys came in from So. Carolina. It was a nice group.

We covered joint locks and manipulations, gun defenses, and multiple attackers. I taught the group some of the stuff we used to do for three attackers and how to adapt their standard one-man techniques for more than one attacker. We also worked a bit of how to handle the "thug" grip when faced with a pistol.

All in all, it was a good visit and all the post-seminar survey comments were positive. I'm looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Lee Wedlake has been teaching Kenpo Karate for over 35 years and has written a variety of Kenpo Books about different kenpo katas and kenpo concepts. Mr. Wedlake has worked directly with Ed Parker and is generous with his knowledge and his time. He is available for Kenpo Seminars and camps.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Manchester Karate Studio

Last weekend I was up to teach at Steve White's school in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Steve and I have known each other for over 20 years. Steve did what many dedicated martial artists I know have done; he went to great lengths to get the best education he could in the arts. Steve was told about me by a mutual friend named Don MacKay and they made a trip from NH to Chicago to meet me. The rest is history. Steve has gone the extra mile to learn and not just from me. He regularly works with Jimmy Pedro, the Olympic judo medalist. Steve flies around the country to business seminars. As a result, he has one of, if not the largest schools in Manchester. He does have one of the most successful Parker kenpo schools in the country.
Steve's lineage is strong, his understanding of and proficiency in Kenpo is excellent, and his communication skills are outstanding. It's always a pleasure for me to watch him teach. Even more so it is a pleasure to sit and talk with him. We have had hours of engaging conversation over the years. A visit with Steve is always mentally stimuating.
I've watched him build a school and family, and seen him grow as a person. That rubs off on his people. He's has many long-term students and some of them now have their own schools spread throughout New England under the New England Chinese Karate Federation banner. They are not a "turn and burn" operation like many schools who actually say you won't see the same people on the mat a year or two from when they begin.
Steve and I believe that if you want to build a successful business you copy a sucessful business. And the same for successful martial arts. With that blueprint Manchester Karate Studio has become a strong school that provides way more that just punching and kicking to their students. Steve's staff is well-trained and they're good people.
It's always a pleasure to be invited to go work with the group up there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The missing line on the IKKA crest

Some people are real collectors of Kenpo stuff, particularly the patches. I was witrh a guy who actually bought a Lima Lama patch right off a guy's gi. He gave the man the money and the guy tore it off on the spot and gave it to him. Go figure.
There are lots of "rip-offs" of the Parker crest, made without permission. The dragon looks like a lizard and the tiger like a housecat. In the course of looking over other's patches someone pointed out that some of the IKKA crests had eight lines in the gray circle and some had only seven. The owner of a seven-line patch offered that he had been told the missing line denoted that you don't show everything you knew, according to his instructor.
I am a collector of Kenpo stuff and a lot of it Kenpo stories. When I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Parker about some of those stories I could then confirm or deny "from the horse's mouth". I asked him about the missing line. He said "Simple. That patchmaker made a mistake."
While a patch should have meaning to everything in it, sometimes the meaning is just too simple. You can see this story on my youtube channel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I'm a member of the National Association of Flight Instructors and I get an online newsletter from them. I pirated this short article from them because I think it is of benefit to instructors and school owners. I don't know who wrote it and I'd give them credit if I could.

Running at “Natural SPEED”

Running a flight training program—whether it’s your own, or part of a larger aviation business—can be like riding a roller coaster. Sometimes you ride high on success, other times there’s a drop and you scramble trying to hold on.

That’s a recipe for stress if there ever was one, and certainly, stress is a key component in burnout. But that stress can take a toll, says psychologist Mark Gorkin, author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, and Depression. To reduce chronic stress and begin your burnout recovery, Gorkin suggests using “Natural SPEED.”

S: Sleep. “If you’re not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, that’s already a warning sign,” Gorkin says. “Because without enough sleep, your cognitive mind isn’t working as well, and you know you’re not making as good judgments, you’re not able to be as creative in your problem-solving.” The answer, of course, is not to take more Ambien; it’s to find better ways to relax.

P: Priorities. “You can’t do it all, and you can’t do it all by yourself,” Gorkin says. He points to the “80/20 Rule,” also known as the Pareto Principle. It says that 20 percent of something always is responsible for 80 percent of the results—for example, 80 percent of your customers will use 20 percent of your services or products. “Think of what’s that crucial 20 percent,” Gorkin says. “If you can’t do that 20 percent by yourself, then basic economics says find someone who can help you.”

E: Empathy. “You’ve got to find some way to make your emotional support systems give and take,” he says. Most people—especially those who are supervisors—help others deal with their stress instead of dealing with their own, acting like Superman, or a pillar of strength. While that’s noble, it’s not particularly healthy. Stress management isn’t a one-way street, Gorkin says, and those people need a person they can vent to, not just absorb stress from. He recommends having a stress buddy you can use as a sounding board.

E: Exercise. “Not only is it important because we know the health benefits—cardiovascular endurance—it also releases mind-relaxing chemicals like endorphins and dopamine.” For some people, exercise is a way of turning off the psychic motor for a while so they can focus on something they want to think about. Plus, it offers the sense of accomplishment.

D: Diet. “We know if you’re loading up on saturated fats, too much sugar, drinking more than you should, it not only compromises your energy level, but obviously in the long run, is a roller coaster formula for an artery-clogged machine.”

American Idol

Jan works with a guy who is supposed to sing on American Idol. So she told me he was going to be on the local TV news at 7am today, singing at a bagel shop as part of some thing they do where their roving reporter goes to local businesses and events early in the morning. They're at the bagel shop and dressed up in their bagel suits, dancing around and we're waiting to see her co-worker.
You can guess what happened. No singer.
She called me from work to tell me that the guy had overslept. Now, here's a guy who's excited and "really looking forward" to his big chance. Talk about self-sabotage. I think I'd have had three alarm clocks, hired people to call me and come to my house to make sure I was up.
How often do we do things like this to ourselves? And why? I've seen this a hundred times in my teaching career. People get right up to where they are about to succeed and then, poof, they quit. Is it a fear of success or responsibility? And there's the people who take lessons and don't practice at all. It seems some of them walk out the door and don't give it a second thought until they come back for class. Sure there are some who do and even some who make it anyway despite not practicing and all, but they are few and far between. The capper is when they blame us, as teachers, for their failure. I even had a mother ask me why her son wasn't promoted once and when I asked her how much he was practicing she looked at me with an incredulous look and said, "Practice? We don't let him practice." Hmm. Wonder why I didn't promote him.
One of the great things about martial arts is that it gives us an opportunity to know ourselves better. Get a little introspective, you may be surprised.

Monday, August 13, 2007

For your amusement

You may be able to use this for instructor candidates.


You have two minutes, which is plenty of time. However, you must concentrate and work rapidly. Read everything carefully before doing anything.
1. Print your name in the upper right-hand corner.
2. Circle the word "name" in the first sentence.
3. Draw two small squares in the upper left-hand corner.
4. Put an "X" in each square.
5. Put a circle around each square.
6. Write "yes" after the title.
7. Put a circle around each word in sentence six.
8. Put an "X" in the lower left-hand corner of this paper.
9. Draw a triangle around the "X" you just put down.
10. On the reverse side of this paper, sign your name.
11. Draw a rectangle around the word "paper" in sentence number 10.
12. Call out your first name when you get to this point of the test.
13. If you feel that you have followed directions up to this point, call out "I have".
14. Count out loud in your normal speaking voice, backwars from ten to one.
15. Now that you have finished reading carefully, do only sentences one and two.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Kenpo Instructor's Handbook

I have a section on my website for Members and in it is The Kenpo Instructor's Handbook. It's a book that I add to from time to time to function as an aid to instructors and instructors to be. I originally was going to publish it as a book, a part of my series on kenpo. But I decided that with a paid membership to that section of the site, the instructor info alone would be worth the one-year membership and the rest is a bonus. And I made that decision based on what members have told me abut what they feel is the value of the material in there.

Presently the handbook has chapters on the background for teachers like "why teach?", a lesson plan format, hazardous attitudes (and their antidotes) that you'll encounter and recognize in your teaching experience, and the newest is about the importance of uniforms.

What I'm hoping for is some feedback from present instructors and future instructors, with suggestions on what to add and maybe an FAQ section. You can e-mail me through the website and you can take a look at the member registration information at

Lee Wedlake has been teaching Kenpo Karate for over 35 years and has written a variety of Kenpo Books about different kenpo katas and kenpo concepts. Mr. Wedlake has worked directly with Ed Parker and is generous with his knowledge and his time. He is available for Kenpo Seminars and camps.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What's a seminar?

Years ago, Huk Planas asked a class what a seminar was. Nobody seemed to know the answer. (I'm sure someone did, but you know how it goes in a group - nobody wants to look stupid in front of anyone.) He said it meant "to plant a seed". Good enough.
Below is the dictionary definition.


sem·i·nar [sémmə nr]
(plural sem·i·nars)
1. meeting on specialized subject: a single session or short, often one-day meeting devoted to presentations on and discussion of a particular topic, usually at an advanced or professional level
2. specialized educational class: a course of specialized graduate or undergraduate study under faculty supervision, in which ideas, approaches, and advances are regularly shared among participants
3. meeting of students and academic supervisor: a meeting of university or college students for study or discussion with an academic supervisor, or the group that participates in it

[Late 19th century. Via German , “advanced class,” from Latin seminarium “seed plot, breeding ground,” ultimately from the stem semin- (see seminal).]
Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

I think his definition fit. And he did go on to add the part about students meeting with a professor. He also added that it was advanced material not normally covered in regular classes. And that's what I like to keep in mind when I do seminars.
I want everyone, regardless of rank (myself included) to go home with more than they came with. It's sometimes very difficult to structure a lesson plan with that as the goal.
All too often, I believe, guest instructors come in with no real lesson plan in mind or with one plan they do over and over. I think that's a bit of a disservice.
I get invited to schools all over and I often tailor-make the lesson plan for their group. Time consuming? Yes. Worth the effort? Definitely.
My Professional Development Seminars go beyond the structure that most seminars use. The planning and creation of unique materials is a key. I am proud of the product and the result. And there's a lot of people out there who seem to agree.
Attending seminars is a part of your time and money budget for your martial art education. Make sure they're worth it.
What do you think of most seminar structures?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Thank you

It's been about a week since Tom Fanelli put the video clips online for me at You Tube. So far, the response has been 100% positive. I've gotten compliments from Europe, Australia, and across the US. So, thanks for your input, and I have more in store for you in the next few weeks.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


From the Mind-Body-Spirit Review, online newsletter of IDEA, an association of fitness trainers. I think it has sme good pointers for martial artists as well, since we are in the same field.

Presence: Using Ethics to Resolve Teaching Dilemmas
by Alexandra Williams, MA

As wellness professionals, we are aware of the impact we have on others. Whether we intend it or not, our actions and words influence those with whom we teach and work. Every time we step into the studio, we make decisions; these are based on the nonverbal contract we have with our participants and clients that we will do our best to safely and competently guide them toward their goals in exchange for their trust, time and effort.

One way our value system becomes evident in the classroom is through the choices we make about volume, intensity, exercise/pose selection, cues and suggestions. How do our own preferences come into play? Do we even ask the group’s opinion? What is best for my participants? What is best for me? Who gets to decide? Who knows better what my participants need—they or I? Every time we teach we are called on to answer these and lots of other questions. For many instructors, this decision-making process has become reflexive; we don’t consciously consider each question in class. We couldn’t function effectively if we had to ponder the ethics of teaching every time we worked with a group. But if we want to be ethical teachers, we must at least be aware of our choices—and know how we arrived at them.

Decision-Making Road Map
Looking at some of the simpler decisions we have reached in the past can help guide us as we contemplate some of the more difficult, yet common, teaching dilemmas that occur at least once in our careers. Some of us will use previous decision making as a road map for future dilemmas. Others may decide to go back to a fork and choose a new route altogether. There is no universal answer, no overall “correct” choice for some of the decisions we must make. But for each instructor in a particular situation, there is a right and appropriate choice.

To better understand how we make ethical decisions, let's assess the five general steps involved in the decision-making process:

Step 1. Watch for Assumptions. This initial step requires that you consider those beliefs that affect your expectations of events or other people’s behavior.
Step 2. Gather Information. At this point, the goal is to collect salient data that can help you make an informed decision.
Step 3. Check for Personal Investments. Here’s where you need to question what you have at stake in the dilemma, including potential losses or gains.
Step 4. Follow Industry Safety and Research Indicators. This step is less internal and may outweigh previous steps if the relevant data are compelling.
Step 5. Come to a Decision That Reflects Your Personal Values. This final step is the culmination of considering the internal and external factors; it allows you to make an informed choice that is congruent with who you are as an instructor and a citizen of a specific culture.

Now let’s apply these five steps to a common dilemma you might face. How do I resolve the conflict between what participants want and what I think they really need? Oftentimes, participants want either more or less than what’s being offered. This dilemma potentially pits you against the very people you are in class to help.

Step 1. To be aware of your assumptions, you need to understand what the terms “more” and “less,” “easy” and “hard,” etc. mean to those people who want a change. It’s not uncommon for misunderstandings to occur at this initial stage if you assume that everyone defines certain terms in the same way. For example, “easy” and “hard” could apply to complexity, intensity, music volume, duration, transitions, instructor personality, participants’ mood or a variety of other factors.

Step 2. Query your participants about their goals or aspirations. Knowing whether goals are in conflict is not possible without knowing the goals. In short, ask questions!

Step 3. Once you’ve got a clearer understanding of what participants are really asking of you, you have to focus inward to determine how much you are personally invested in the outcome. This is the time to ask yourself questions like these: Do I have an outlook that requires a right and a wrong? If I give them what they say they want, will I still enjoy teaching? How much time and effort will I have to expend to make any changes? Am I comfortable with change and conflict? Do I need to win or save face? Are participants collaborators or recipients? Is there a management philosophy to take into account? If I know it, do I agree with it? What’s my level of training and knowledge relative to the request? What knowledge do I have that contributes to my belief that I know what they need? This self-questioning should clarify the variables and help avert conflicts.

Step 4. Now that you’ve queried the participants and examined yourself, it’s time to balance the information you’ve gathered with your knowledge of relevant research. You need to be able to decide whether the moves participants request are safe and effective. If a change being requested could cause injury, you may be justified in overriding your participants’ wishes. In fact, resolving such an issue may present an opportunity to share information and clear up common myths.

Step 5. When you are deciding on a final course of action, personal values can be used as an overlay. In the end, you must come to a conclusion you can live with, one that fits your concept of who you are and what you believe in. There’s no exact place to point to on an ethics chart that says, “Here is the correct answer.” Rather, you need to increase your awareness of the steps that lead you to a choice and act from that awareness. Then, at least, you can say, “Here is the perfect balance for me at this moment in this case.”

As a wellness professional, stay informed by adding the Inner IDEA website to your favorites; add Inner IDEA to your favorites for easy reference.

An interesting study on breathing

This was taken from the IDEA online newsletter. No author was cited.

Intention: Can Hostility Be Linked to Unhealthy Lungs?

Young adults with a short temper or mean disposition also tend to have compromised lung function, says a recent study published in the journal Health Psychology, by the American Psychological Association (APA). This occurred even when asthma and smoking were ruled out as possible causes of lung dysfunction.

In a study of 4,629 black and white 18-30 year olds from four metropolitan areas (sampled from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults Study cohort (CARDIA), psychologists examined whether the tendency to be hostile went along with having decreased lung function in otherwise healthy young adults. The results indicated that the more hostile one’s personality—characterized by aggression or anger, for example—the lower levels one’s of lung function even after controlling for age, height, socioeconomic status, smoking status and presence of asthma.

People with higher levels of general frustration predicted statistically significant reductions in pulmonary function for black women, white women, and black men. The only marginally strong finding occurred among the white men sampled. The authors speculate that people in lower status roles, black women, white women, and black men, who display hostility (and may be pushing against social expectations), elicit stronger social consequences than white men, resulting in higher levels of internalized stress that can make them sick. Further research is required to rule out if environmental toxins such as air pollution may contribute to both higher hostility and lower lung function. Hostility was measured using the Cook-Medley Questionnaire which is derived from the items on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Pulmonary function was measured while participants were standing and wearing a nose clip, blowing into a machine to measure their lung capacity, which can indicate upper airway obstruction.

“Recent research demonstrates that greater hostility predicts lung function decline in older men. This is the first study of young adults to offer a detailed examination of the inverse link between hostility and pulmonary function,” states lead author and psychologist Benita Jackson PhD MPH, Smith College. “It’s remarkable to see reductions in lung function during a time of life we think of as healthy for most people. Right now, we can’t say if having a hostile personality causes lung function decline, though we now know that these things happen together. More research is needed to establish whether hostility is associated with change in pulmonary function during young adulthood.” This research has implications for future research exploring the possible influence of social status on personality functioning and pulmonary health.

The doctor is in

I read somewhere a long time ago that if you want to keep your mind sharp as you get older you should learn to 1)play an instrument, 2)learn a language, or 3)take up martial arts. Maybe you should learn martial arts in a foreign language, and many people do, if you know what I mean.
I take the opportunity to challenge my mind as much as possible. I see way too many older folks here in Florida who have lost it and I don't want to be like that. Maybe there's not much to do about it by just challenging the mind - I'm sure diet and exercise have something to do with it. They say exercise now is known to regnerate brain cells.
Dr. Rowe sent this article along with a comment; "I think martial arts the way you teach it is a way of developing cognitive reserve". Nice of him. But what is "cognitive reserve"? Read on, Grasshopper.

Cognitive reserve
Elizabeth Buchen, neuroscientist, science writer and advisor to Lumos Labs, explains the concept of 'cognitive reserve', and why people with more education are generally better at coping with brain damage.

The first Alzheimer™s diseased brain I ever touched looked horrific. The cortex was shriveled, the ventricles were large, cavernous voids, and when I stained the sample I saw a galaxy of proteinaceous tangles and masses. The brain had clearly been degenerating steadily for over a decade, and it was difficult to imagine how the patient could have functioned. I was shocked to discover that, according to his charts, the patient’s dementia had only been detectable for a few years. In contrast, certain brains I analyzed appeared dramatically more intact, yet came from patients who had suffered from severe dementia for over a decade.

These patients exemplify the dramatically different ways people can respond to neurodegenerative changes. Even when confronted with the same disease and comparable severity, people vary considerably in the extent of cognitive decline. Specifically, people with higher levels of education and occupational attainment are more successful at coping with the same amount of brain damage.

One hypothesis that accounts for this discrepancy is the concept of cognitive reserve. The cognitive reserve hypothesis posits that people who have challenged their minds for significant portions of their lives (i.e. they didn't just start playing Sudoku at the age of 60) can compensate for brain damage or degeneration by recruiting alternate brain networks as backup or reserve. In support of this hypothesis, functional brain imaging shows that "high-functioning" older adults activate significantly more areas of their brains than both "low-functioning" older adults and young adults when performing certain cognitive tasks. This indicates neural compensation; the "high-functioning" old engage in alternative neural strategies in response to neural deficits or declines in cognitive abilities. Importantly, this type of compensation may be facilitated by a more flexible organization of the brain, which results from early cognitive experience.

Of course, people who did not start challenging themselves until later in life should not despair. Other requisites of compensation, such as plasticity (including the birth new neurons and enhanced signaling between neurons), may be improved by cognitive experience throughout life (although the earlier the better). Further, in a complementary aspect of cognitive reserve, people who challenge their brains throughout life may be able to protect their existing brain networks. Intellectually stimulating activities may increase the efficiency and capacity of these networks, enabling them to withstand a greater degree of age-related change while maintaining intact functioning (again, the earlier the better).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

You Tube

My You Tube channel is up and running, thanks to Tom Fanelli here in Ft. Myers. Tom is also responsible for the website design (the content is mine and so is the botched layout at times.)
I started with some popular techniques and have four more that have already been shot coming soon. Hope you like it.
Here's the link.