ESPN Covers Sally Francklyn’s Recovery from a TBI

TBI Victim on the Road to Recovery with Brain Training

sally

 “My name is Sally Francklyn and I have a traumatic brain injury.”

In their recent coverage of well-known freeskiier Sally Francklyn, ESPN describes the young woman as a writer, skier, and much-loved personality in the freeskiing industry. Sally, who had recently landed a position as a public relations spokesperson for ski gear icons Nordica and Arc’teryx, was backcountry skiing with friends in March of 2012 when an 800-foot slide into a rock wall shattered her helmet and left her with a traumatic brain injury. Doctors were unsure if she could survive.

Eighteen months after the debilitating accident, Sally writes about her ongoing recovery, crediting rehabilitation caretakers, therapists and trainers—including her LearningRx brain trainers—for the progress she’s made so far.

“We helped improve her memory, her ability to think, her ability to pay attention,” explained LearningRx President Dean Tenpas in an interview with ESPN. Sally worked one-on-one with a LearningRx brain trainer. LearningRx brain training uses intense mental exercise to stimulate the brain to strengthen, rewire and even create neural connections. For many LearningRx clients with TBIs, the results are life changing.  

Sally’s goal is to get back on the slopes in 2014.

“I can ride a bike with my dad now,” Sally writes, “and last spring I put my skis on again for the first time and walked around on snow-covered flat ground.”

ESPN’s coverage of the Sally’s ongoing story includes a video as well as a published account of the accident and recovery in her own words. ESPN will also be airing a video series in which Sally interviews other people in the ski community who have suffered hardships and managed to fight through them.

Watch Sally’s video and read about her story here.

 

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LearningRx Featured in Scientific American

Are Learning Styles Determined by Brain Skills or Preference?

Scientific-American Should teachers teach to individual learning styles?

Does research show that teaching to learning styles is effective?

Are learning styles determined by brain skills or preference?

An article in Scientific American explores these and other questions that matter to educators and parents everywhere.

The article begins with the story of Dr. Ken Gibson who, inspired by his own reading challenges, founded LearningRx, a brain training company that strengthens cognitive skills weaknesses.

According to Dr. Gibson, cognitive weaknesses are often at the root of preferred learning styles. That’s because students lean on their particular cognitive strengths as a way of compensating for one or more weaknesses. “We have a natural tendency to use the skills that are strongest,” Gibson adds. “That becomes our learning style.”

He does a great job of explaining why learning preferences develop. The burning question, then, is this: When schools accommodate those preferences by teaching to individual learning styles, does it help? Sophie Guteri, the article’s author, examines several studies, quoting researchers who say there’s no real evidence that accommodating individual learning preferences results in higher grades or better test performance.

In the article, Gibson doesn’t chime in on whether or not accommodations work. His point seems to be, instead, that they shouldn’t be necessary. That is, in fact, the premise behind his company, LearningRx. At LearningRx, students are given a cognitive skills assessment to identify weaknesses in skills including memory, logic, visual processing and auditory processing. Based on the results of that assessment, LearningRx brain trainers customize training exercises to target and strengthen those weaknesses. As weaknesses are strengthened, students find themselves better equipped to process incoming information in a greater variety of formats.

In this fascinating article, Guteri does an excellent job exploring the complexities of the issue, while the studies cited create a compelling case for interventions, such as brain training, that improve students’ ability to learn regardless of how material in the classroom is presented. 

Everyday Tips for Improving Your Brain

10 Ways to Improve Your Brain

200313650-001Did you know that living with stress, eating junk food, and embracing the sedentary life as a couch potato aren’t just bad for your mood and body, they’re bad for your brain, too? This is the reason professionals who deal with brain health often tout the benefits of exercise, eating well and reducing stress.

Your brain can benefit from other everyday things, as well. Laughter, for example, releases stress and—if you’re laughing with a friend—is a great way to connect with those around you. (Social connection is a key indicator of brain health, and experts say that social interaction helps build something called “cognitive reserve.”)

Getting plenty of sleep is also an everyday activity that is critical for brain health because it’s when you are asleep that your brain solidifies learning and makes recent memories permanent.

Christina Sevilla, center director of the LearningRx Brain Training Centers in Denver and Centennial, Colorado, provides a list of 10 tips for improving the health of your brain. She writes, “Often we think of brain fitness tips as being activities like memory games, brain teasers and logic puzzles. All those things do work our brains, but other aspects of our health also effect the efficiency and strength of our brains.”

Click on the link for all 10 tips in the article Everyday Tips for Improving Your Brain.

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The Real Cause of Dyslexia: Brain Scans Show the Story

What Causes Dyslexia?

iStock_000021178612XSmall A common myth about dyslexia is that it’s caused by weak visual processing.

One reason this myth is so stubborn is because it sounds reasonable. After all, we use vision to read, so if reading is hard, there must be a problem with the brain’s visual system, right?

Wrong.

Scientists have known for years that the real cause of dyslexia lies in the brain’s auditory system. Kids and adults with dyslexia who confuse letters like b’s and d’s don’t do it because they see the letters as the same, but because they hear them as the same.

It’s the reason interventions like one-on-one brain training that strengthen auditory processing are seven times more effective than tutoring at improving reading skills. (A Chicago School District study showed that, on average, one year’s worth of tutoring produces a three-month net gain in reading skills, while the average result of LearningRx one-on-one brain training is a three-year net gain in reading skills in just six months!).

Now groundbreaking research provides greater understanding into the link between dyslexia and the brain.

The study, conducted by researchers at The Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University Medical Center, used fMRI technology to compare the brains of children with and without dyslexia. What they discovered is that while children with dyslexia do show differences in the part of the brain responsible for visual processing, those differences are the result of dyslexia, not the cause.

The cause-and-effect intricacies of dyslexia could be seen when children in the study were given an intervention that strengthened auditory processing and phonemics. When auditory processing was improved, reading not only improved, but the part of the brain responsible for visual processing also showed increased activity. Researchers say this sequence of events suggests that visual processing is improved by better reading, and not the other way around.

The study confirms that “early identification and treatment of dyslexia should not revolve around these deficits in visual processing,” says Olumide Olulade, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and post-doctoral fellow at GUMC.

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LearningRx Reviews: Mom says other treatments for her son's ADHD and ODD felt like "Band-Aids" until she found LearningRx

Mom says, after brain training, her son thinks quicker and has a much “better handle on life.”

LearningRx Reviews - Matthew: Student-of-the-Year“I was at the end of my rope.”

Those are the words of one mom, Jackie, after years of seeking help for her son. She explains, “We had him evaluated by psychologists. He had years of occupational therapy. We tried everything from brushing to joint compression. He started to be medicated and we saw some improvement in focus and attention, but many issues continued to be a problem. It was like putting a Band-Aid on something, but the underlying problem was always a problem.”

Jackie’s 9-year-old son, Matthew, had been diagnosed with ADHD, sensory integration dysfunction, and oppositional defiance disorder. His mother says he was miserable, anxious and depressed. She adds, “It was affecting his social relationships and his behavior in school. At home he was volatile, disruptive and incredibly difficult to deal with. I was beyond myself in frustration.”

Still searching for help, Jackie visited a dyslexia website and found a link to LearningRx. There she discovered a video of a news story about two kids with ADHD who had been helped so dramatically by LearningRx brain training programs that they were no longer on ADHD medication.

Jackie remembers her response after watching the video: “I sat there and cried because I thought, ‘There could be something I didn’t know about that could help my son.’”

LearningRx uses intense mental exercise—done one-on-one with a brain training coach—to stimulate the brain to change in ways that improve thinking, reading, learning, attention and more. Testing before and after the program measures changes in brain performance (in fact, LearningRx brain training is proven to raise IQ an average of 15 points!).

Clients and their families tell stories that support the statistics—even if getting started is hard. In the beginning, Jackie says the brain training sessions were difficult because they forced Matthew to face things that were hard for him. Even Matthew admits, “I hated it. I would storm outside. I would have fits, hide under a table.”

What kept the family returning week after week? Matthew’s relationship with his brain trainer was one of the keys. Matthew explains, “Adam is a really fun guy. He’s not like the kind of guy who is all serious. He jokes around. He still made me do it, but we had fun.”

The LearningRx results for this family were life changing. Jackie reports that “we have absolutely no oppositional behavior from our son anymore.” She says Matthew is having much greater success in life, not only academically but socially, too.

“Socially, he’s so much more accepted now because he gets the rules of how to act around other people, how to be accountable, how to not demand. He’s polite, cooperative. He has such a better handle on life.” She adds that her son is thinking quicker now, and is more capable of articulating this thoughts and feelings. “That’s helped his behavior tremendously, because now he can say what he feels and not just explode physically. His brain is able to connect the dots so much better.”

Matthew says he went from failing classes and being bullied, to getting As and Bs and having “a bunch of friends.”

Jackie says the six months Matthew spent working with a LearningRx brain trainer “changed his life. How do you say thank you for that? It’s one of the best investments we’ve ever made for our son.”

Watch Matthew, Jackie and others share their LearningRx reviews on video:

  • This family’s video testimonial won the LearningRx 2013 Student of the Year Video Contest. Watch Matthew’s and Jackie’s video here.
  • Kaiya, 13, struggled so much with reading and math her mother says that, before LearningRx, it was a struggle to get through each day. Since LearningRx, Kaiya is no longer behind in math, her grades and her confidence have soared, and she’s the first (instead of the last) to catch onto new choreography in her dance classes. Kaiya was a finalist in the LearningRx 2013 Student of the Year Video Contest. Watch Kaiya’s video here.
  • Candy, a college grad, woke up from a routine knee surgery and found that her memory had been erased—she didn’t even remember attending the Ivy League school where she obtained her degree! Before brain training, Candy’s cognitive skills were so weak that doctors told her family she would never be able to hold down a job or live on her own. Since brain training, Candy went back to school, earned an MBA, manages her own finances and is preparing to make a career move to another state! Candy was a finalist in the LearningRx 2013 Student of the Year Video Contest. Watch Candy’s video here.

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LearningRx Brain Training Pays for Itself in College Scholarship

Benefits of Brain Training

iStock_000012892503XSmallHere’s what one mom recently blogged about LearningRx:

“Moms get to brag. It’s part of our reward for giving birth and then spending years wiping jelly fingerprints off coffee tables.

“So, I found out this weekend that my brilliant daughter + LearningRx Brain Training = $6000 in a college scholarship!

“Apparently my kiddo’s excellent grades in high school made her automatically eligible for a $6000 President’s Scholarship at the college she’ll be attending in the fall. I’m so proud of her. I didn’t even know this scholarship existed! What a surprise and a blessing.

“My daughter has always been smart, but before LearningRx she was struggling with her memory and it was impacting her grades…”

In her blog, this happy mom describes several ways brain training impacted life for her daughter–in addition to the grades and the scholarship.

She adds, “I already was thrilled with what brain training did for us—and now I’m even making money on the results! What’s not to love?”

College scholarships are just one of several ways that LearningRx brain training can pay for itself—and then some! For example, studies have found that, on average, people with higher IQs of just 10 points make between $9,000 and $18,000 more in income every year throughout their careers. Because LearningRx brain training raises IQ an average of 15 points, the increase in lifetime earnings can be significant.

You can read the entire blog post here

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Little White Lies Are Good for Your Brain (Just kidding. But see how easy it is to let one slip?)

Lies and Their Impact on Your Brain

iStock_000000335618SmallYour grandmother asks how you liked her Spam® burger. Gulp. Choosing your words carefully, you say, “I’ve never eaten anything like it! What unique texture!” Your boss asks why you’re late. Gulp. You tell him about the accident that tied up two lanes of traffic, but you conveniently leave out the fact that you also overslept. 

Oh, the little white lies we tell. If we’re honest, most of us have undoubtedly stretched the truth at times. Call it exaggeration or fibbing, but leading deception expert Pamela Meyer concludes that the average person lies between 10 and 200 times every day. White lies are the seemingly harmless “untruths” we offer to minimize someone’s disappointment or anger, avoid embarrassment or forego an unpleasant outcome. But lies of any degree can affect more than your reputation, your career and your relationships—they can mess with your brain, alter your health and decrease your longevity. Really? Yes really.

“I don’t think that dress makes you look fat.”

When you tell the truth, you honestly state or recall something, but lying takes extra effort because you have to distort the facts and then convince others of your story. Lying increases anxiety and releases stress hormones, which increase heart rate and blood pressure. Stress from telling even little lies also lowers the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body, and can contribute to other medical conditions including depression, obesity and cancer. Over time, the cumulative effect of lies and stress can even shorten your life.

Psychology professor Anita Kelly at the University of Notre Dame tracked the effects of lying on the health of 110 adults for 10 weeks. Participants who were instructed to avoid lying at all costs reported improvements in their relationships, as well as fewer problems with tension, insomnia, backaches, headaches and sore throats than participants who were given permission to stretch the truth as needed.

“I’m fine. No, really.”

In research published in Psychology Today, 85 percent of restaurant diners admitted to white lies when asked about their food and dining experience. (“How is the blackened trout?” “Fine, just fine.”) Even omitting the truth over something as “trivial” as a meal can strain—and even shrink!— your brain. Medical researchers have discovered that the brain’s prefrontal cortex is most susceptible to stress and actually contracts when the body is tense and anxious. Perhaps we’d all do better by following mindful Albert Einstein who advised, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

“The check’s in the mail.”

As easy as it is to fudge the truth now and then, it’s important to tell the truth for the health of our relationships, bodies and brains.

So the next time you hear: Do these pants make my butt look fat? Do you like my new haircut? Just how many cookies did you eat? Gulp. Go ahead. Fess up. Your brain and body will thank you.  

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Train Your Brain to Listen: Five Fun Activities for Kids

Learning to Listen

We hear sounds (like birds chirping) and voices (like a teacher giving a homework assignment), but do we really listen?

Carole Elkeles is a retired educator who believes that if kids know how to listen, both school and life will be easier to handle. She says, “Listening skills are learned…and listening is basic for communicating, learning, thinking and acquiring awareness of the world around you.

Learning to listen can help increase the quality of relationships, reduce misunderstandings and improve productivity in the classroom or the workplace.

In her article “Listening Games and Activities,” Elkeles says that the skill of listening can be honed in about five minutes a day. It starts with knowing what types of listening skills need to be developed. Here are the five skills:

 

  1. Sound discrimination (What sounds are the same? What sounds are different?)
  2. Awareness of sounds (What sounds are heard in various situations?)
  3. Recognition of sounds (Which of these sounds is like buzz? hum? click?)
  4. Identification of sounds (Name this sound. Name item making sound or letter sound.)
  5. Sound concepts (Is it high or low? Loud or soft? Near or far?)

Try some of these fun activities with your kids: 

  1. To work on sound discrimination: Discriminate high and low sounds (with voice, or musical instruments). Or, match sounds. Fill small identical containers with rice, sand, nails, beans, cotton batting, etc. Make sure you have a pair. Shake them, and then find the two that sound the same.
  2. To work on awareness of sounds: Close your eyes and listen to the sounds heard in one minute. Or, recognize well-known sounds, like the ones we hear at home. For this activity you will need a tape with different sounds such as a tap running, flushing the toilet, vacuum cleaner, etc.
  3. To work on recognition of sounds: Listen to the sound that common appliances make. Invent a word that names the sound. As an added activity, children name the appliance together with the sound they invented. “The car goes _____.”
  4. To work on recognition of sounds: Finish the sentence with a word beginning with the same letter as the others. (e.g., Silly Sally saw seven…swings.)
  5. To work on sound concepts: Discover where a sound originates. (Close your eyes and listen carefully. “Where is it coming from and where is it going?”)

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Thinking Outside the Box (About Bananas)

Building a More Creative Brain

Maybe someone’s been monkeying around, but we went ape over the creative product reviews of the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer on Amazon.com.

Either this real product sold on Amazon.com is particularly appealing to creative writers, or one creative soul has gone to a lot of trouble to create a string of the most entertaining, outrageous (and fictional, we hope!) product reviews you’ll ever read.

Here’s a sampling of what these raving reviews are saying about this product:

“Can’t believe how much time I used to waste with a ruler and pencil, marking my bananas to get those perfectly uniform slices.”

“I’m ordering one for my nephew who’s in the Air Force in California. He’s been using an old Slinky to slice his bananas. He should really enjoy this product!”

“I have 27 trained monkeys I use to do my evil bidding. Well, the younger monkeys’ teeth have not fully developed and so slicing a banana to feed them used to be a necessary chore…”

“I bought one of these for my boss for Christmas and he gave me a promotion the next day! I’m making over $500k now and just bought a Maserati! This banana slicer has changed my life.”

Of course, not everyone loves the Hutzler 571. The product got low ratings based on the following complaints:

“It’s kind of cheaply made. But it works better than the hammer I’ve been using to slice my bananas.”

“Great idea, but only so-so execution. Device has no indicator lights to let you know when cutting is complete.”

“I would have given this item five stars except it did not come with a USB cable. Folks, it’s 2012 (almost 2013) and I can’t believe someone is selling a product that does not come with a USB cable!”

So what goes on in the brain when someone is being creative?

Neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen has written a book on that topic called The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius.

According to Dr. Andreasen, creative people often entertain unrelated ideas and thoughts freely in a disorganized way. When this happens, she said the “association cortex”— a part of the brain known for linking ideas or thoughts in potentially novel ways—becomes very active.

Which might explain how the writer(s) of these reviews made the unlikely associations of “banana slicing” with Slinkies, USB ports and Maseratis (not to mention trained monkeys doing evil biddings).

Dr. Andreasen says anyone can build a more creative brain by giving your brain a creativity workout half an hour every day. In an article called The Brains Behind Creativity, she gives the following suggestions:

Explore an unfamiliar area of knowledge. Do you spend every day at a computer? Then in your spare time, learn to paint or garden. Or if you’re very good at gardening, take a class in philosophy. You get the idea.

Spend time each day thinking. Don’t follow a predictable train of thought. Instead, allow your brain to make wild and crazy associations.

Practice the art of paying attention. Pay closer attention to a person, object or event than you usually do. Later, recreate what you observed in a journal or sketch book.

Use your imagination. Practice asking—and answering—the question “What if…?”

You can read more entertaining banana-slicer reviews here. If you’re a fan of “clever,” you won’t be wasting your time. You might even be inspired to purchase the product and write a creative review of your own!

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Aquaponics: Good for Your Brain?

Grow Your Own Brain-Healthy Vegetables and Fish!

Aquaponics is a relatively new gardening technology that grows fish and vegetables together.

From a gardening standpoint, aquaponics is sheer genius, creating a symbiotic system in which fish create nutrients for the plants, and plants filter the water for the fish. The outcome? Healthier, happier fish; healthier, happier veggies. No chemicals allowed. Oh, and because the same water is recycled continually through the plants and fish tank, there’s no big water bill, either.

From small backyard systems to big commercial farms, people are using aquaponics to feed their families and even their communities with organic veggies and edible fish such as tilapia, perch, catfish, and even trout.

So what does that have to do with your brain?

Green, leafy veggies are great for your brain because they are often full of vitamins, iron, folic acid and antioxidants, all necessary for cognitive health, In fact, Harvard Medical School researchers discovered that women who ate the most green leafy veggies (compared to women who ate fewer veggies) experienced less cognitive decline as they aged.

Plus, many vegetables are also mostly water, which helps you stay hydrated. When your brain doesn’t get enough water, it can lead to headaches, overall low energy, mental fatigue and eventually memory problems and confusion.

And while aquaponics systems are limited to freshwater fish that don’t contain the levels of brain-healthy Omega-3 oil found in fatty saltwater fish, it’s still a healthy way to eat. In fact, tilapia—which do well in aquaponics systems—are exceptionally low in calories and high in protein, offering benefits related to your overall health, heart health and healthy weight (all important factors to your brain).

Plus, a key way to keep your brain healthy and active is to learn new skills. And for many of us, learning how to grow fish and veggies together definitely falls into that category.

If you’re up for a fun gardening adventure, click on the images in this blog to watch videos, or check out this YouTube search.  Aquaponics gives you healthier veggies, healthier fish, a healthier brain, a healthier heart and maybe even a slimmer waistline.

What’s not to like about that?

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