In the first part of this series, we look at the fastest-growing population in U.S. prisons: women.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
In 2006, Danny Schechter made a documentary that clearly laid out the emerging crisis that exist in America's consumer base credit society touching upon the sub prime mortgage, predatory lending and runaway credit card debt.
In America's earliest days, there were barn-raising parties in which neighbors helped each other build up their farms. Today, in some churches, there are debt liquidation revivals in which parishioners chip in to free each other from growing credit card debts that are driving American families to bankruptcy and desperation. IN DEBT WE TRUST is the latest film from Danny Schechter, "The News Dissector," director of the internationally distributed and award-winning WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception), an expose of the media's role in the Iraq War. The Emmy-winning former ABC News and CNN producer's new hard-hitting documentary investigates why so many Americans are being strangled by debt. It is a journalistic confrontation with what former Reagan advisor Kevin Phillips calls "Financialization"--the "powerful emergence of a debt-and-credit industrial complex." While many Americans may be "maxing out" on credit cards, there is a deeper story: power is shifting into fewer hands.....with frightening consequences. IN DEBT WE TRUST shows how the mall replaced the factory as America's dominant economic engine and how big banks and credit card companies buy our Congress and drive us into what a former major bank economist calls modern serfdom. Americans and our government owe trillions in consumer debt and the national debt, a large amount of it to big banks and billions to Communist China
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
A stampede at the pre-dawn opening of a Long Island, New York Wal-Mart on Black Friday, November 29, 2008, killed a Wal-Mart employee and reportedly caused a female shopper to miscarry.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Billy Bragg - Levi Stubbs' Tears
Levi Stubbs, lead singer of legendary Motown band The Four Tops, has died at his home in Detroit, US, aged 72.
The performer, who had suffered ill-health for several years, passed away in his sleep.
Abdul Fakir is the only surviving original member of the group, which has sold more than 50m records.
The Detroit band became one of Motown Records' biggest successes, scoring hits including Bernadette and Reach Out (I'll Be There).
Founding members Lawrence Payton and Obie Benson died in 1997 and 2005 respectively.
Audley Smith, of the Motown Historical Museum, said that Levi Stubbs had a voice as unique as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder.
"[He] fits right up there with all the icons of Motown," he said.
Levi Stubbs was born in 1936 in Detroit and met Abdul "Duke" Fakir at High School.
They met Payton and Benson while singing at a mutual friend's birthday party.
In 1953, they formed a group called The Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records.
Later they changed their names to the Four Tops to avoid being confused with the Ames Brothers.
The group signed with Motown Records in 1963 and produced 20 Top-40 hits over the following 10 years, making music history with other acts in Berry Gordy's Motown stable.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Stubbs is survived by his wife Clineice, five children and 11 grandchildren.
Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2008/10/17 19:23:23 GMT
© BBC MMVIII
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
By Jeremy Hsu
posted: 18 August 2008
06:35 am ET
Something beneath the surface is changing Earth's protective magnetic field, which may leave satellites and other space assets vulnerable to high-energy radiation.
The gradual weakening of the overall magnetic field can take hundreds and even thousands of years. But smaller, more rapid fluctuations within months may leave satellites unprotected and catch scientists off guard, new research finds.
A new model uses satellite data from the past nine years to show how sudden fluid motions within the Earth's core can alter the magnetic envelope around our planet. This represents the first time that researchers have been able to detect such rapid magnetic field changes taking place over just a few months.
"There are these changes in the South Atlantic, an area where the magnetic field has the smallest envelope at one third [of what is] normal," said Mioara Mandea, a geophysicist at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany.
Even before the newly detected changes, the South Atlantic Anomaly represented a weak spot in the magnetic field — a dent in Earth's protective bubble.
The Earth's magnetic field extends about 36,000 miles (58,000 km) into space, generated from the spinning effect of the electrically-conductive core that acts something like a giant electromagnet. The field creates a tear-drop shaped bubble that has constantly shielded life on Earth against much of the high-energy radiation flowing from the sun.
The last major change in the field took place some 780,000 years ago during a magnetic reversal, although such reversals seem to occur more often on average. A flip in the north and south poles typically involves a weakening in the magnetic field, followed by a period of rapid recovery and reorganization of opposite polarity.
Some studies in recent years have suggested the next reversal might be imminent, but the jury is out on that question.
Measuring interactions between the magnetic field and the molten iron core 1,864 miles (3,000 km) down has proven difficult in the past, but the constant observations of satellites such as CHAMP and Orsted have begun to bring the picture into focus.
Mandea worked with Nils Olsen, a geophysicist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, to create a model of the fluid core that fits with the magnetic field changes detected by the satellites.
However, the rapid weakening of the magnetic field in the South Atlantic Anomaly region could signal future troubles for such satellites. Radiation storms from the sun could fry electronic equipment on satellites that suddenly lacked the protective cover of a rapidly changing magnetic field.
"For satellites, this could be a problem," Mandea told SPACE.com. "If there are magnetic storms and high-energy particles coming from the sun, the satellites could be affected and their connections could be lost."
The constant radiation bombardment from the sun blows with the solar wind to Earth, where it flows against and around the magnetic field. The effect creates the tear-drop shaped magnetosphere bubble, but even the powerful field cannot keep out all the high-energy particles.
A large sunspot set off a major radiation storm in 2006 that temporarily blinded some sun-watching satellites. Astronauts on the International Space Station retreated to a protected area as a precaution to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.
The Earth's overall magnetic field has weakened at least 10 percent over the past 150 years, which could also point to an upcoming field reversal.
Mandea and Olsen hope to continue refining their model with updated observations, and perhaps to eventually help predict future changes in the Earth's magnetic field.
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Beijing Olympics are underway with the spotlight on China. Unfortunately, our TV announcers are so awed by the grandeur of the spectacle that they are overlooking the country’s authoritarian regime and its stranglehold on free speech.
China now has the world’s largest number of Internet users, having recently surpassed the United States. This number, however, doesn’t account for whether the Chinese government allows for a free and open Internet. So while a record number of Chinese people are logging online, they certainly can’t read or watch anything they choose.
While China had promised to increase Internet freedom during the Olympics, many of those promises have not been kept. The government vowed to relax Internet restrictions for foreign journalists, and finally complied only after intense international pressure, making some previously blocked sites available. Chinese Internet users, however, still face the same firewalls.
China maintains control over Internet users by blocking access to a wide range of Web sites and online activities it believes are a threat to the security of the state. To accomplish this monumental task, the government has created an elaborate system of filters, commonly referred to as “the Great Firewall of China,” using technology called deep packet inspection or DPI.
When an Internet provider installs DPI equipment, it allows them (or a third party) to see everything you do on the Internet. DPI technology has been in the U.S. news recently, as ISPs have begun using it to track customer activities for targeted advertising. But two U.S. broadband providers were using this technology for purposes that mirror China’s to block online content. Which American providers do such a thing? None other than Comcast and Cox, two Net Neutrality violators.
The companies have installed DPI equipment to block Internet communications they don’t like using reset packets (as China does). As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained, their use of reset packets is akin to “a telephone operator that interrupts a phone conversation, impersonating the voice of each party to tell the other that ‘this call is over, I’m hanging up.’” While legitimate purposes exist for the reset command, only these two companies and malicious hackers use it as a third party to interrupt people’s communication.
Comcast and Cox purchased the equipment from the corporation Sandvine, which hit the “on” switch to let the companies start violating Net Neutrality. Since Free Press filed a complaint with the FCC against Comcast for its illegal blocking, Sandvine has had a tough time. Their stock price has tanked and their biggest customer, Comcast, has had second thoughts.
As long as Sandvine’s business model is violating Net Neutrality, we consider this good news. A couple weeks ago, however, their stock price received a bump. How is this possible after the consumer win on Net Neutrality, with the FCC telling Comcast to stop blocking?
Sandvine simply looked to the Great Firewall of China. Feeling the heat in the U.S., Sandvine struck deals with China and two countries – Qatar and Kuwait – looking to follow China’s lead and prevent their citizens’ access to a free and open Internet.
As you’re watching the Olympics, in the rare instance that an announcer actually brings up the current lack of online freedom in China, remember that Comcast and Cox utilize the same technology to impose their vision of what the Internet should be. Unless we continue to organize and fight for our online freedom, your Internet provider will assert an increasing level of control over what you say and do on the Internet, and Net Neutrality will no longer exist.
Internet, and Net Neutrality will no longer exist.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
This is the second in a three-part series.
Who's Behind Bars?
Morning Edition, August 14, 2008 · The largest mental institution in the country is actually a wing of a county jail. Known as Twin Towers, because of the design, the facility houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in one of its two identical hulking structures in downtown Los Angeles.
On a recent morning, we took a visit to the floor devoted to the "sickest of the sick." As we arrived, a dozen deputies were working to restrain a patient and inject him with an anti-psychotic drug. The entire ordeal was videotaped — to protect the patient as well as the deputies. It was the first hint at the complexities that emerge from creating a mental hospital inside a jail.
The End Of Public Mental Hospitals
Until the 1970s, the mentally ill were usually treated in public psychiatric hospitals, more commonly known as insane asylums.
Then, a social movement aimed at freeing patients from big, overcrowded and often squalid state hospitals succeeded. Rather than leading to quality treatment in small, community settings, however, it often resulted in no treatment at all.
As a consequence, thousands of mentally ill ended up on the streets, where they became involved in criminal activity. Their crimes, though frequently minor, led them in droves to jails such as Twin Towers, says Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
"Incarcerating the mentally ill is not the right thing to do," he says.
But if they are housed in Twin Towers, Baca says he is determined to make sure they are treated for illness.
Waking Up To A Big Bowl Of Ants
Mornings at Twin Towers begin with a meeting of medical staff from the county's Department of Mental Health; case workers and guards, who often function as de facto case workers, sit in a large circle.
An inmate who won't eat is the first order of business on this particular day.
"He says there are ants in his cereal," a case worker explains.
Dr. Arakel Davtian, one of the psychiatrists sitting in this large circle, takes a moment to explain just who they are dealing with; about half those locked up at the Twin Towers are in for serious crimes, he says.
What he finds striking, however, is how little it takes for the other half to end up there: "Indecent exposure, having open containers, something very, very minor — peeing on the street, disturbing the peace."
Often, the crimes these people commit are the result of their mental illness, Davtian says.
He offers the example of an inmate who was arrested for false identity. The police asked him his name, and he gave them a series of different ones.
"In court he does the same thing — he talks gibberish; the judge said [he is] incompetent to stand trial. The next court date is six months from the time he got arrested."
This means at least half a year at Twin Towers. Although being locked up is not the ideal way to enter treatment, Davtian says something good did come out of the altercation: he's begun treating the man for schizophrenia.
In Search Of Treatment
Some of the inmates at Twin Towers say they are glad to get treatment. Scott, 21, was incarcerated for shoplifting. He didn't want to give his last name, but he says he's aware he has "mental problems, mostly caused by life."
"I got ran over when I was 7," he says. "I'm schizophrenic-paranoid. I think everyone is watching me. I think I'm being judged, which is kind of true and kind of not."
Not everyone is so open to treatment. Lawrence Fillmore II says he was picked up for stealing sweaters out of a car on a very cold day.
"In order to get a lesser charge, I pretended I was nuts. So ever since then, I've been hooked up with the mental facilities."
Claiming to be crazy is a problem here. There is a perception that life in the "insane" tower is easier than life in the "sane" one — partly because the cells in the mental health side are newer than cells in the other side. Consequently, inmates are carefully screened before they are admitted to the psychiatric wing.
When I ask Fillmore what he's going to do when he gets out, he offers, "I have some friends, Mr. Carl Icahn, he's a billionaire ... I've got some money, lots of money. I've been working with him since 1968, helping him build his empire, so I'm gonna go back there. Just live good."
Socialization And Suicide Gowns
The "crazy wing" of Twin Towers may look like a greener pasture to those in the other wing, but it's still an unsettling sight.
Walking into the "high observation" area, patients stare out through the glass walls of their cells, many nearly naked.
"They just don't want to get dressed," explains Deputy William Hong.
Across the way, about a dozen inmates are engaged in a "socialization" exercise. Some participants are chained to benches — "for civilian workers' safety," as Hong explains it. Others sit listlessly at tables, in long draping ponchos that deputies refer to as "suicide gowns."
"They can't rip it," explains Hong. Clothes can prove dangerous tools to a depressed or paranoid inmate.
"They've tried to flush it down — clog the toilet, flood the area. Or they've tried to harm themselves," he says.
Suicide gowns are more durable.
It shouldn't be this way, Baca says.
"They're here, and they're going to be cared for, but is this what we want in the way of a policy? Are we saying the legal system is the solution for the mentally ill in L.A. County? I don't think so. I'm saying criminals belong in jail, not the mentally ill."
Baca has been saying this since he took over Twin Towers a decade ago. And the mentally ill just keep coming, filling up the hospital to maximum capacity.
Radio piece produced by Ben Bergman.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
August 12, 2008
Many people with bipolar stop taking their medications at some point in their treatment. This is a reality that patients, doctors, and family members often wrestle with. But it’s important to understand some of the possible reasons why. Understanding that there are often compelling factors in someone’s decision to stop their meds can help loved ones approach the problem without judgment. And for people with bipolar disorder it is critical to honestly evaluate why they want to stop taking their medication, because then they can tackle these issues directly and without judging themselves.
Non-compliance or non-adherence? Anyone who’s ever taken bipolar medication has heard the term non-compliance. It means not doing what your doctor and therapist tell you to do. In most cases, it means not taking your meds as prescribed. Unfortunately, the term carries a subtle connotation that the patient is not being a good little girl or boy. As such, many people with bipolar understandably find it offensive, preferring instead to use the term non-adherence.
Outside observers often seem to think that the main reason people with bipolar stop taking their meds is because these people are just irrational, irritable, and obstinate… especially when they start becoming manic. Although mania could be a contributing factor in some cases, people often have other reasons for stopping their medications, including the following:
- The meds don’t seem to be working or aren’t working soon enough.
- The meds do work – “I feel fine, I don’t need these medications.” Of course the reason someone is feeling fine is often because they’re taking the meds. By the way, this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to people with bipolar disorder. Many patients without bipolar disorder who take medications to treat other illnesses stop taking their medications as soon as they begin feeling better even when their doctor and pharmacist instruct them specifically to finish the prescription.
- The side effects are intolerable. Some of the side effects can be scary and things that nobody would want to deal with, such as weight gain, memory loss, fatigue, and insomnia, not to mention potential medical problems like kidney or liver malfunction.
- It’s a real pain to remember to take the meds at the right time, every day; to find a way to keep track of when meds did or did not get taken; to find out what to do if a dose or several doses are missed, even accidentally; to keep the prescriptions refilled (especially if the insurance company is being difficult). The logistics of taking medications regularly – and the cost, too – can create genuine problems with sticking to them. And all of these challenges can be more difficult when someone isn’t feeling well – and can seem unnecessary when someone is feeling fine.
- Psychiatric medications carry a stigma. In our society, there’s a strong undercurrent of belief that medications for treating mental illnesses are only for lesser beings who cannot will themselves out of it. This is a huge issue and one we will discuss in other posts, including “Do You Feel Stigmatized by Your Bipolar Medications?”
- Understandably, many people enjoy the high side of bipolar disorder. They feel that the meds “flatten” them – and take away their creativity and spark.
We cover these “non-compliance” issues in Bipolar Disorder For Dummies and provide some strategies for overcoming the challenges, including the following:
- The most important first step is to be honest about taking or not taking medications and to deal with it as just another challenge on the journey. It is an expected bump in the road and it is not helpful to think of it as catastrophic.
- Honest communication with your doctor is critical – some of these problems can be handled, for example, with dosage or timing adjustments or by switching to an extended release version of a particular medication (if one is available).
- Bringing in other people to help can sometimes ease the logistical burdens.
- Sorting out the stigma and fear will be an ongoing and necessary discussion as part of solving this problem.
There may not always be a simple or obvious answer, but talking honestly and keeping judgment and criticism out of the mix when addressing the issue will go a long way toward finding creative solutions.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Today is an historic turning point for Net Neutrality -- thanks to the F.C.C.'s landmark decision to punish cable giant Comcast for blocking Internet traffic. Learn more and take action today at SavetheInternet.com
Friday, August 01, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The Journey of Man is a documentary that talks about our evolution, our recent history, and how we came to be to the way we are today. It looks at the Y chromosome, that's passed down from male to male, and tracks the marker mutations to map our ancestors' journey. It's how we conquered the Earth in just the last 59,000 years.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
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Censorship in schools growing, experts say
Day set for protest of Internet censorship
Russian govt. accused of culture control
BAGHDAD, July 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. military's strict control of photographs from the Iraq war zone is sparking a debate of freedom of speech versus security, experts say.
Only a handful of photographs of dead U.S. soldiers have appeared in any medium since the Iraq war began in 2003, and one photographer who recently published such photos on his Internet Web site has been ostracized by local U.S. military commanders, The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported Saturday.
The photographer, Zoriah Miller, and his supporters say the move is a clear-cut case of censorship and reflects a determination by U.S. officials to sanitize a conflict that is overwhelmingly unpopular among the public.
But military officials say Miller provided aid to the country's enemies by giving them visual confirmation of the effectiveness of a June 26 suicide bombing of a city council meeting in Anbar province.
News organizations told the Times that military restrictions, along with the danger and soaring costs in a time of newsroom budget cuts, are diminishing visual coverage of the war.
© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Saturday I will spend time with my bipolar buddy Bonnie. Our friendship has been slowly growing and I am liking our bond. We will meet for breakfast, then go to a museum. After that, possibly takes some photos, it is an open book for the most part. I hope that we can make each other happy doing whatever, we both need it. I really enjoy our time and talks a lot.
For Sunday, I have not a clue. Life is random and I really do not like to plan the future.
I heard this song on WTMD just before writing this.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Senior News Editor
Reviewed by: John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
on July 10, 2008
Thursday, Jul 10 (Psych Central) -- healthy foodDiet and exercise have long been associated with reducing risk factors for heart disease and cancer.
Emerging research suggests a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.
“Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain,” said Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain.
“Diet, exercise and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. This raises the exciting possibility that changes in diet are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging.”
Gómez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food’s affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the July issue of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience and are available online at www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n7/abs/nrn2421.html.
Omega-3 fatty acids — found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit — provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gómez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center.
Synapses in the brain connect neurons and provide critical functions; much learning and memory occurs at the synapses, Gómez-Pinilla said.
“Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory that are found on synapses,” Gómez-Pinilla said. “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function.
“Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” he said.
“A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in rodents results in impaired learning and memory.”
Children who had increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids performed better in school, in reading and in spelling and had fewer behavioral problems, he said.
Preliminary results from a study in England show that school performance improved among a group of students receiving omega-3 fatty acids.
In an Australian study, 396 children between the ages 6 and 12 who were given a drink with omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients (iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, B12 and C) showed higher scores on tests measuring verbal intelligence and learning and memory after six months and one year than a control group of students who did not receive the nutritional drink. This study was also conducted with 394 children in Indonesia.
The results showed higher test scores for boys and girls in Australia, but only for girls in Indonesia.
Getting omega-3 fatty acids from food rather than from capsule supplements can be more beneficial, providing additional nutrients, Gómez-Pinilla said.
Scientists are learning which omega-3 fatty acids seem to be especially important. One is docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is abundant in salmon. DHA, which reduces oxidative stress and enhances synaptic plasticity and learning and memory, is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes in the brain.
“The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet,” said Gómez-Pinilla, who was born and raised in salmon-rich Chile and eats salmon three times a week, along with a balanced diet.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are essential.”
A healthy diet and exercise can also reduce the effect of brain injury and lead to a better recovery, he said.
Recent research also supports the hypothesis that health can be passed down through generations, and a number of innovative studies point to the possibility that the effects of diet on mental health can be transmitted across generations, Gómez-Pinilla said.
A long-term study that included more than 100 years of birth, death, health and genealogical records for 300 Swedish families in an isolated village showed that an individual’s risk for diabetes and early death increased if his or her paternal grandparents grew up in times of food abundance rather than food shortage.
“Evidence indicates that what you eat can affect your grandchildren’s brain molecules and synapses,” Gómez-Pinilla said. “We are trying to find the molecular basis to explain this.”
Controlled meal-skipping or intermittent caloric restriction might provide health benefits, he said.
Excess calories can reduce the flexibility of synapses and increase the vulnerability of cells to damage by causing the formation of free radicals. Moderate caloric restriction could protect the brain by reducing oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, Gómez-Pinilla said.
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Blueberries have been shown to have a strong antioxidant capacity, he noted.
In contrast to the healthy effects of diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, diets high in trans fats and saturated fats adversely affect cognition, studies indicate.
Junk food and fast food negatively affect the brain’s synapses, said Gómez-Pinilla, who eats fast food less often since conducting this research. Brain synapses and several molecules related to learning and memory are adversely affected by unhealthy diets, he said.
Emerging research indicates that the effects of diet on the brain, combined with the effects of exercise and a good night’s sleep, can strengthen synapses and provide other cognitive benefits, he added.
In Okinawa, an island in Japan where people frequently eat fish and exercise, the lifespan is one of the world’s longest, and the population has a very low rate of mental disorders, Gómez-Pinilla noted.
Folic acid is found in various foods, including spinach, orange juice and yeast. Adequate levels of folic acid are essential for brain function, and folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders such as depression and cognitive impairment.
Folate supplementation, either by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins, has been shown to be effective in preventing cognitive decline and dementia during aging and enhancing the effects of antidepressants. The results of a recent randomized clinical trial indicate that a three-year folic acid supplementation can help reduce the age-related decline in cognitive function.
In patients with major depression and schizophrenia, levels of a signaling molecule known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, are reduced. Antidepressants elevate BDNF levels, and most treatments for depression and schizophrenia stimulate BDNF.
Here, too, omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial, as is the curry spice curcumin, which has been shown to reduce memory deficits in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease and brain trauma. BDNF is most abundant in the hippocampus and the hypothalamus — brain areas associated with cognitive and metabolic regulation.
The high consumption of curcumin in India may contribute to the low prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease on the subcontinent.
In humans, a mutation in a BDNF receptor has been linked to obesity and impairments in learning and memory.
“BDNF is reduced in the hippocampus, in various cortical areas and in the serum of patients with schizophrenia,” Gómez-Pinilla said. “BDNF levels are reduced in the plasma of patients with major depression.”
Smaller food portions with the appropriate nutrients seem to be beneficial for the brain’s molecules, such as BDNF, he said.
Gómez-Pinilla showed in 1995 that exercise can have an effect on the brain by elevating levels of BDNF.
He noted that while some people have extremely good genes, most of us are not so lucky and need a balanced diet, regular exercise and a good night’s sleep.