Jan 11, 2010
The TRANSCEND book is split into two main parts: the problem and the plan. In the first part (the problem) the authors discuss which major problem areas in the health of a human (brain, hormones, heart, etc.), while in the second they discuss their nine step plan to handling those problem areas.
I was happy that the first chapter was about the brain. I feel that brain health is an area that is overlooked too often compared to other areas of human health, and I think that is often the case because your brain is the least noticeable part of your body (you live in your mind, but your brain has few detectable activities as opposed to others like your moving hand or beating heart).
The main theme of the chapter is the fact that the adult brain's plasticity has become a widely accepted idea proven by many examples of people transferring certain brain functions from one part of the brain to another, and close microscopic monitoring of brain neural cells actively growing and establishing connections. I have worked in the past with a dynamic well known inventor who had part of her brain surgically removed. I have also worked closely with a physician who specialized in working with patients who have had part of their brains either damaged or surgically removed and has written a book about the remarkable (and often complete) recovery of many of his patients.
After getting the myth of a static brain that stops growing throughout adulthood out of the way, the discussion turns into how to prevent the brain from aging and maintain its health well into old age. The first (and I think hardest) approach is to continue exercising your brain just like you exercise other parts of your body. It is important to exercise your logical brain, emotional brain and motor skills. Reading, learning/playing a musical instrument, intellectually stimulating discussions,and playing sports are some of the ways that can be done. But each person should find what works for them as long as they maintain a good balance and engage the different parts of their brain.
Another aspect of maintaining the health of your brain is by providing your body with supplements of materials that the body stops making after a certain stage in your life. Those are natural materials that exist in your body and luckily in nature as well. At first I was weary, but the list really makes a lot of sense and I have already started taking almost all of those supplements. For example phosphatidylcholine is a substance that your body stops making enough of at some point (and it is hard to get enough of it from food, even tough it exists in some of the foods we eat), but that is a main building block of your cells' membrane. Once your body stops having enough of it, it starts using other similar materials that cause your cells to lose their flexibility and eventually stop functioning properly or break up. There are few other supplements which I won't mention here, but I'm researching the most cost effective ways to obtain them and will write more about that later.
The last aspect of brain health maintenance discussed in this chapter is sleep. Clinical studies of the importance of sleep and a discussion of the process of sleep and how it helps the brain replenish and rewire. I spent many years of my life sleep deprived, mostly because I had so much I wanted to do and I thought that the best thing I could do was to give myself few more hours in a day to do them. It took me a long time to realize that those 3-4 hours often caused me to cut my productivity over the other 16 hours of the day by a much larger percentage than what I gained. And in addition, I enjoyed doing them much more when I was well rested.
This journal entry is getting long, so I wont' discuss other areas of this chapter such as addiction and depression, but this was an amazing chapter. It both got me excited about reading the rest of the book and gave me real and practical things to do.
See you next chapter.
Creative Commons photo (of a lime jello brain!) by Elisabeth Feldman.