BrainDance.com® Newsletter, November, 1997

by Patrick Magee, author of Brain Dancing


"Not all birds can fly. What separates the flyers from the walkers is the ability to take off." -- Carl Sagan, COSMOS

Summary of this issue:

  1. Brain Longevity by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.
  2. Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer
  3. Man's Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
  4. Law of Increasing Returns
  5. Cool Links: Michael Jordan Article, Dr. John McDougall takes on the Zone diet, Bits & Pieces Archive
Brain Longevity, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.   

"What's good for the heart is good for the head." Dharma Singh Khalsa

Brain Longevity: Regenerate Your Concentration, Energy, and Learning Ability for a Lifetime of Peak Mental Performance, is one of the most significant and timely health books ever published. Dr. Khalsa provides dozens of researched based distinctions for optimizing brain health over a lifetime. Here are just a few of the groundbreaking distinctions Dr. Khalsa explains so elegantly in his book:

  1. Cortisol is secreted in response to stress. When produced in excess, day after day, as a result of unrelenting stress, cortisol kills and injures brain cells by the billions. Dr. Khalsa believes this to be the primary cause of brain degeneration during the aging process. Learning how to manifest the "relaxation response," the exact opposite of the adrenal-driven "stress-response," is a critical survival skill. Any technique that can decrease your stress is a valuable tool in a brain longevity program.
  2. In addition to increasing blood flow to the brain, aerobic exercise spurs growth of new brain cell "branches," protects the body against the stress response, and "burns off" harmful stress hormones. Exercise causes the release of various neurological and endocrinological secretions, including norpinephrine, the stimulating brain chemical that serves as one of the most important neurotransmitters involved in the laying down of new memories and moving memories from short term to long term storage.
  3. Dr. Diamond, former head of Lawrence Hall at UC Berkeley, was chosen to dissect and study Albert Einstein's brain. She compared it to the brains of intellectually average men who had died near the same age (76). The only difference found was an enhanced Area 39, which she and other researchers believe is the most highly evolved site in the brain. "When people have lesions in Area 39, they have great difficulty with abstract imagery, memory, attention and self-awareness," writes Dr. Khalsa. Einstein had an abundance of glial cells in Area 39, which serve as 'housekeeping' cells, as opposed to a measurable excess of 'thinking' cells. The job of the glial cell is to support the metabolism of the thinking neurons. The presence of these extra glial cells is what had enlarged Einstein's Area 39. Dr. Diamond went on to perform experiments that validated the hypothesis that Einstein had an enlarged Area 39 because he was in effect, a "mental athlete" who had "trained hard" all his life.
  4. Richly encoded memories, which have many associations, or paths leading to them, are easier to remember. Emotional associations, even minor ones, can generate the neurotransmitters required to "ship the memory" to long-term storage. Dr. Khalsa describes how actors use this principle to learn their lines. First they learn the meaning and emotion in the lines and then focuses on memorizing the words. The emotion becomes the framework that holds together the left-brain linguistic memories.

I am especially impressed by the degree to which Dr. Khalsa bases his statements on facts obtained through research. He does not extrapolate the findings based on opinion in order to make points not supported by the research actually performed. Very specific suggestions are given for eating, exercising, meditating, stretching and breathing. Visit Dr. Khalsa's Web site for more information or purchase the book from .

Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer   

The American Institute for Cancer Research has just published a Major New International Report on Cancer Prevention This work is the result of a 4-year project conducted by 15 of the world's leading researchers in diet and cancer in order to produce a comprehensive new report on diet and cancer prevention. They conclude that eating right plus staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight can cut cancer risk by 30% to 40%. The above link lists their specific dietary guidelines. This report also cautions against eating foods that have not been refrigerated for long periods, like at a potluck. Apparently some foods can develop carcinogenic bacteria as a result.

Man's Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl   

"He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." Nietzsche

"In the Nazi concentration camps, one could have witnessed that those who knew that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill were most apt to survive." Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl died recently at the age of 92. That he lived so long after surviving three years in Nazi concentration camps during WW II is a remarkable tribute to the soundness of his Logotherapy principles.

In his classic book, Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl tells of a time during his imprisonment when he fell ill with typhus. Wasting away from starvation with rags for clothing and no heat, his chances were slim. Upon his arrival at Auschwitz, his captors had stripped him of his clothes. Within these clothes he had hidden the only copy in existence of the manuscript to his first book. His "new" clothes were the torn rags of another prisoner who had been gassed. In a pocket, he found a single page of a Hebrew prayer book containing the most important Jewish prayer. He interpreted this coincidence as a challenge to live his thoughts rather than merely putting them down on paper. While ill, he jotted on little scraps of paper, notes that would enable him to rewrite the manuscript if he were to survive captivity. "I am sure that this reconstruction of my lost manuscript in he dark barracks of a Bavarian concentration camp assisted me in overcoming the danger of cardiovascular collapse."

"Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he that is asked." Viktor Frankl

Frankl concluded that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish. He believed such tension is inherent in human nature and indispensable to mental well-being. Rather than seeking a tensionless state, the ideal situation is to be striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal a freely chosen path. Frankl believed that a man's task must be to find a meaning that is unique and specific, in that it must be fulfilled by him alone, and that this search should be the primary motivation in his life. "�success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself, or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself."

"�everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Viktor Frankl

Click here to visit the Viktor Frankl Web site.

Law of Increasing Returns  

This law mentioned briefly in Bill Gates' book, The Road Ahead , is worth a close look. It challenges the basic economic law of diminishing returns. Success breeds success. A talented artist has a big hit and attracts talented songwriters, promoters, appearances on talk shows, etc. All which accelerate the success cycle. A talented programmer gets hired by top software companies to work on key projects which further positions the individual to work on new key projects that come along. Gates refers to this as a positive spiral.

As stated in Positive Feedbacks in the Economy by W. Brian Arthur, ''Increasing returns are the tendency for that which is ahead to get further ahead, and for that which loses advantage to lose further advantage.''

In firms that enjoy increasing returns, mechanisms of positive feedback operate ''to reinforce that which gains success or aggravate that which suffers loss. Success attracts quality people which breeds more success. Growth allows companies to pay for quality people via stock price appreciation, which lowers the cost of labor.

At an individual level, it can become increasingly difficult to maintain balance when success accelerates at increasing rates in a positive feedback cycle. Character, the ability to say no, to set limits, to choose ever more intelligently what you say yes to, becomes increasingly important. What was it that Forrest Gump said about Elvis? "I guess he sung too many songs. Had himself a heart attack or something."

Here are some comments on Arthur's article by professor Don Krummer at the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Business. Kevin Kelly's wired article on the New Rules for the New Economy also touches on this issue.

Cool Self-Development Links

Article by Michael Jordan In pursuit of excellence (link no longer available).

Dr. John McDougall takes on the "Zone" diet. Anyone following Barry Sears' diet program should read this before continuing. Dr. McDougall's nutritional recommendations are backed by research and based on sound principles. Current Newsletter. Index to articles in back isssues

Bits & Pieces Archive: Inspiring quotes, concise witticisms, and effective humor (link no longer available).

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