Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carnival of MS Bloggers #54

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

Living a Normal MS Life and Cognitive Reserve

PE Class, Wildwood Flower, and Buttons
by Kmilyun at Bifurcate in the Road

Augh you might be asking what in the world do adaptive PE, flowers, and buttons have in common. The short answer is me LOL.

Hang on to the edge of your chairs now because this is going to be one of those real exciting blog posts that you surly spent hours awaiting!

First off I could take paragraphs to go into all the things I can no longer do. Or pontificating on all the stuff you can do and I can not or things I can do and you can not. Blah blah blah it is all lip service no? (in this case keyboard hitting).

Seriously, I can not be the only person with MS that finds it highly annoying to read about some great and wonderful accomplishment someone with MS has managed. That really does not cheer me up or make me strive to reach for the the stars. And it has the rebound effect (or is it affect?) of the inevitable comments from family – gee they climbed a mountain with MS so what is the big deal about not wanting to go camping where there is no running water and the closest restroom is 10 campsites down. Obviously you should be able to do that it is not like climbing a mountain you know!

Then again should I really feel bad and guilty or be berated because I can still drive, or make it up the stairs? Is not my personal perspective of suffering good enough. I somehow do not qualify? I have come around to the conclusion/belief that each and every person who overcomes any disability whether judged big or small is busy climbing their own mountains. And these mountains can be akin to pole vaulting over mouse turds to raising a truck over ones head. They all count.

And the above being the lead in to why I really like my adaptive PE class. It is a diverse group that gathers four days a week for an hour in the short bus trailer. I have yet to hear, see, or sense from anyone in the class that someone is better or worse or crazier or sicker than someone else. It is what it is. People who can’t talk use those boxes to communicate, the blind, the wheelchair bound, the mentally disabled, the goofs like me – we all just – well are.

It is the first place I have been with people who are not close friends that when my brain has gone south and it appears I took a stupid pill where I did not feel stupid.

Moving on without a segue into the next topic – I have decided to learn to play wildwood flower on the dulcimer. I have listened to a few renditions of the song. My favorite is June Carters last recording of it. I think I have figured out the notes – well a few might be missing – but I will see. It is not easy to find TAB notation for the old style noter and drone playing. The ones I have found on the net are for chording and finger picking. Big attempt for me as I still have problems with Go Tell Aunt Rhodie LOL But I am gonna give it a try.

Rush hour traffic here in Sacramento is the pits. I really dislike driving in it anymore. But the shop where the Luthier can put the strap buttons on my dulcimers does not even get in till 4:30pm. I am getting smarter here now so give some credit, I know that it would be a bad idea for me to install them even though I have done many over the years on guitars. So I put on my brave face, kissed the dogs goodbye and ventured out onto the evil freeway – at the start of rush hour(s).

I did not get lost, I did not crash, and on the way back home in the peal of the rush I turned on my truck radio. Yes, I made it home and listened to some tunes on the way. Not really that distracting because top speed was about 20 for most of the trip. The dogs were really impressed with the strap buttons and I suspect the fact that I made it home before doggy dinner time had a lot to do with that.

Now I can hold and play my dulcimers without them shooting out off my lap like rockets headed for a crash landing!
So today I just was, I made a goal, and I did something normal.

Cognitive Reserve Hypothesis
by Shauna at Bugs, Bikes, Brains

We all know that neurological disease can lead to cognitive impairment along with possible physical impairment. For many of us with MS, we may have noticed lapses in memory, ability to find the right word (tip of the tongue syndrome), unusual moodiness. Some of these things are part of the aging process, sometimes related to stress and/or hormones, and sometimes they are related to the disease.

How do we hold off these impairments? By the time we realize they exist, it may be too late as damage may have already been done. That's the scary part. However, we also know that the human brain is amazingly plastic and that we continue to learn things as we age, so continued brain stimulation by way of physical and mental exercise may help.

There is a hypothesis called the cognitive reserve hypothesis. It suggests that "enrichment protects against neurocognitive decline secondarily to disease" (from Wikipedia). "Lifetime intellectual enrichment (estimated with education or vocabulary knowledge) lessens the negative impact of brain disease on cognition, such that people with greater enrichment are able to withstand more severe neuropathology before suffering cognitive impairment or dementia." This is from the latest study of this hypothesis.

You can think of it this way. Two people contract a cold. One person is a health nut, eats right, exercises every day, gets the appropriate amount of sleep. The other person is a junk food junkie potato couch. The health nut has a good body reserve to fight off the cold within two days. The junkie, though, has no reserve and suffers for a week. The health nut has an "enrichment" of his health, the junkie doesn't.

The cognitive reserve hypothesis doesn't state that enrichment protects you from cognitive impairment; it simply lessens the negative impact. The two people I mentioned above both caught a cold, but one was impacted less than the other.
Cool, eh? I thought so. And it's related to the current study I'm in, the one about cognitive impairment and brain connectivity. You can bet your boots I'll be watching for more studies on this topic.

Let's face it. We have MS. We know it's neurological and degenerative, affecting physical and cognitive abilities. Some of the damage we have little control over. But there are also some aspects over which we do have control. We can get on a disease modifying treatment as soon as possible. We can eat right, reduce stress, get the proper amount of sleep and rest, stimulate our minds and exercise smart.

I have talked about exercising smart before but will sum it up for new readers or to prod those of you who may have forgotten. Stimulate your mind: do puzzles, but do different ones every day. Mix 'em up. The brain is stimulated by new things. You can do a Sudoku one day, a crossword the next, maybe some logic puzzles the day after, but mix it up. By doing the same ones every day, you become good at those kinds of puzzles, but the brain isn't doing anything new, so doesn't get the same stimulation.

Exercising smart is a pretty easy one. If you go for walks or hikes or whatever and don't have an Ipod or MP3 player, try doing multiplication tables as you exercise, compose a letter in your mind, try to recall a favourite recipe from your childhood. If you have a portable media player, listen to an audiobook, or Spanish lessons, or music that you normally wouldn't listen to. You can download free stuff from the library. Take different routes when you walk or hike. Remember, the point is to give your brain something new to work on. In other words, exercise your mind and body at the same time.

Another way to think of it is like this: your brain looks for patterns, whether it's music or words or what you see. These patterns are ingrained in our brain after years, kind of like the beaten down paths from base to base on a ball field. your brain will take the path of least resistance. If you expose yourself to something new and different, your brain first goes "What?" and then starts to search for familiar patterns. Not finding any, it gets down to the business of processing the information, beginning to lay down a new path. That is stimulation. And it's a good thing.


This concludes the 54th edition of the Carnival.

The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on February 11, 2010. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

Thank you.
Comments for this post.


  1. Hiya Lisa and thanks for including my blog.

    Had another great day in PE and now my muscles are a aching LOL

    Tell the kitty that Catfish dog listens too my he is my audience. Annie dog has more taste and goes down stairs and howls. Maybe she is just singing?

  2. I love these exercise smart ideas. But I'm not sure if I'm quite "there" yet. Hopefully in a few more months I will be up and around more and able to take the long walks I loved in the past, while thinking about something at the same time. For now, I just want the long walks...further than to the end of my driveway to get the mail. And the puzzles too. I'm just starting to be able to do collage work again...big puzzle and always different.

  3. Lisa,
    Thanks for inclusion this time 'round.

    At least now there's two of us.....

    Yay for you for trying. Anyone can exercise no matter your ability. Any movement combined with thought is smart exercise.