Mark Tommerdahl

46 posts

Benefits of brain training for first responders

Recently we have been working with groups of first responders and helping them set up programs for improving cognitive reserve. While most of these groups have programs for maintaining physical fitness, it has only been recently that they have determined the need for maintaining brain fitness. Stressful situations, long periods without sleep and exposure to traumatic events on a routine basis can work overtime to deplete cognitive reserves. Similar to physical training for keeping in shape during down times, many first responders are implementing brain training into their fitness regimen.


Building blocks of the CNS

The Brain Gauge is effective at tracking brain health because it measures the building blocks of information processing. So what do we mean by this? Essentially, the Brain Gauge measures target, at a systems level, ingredients for higher order processing. For example, information processing speed is critical for all types of processing. Mechanisms such as lateral inhibition and plasticity are key components or building blocks for memories (i.e, the Brain Gauge measures lateral inhibition and plasticity, but not memory). In other words, the design of the Brain Gauge system


Boiling frogs and old people

How many times do we need to hear people say "I'm fine" and have that be the primary method for evaluating mental health? That really doesn't make any reasonable standard. Using degenerative and failing brain health to evaluate whether or not that very brain is still capable of working simply does not work.

The "boiling frog syndrome" is a metaphorical anecdote often used to illustrate the concept of gradual change or a slow decline that goes unnoticed until it's too late. The story goes that if


A modest proposal: the not so secret formula for getting dementia

After watching a few people in my life go down the dementia path, I thought I might share with you the benefits of dementia and the best lifestyle to pursue that elusive formula. After all, after you completely lose it, you don't have to be responsible for anything. You can sit in a wheel chair and watch TV all day. Or just talk to your cats. You don't have to drive because your driver's license will be taken away. Your memory is shot - but with the lifestyle that you


Can you train to multi-task?

Multi-tasking is something that is difficult to accomplish - unless you train for it - and then it can become a significantly valuable tool. Imagine all the work that you could get done during zoom meetings if you could sort of pay attention to what's being said online while you go about doing something else. For most of our lives (well, for those of us that grew up pre-cell phones and social media), we have been taught to focus on one thing and one thing only. Constant interruptions from emails,


What is cognitive reserve and how do you preserve it?

When I started to look for images for "cognitive reserve", the majority of photos that popped up were related to preservation - such as preserving different aspects of the environment. Not what I was looking for, but when you think about it, preserving your individual environment has a lot to do with preserving cognitive reserve. I have always been fully supportive of any efforts we make to preserve the environment that we have and in many ways, the same principles apply to preserving our cognitive abilities through the


How to use the Brain Gauge training platform

The Brain Gauge has a unique training platform and perhaps the best way to introduce it is to simply start using it. If you have been using a Brain Gauge, you are familiar with the screenshot shown belowPicture1-6
Note that under "Testing options" the user can select "Start testing" or "Start training". The "Start Training" option is circled - this is the one you select.

Once you have selected the training option, another screen will appear, as depicted with the screenshot below.


Treating chronic pain with brain training?

Can the Brain Gauge be used to decrease pain or improve brain function?
For many years, people have found modest success with treating different forms of chronic pain with different types of tactile stimulation (vibration, electrical stimuli, etc.). Results from those studies (and there were quite a few) are both divergent in terms of results obtained from tactile stimulation and inconclusive. In our own work, we demonstrated a reduced effect of high frequency tactile stimulation (this means we delivered 150 Hz vibration to the skin at the same time as


Parallels between brain fitness and physical fitness

Brain Fitness is not that different from physical fitness and shares many similarities, despite targeting different aspects of health. Here are some ways in which brain training for brain fitness is similar to physical training for physical fitness are similar:

Goal of Improvement: Both brain training and physical training aim to enhance specific aspects of health and performance. Brain training targets cognitive functions like speed, accuracy, attention, and problem-solving, while physical training focuses on improving strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Adaptation: Both types of training rely on the principle of adaptation.


GABA and lateral inhibition

The brain maintains a balance between two neurotransmitters: GABA, the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter and glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter. GABA, countering the stimulating effects of glutamate, functions to slow the firing of brain cells, inducing a calmed and relaxed state.

There are two types of GABA receptors: GABAa and GABAb. When GABA binds to a GABAa receptor, excited neurons are blocked, which leads to relaxation, sedation, sleep, and reduced anxiety. When GABA binds to a GABAb receptor, a more complex process is triggered, which reduces stress, boosts cognition,