Brain & Body, Food and Drink

As the old cliche says, the kitchen is the heart of the home. But hearts, and kitchens, can become unhealthy and impact on every part of our lives. The good news is the reverse is also true. Improve your heart and everything else follow.

A few small, cheap changes to your kitchen and the food you prepare can make a big difference to the well being of you and your family. These are my personal tips for making a healthier kitchen on a budget.

Blender + Fruit + OJ = Smoothie

The health benefits of fresh fruit are well known but most of us struggle to incorporate them into our daily diet. Smoothies are an easy way of doing this and big companies have wasted no time promoting smoothie machines and similar gadgets for the home. The truth is you do not need one. A simple blender does the trick just as well and they cost £10 from Tesco. While you are there, pick up orange juice, a few bananas and whatever fruit is in season (or on discount). Chuck everything into the blender, press the button and 30 seconds later you have a smoothie. Get into the habit of making a smoothie every morning and you will take big a step towards eating your ‘5-a-day’.

Slow Cooker / Crock-Pot

After a hard day at work that pizza menu or tv-dinner becomes very tempting. The solution is to prepare everything in the morning when our energy levels are higher and use a slow cooker. These are the forgotten kitchen gadgets. A basic slow cooker model costs approximately £20 and they, well, cook your food slowly. Don’t stress over fancy recipes. Chop whatever vegetables you have, throw in chicken thighs or stewing beef, add a pint of stock, spices and herbs to taste and turn it on. The slow cooker will heat everything gently over the course of the day and when you return in the evening, a hot, healthy meal is waiting.

A Wok

If you don’t already own a wok, buy one and buy the most basic wok you can find. You don’t need a lid or even a non-stick coating. What is important is you can pick it up easily because cooking in a wok is about speed and moving the food around the pan. This cooks without destroying the flavour or nutrients and it’s fast. A cheap, healthy meal full of fresh vegetables can be cooked in under ten minutes.

A Smile

The kitchen is focused on the needs of the body. A place where we prepare food and drink to sustain our physical form. Often forgotten is our mental health which is as important to our wellbeing as our bodies. Combat this by having things in your kitchen which make you smile and remind you of the good times. These can be nik-naks or pictures on the fridge but I suggest something practical. For example mugs featuring pictures of the family or placemats with photos from your holidays. This way, you are reminded of the good times and loved ones every time they are used. There are numerous products available via the internet and it really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it makes you smile.

A Shopping List (And A Little Planning)

Everyone wants to eat healthier and save money and one little trick which can do both is using a shopping list to plan your meals. The average family throws away around £700 worth of food a year and spends over £500 a year on take-aways. By planning your meals with a shopping list a family can ensure they have enough easy-to-prepare, healthy food in the house. This stops waste and helps resist the temptations of a take-away meal. Cut your food waste and take-aways in half and you will save £600 per year and be healthier. It just takes a piece of paper, a pen and five minutes of planning before heading to the supermarket.

The Low Budget, Healthy Home Kitchen was written by Chris Tregenza on behalf of Fitted Kitchens, Nottingham.

Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Dore Achievement Centres

Despite the demise of the original Dore programme, evidence continues to mount that the cerebellum plays a critical part in the dyslexia.

A new study, in the BMC Neuroscience journal, has found significant differences in the right cerebellum in dyslexics when compared to non-dyslexic controls. The study looked at 76 adults, evenly split between dyslexics and non-dyslexics. The subjects were extensively tested to confirm the diagnosis and then their brains were scanned.

Overall, there was no difference in the amount of grey matter in the dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains. However in specific areas, the right right cerebellum declive and the right lentiform nucleus, there were significant differences between the two groups.

Not only does this support the hypothesis of the cerebellum as a factor in dyslexia but it raises the potential for a diagnostic test based on physical differences. Being able to accurately diagnose dyslexia via a brain scan rather than relying on subjective and culture specific spelling / memory test would be a huge advance. Especially if the technique can work on very young children, allowing the dyslexia to be treated before it has a major educational impact.

Source: Brain classification reveals the right cerebellum as the best biomarker of dyslexia

Brain & Body, Dyslexia

There are two schools of thought on dyslexia: Those that say it is a permanent condition that is with someone through out their life; and those that say the problem is can be fixed by training the brain (e.g. cerebellum training). One of the major sticking points is how adaptable the brain is. If the brain cannot change, then no amount of training will be able to fix the problem. But if the brain is highly plastic and any part of it can be rewired, then the problem can be fixed with a modest amount of training.

Mind Hacks has word on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind program that examines the issue in depth.

…a two part series on the implications of neuroplasticity – particularly the discovery that the brain can physically ‘rewire’ itself through adulthood, albeit in a more limited way in comparison to the process that occurs during childhood.

Source: Neuroplastic fantastic

ADD / ADHD, Food and Drink

Judging by the comments on Caffeine and ADHD some parents are considering using caffeine to treat ADHD instead of medication such as Ritalin. One possible source of caffeine is energy drinks, such as Red Bull, but there are risks with these drinks.

According to a research:

Since Red Bull, the first energy drink to hit the U.S. market, launched in 1997, the market has boomed, Griffiths says, now totaling at least $5.4 billion a year in the U.S. Hundreds of brands are available.

Although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks, Griffiths tells WebMD.

“Makers of so-called “energy” drinks generally market them as dietary supplements,” says Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokesperson. Dietary supplements are regulated differently than food. The FDA does not approve or review the products before they are marketed.

Source: Energy Drinks: Hazardous to Your Health?, Safety issues associated with energy drinks

Medication

Before drug companies were convincing parents that their children needed stimulants, they were trying to persuade Grandma that she need Ritalin. Don’t believe me? Check out Grandma’s Little Helper about the history of Ritalin and its advertising.

Auditory, Autism, Dyslexia

Dyslexics and autistic children oft exhibit a sensitivity to noise. Background noises can be painful at worst or simply distracting. Some people have found that listening to white noise (static) helps because it masks the background sounds, allowing the child to get on with the task in hand. This is not something that has been scientifically studied or proven but some people find it helps and I include myself in that list. I have a white noise track on my MP3 player and I occasionally tune the radio into static when the noise of others in the house is getting too much.

Now there is a very easy and simple white noise generator available on the web. Simply Noise does exactly what is says. It creates white noise and a simple slide control can adjust its intensity. Give it a try next time you or your child are working at your computer and see if it works for you.

Thanks to LifeHacker who also has information on more advanced White Noise generators.

Music, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games

Over on Wyymi I have an article on how dancing, the cerebellum and language are linked: The Dancing Brain.

Whilst we have found creatures in the animal kingdom than exhibit human like behavior from tool use to waging war, we have never found an animal that makes music and dances to it. Why is this and what part does it play in making us human?

Balance & Coordination, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

A while ago I mentioned Audiosurf, in an article called Rhythm Games Are Taking Over The World

One of the award winning games is Audiosurf. Its not strictly a rhythm game but it music is an integral part of the game play. Its a simple premise, steer a spacecraft down a twisting, turning track collecting some coloured blocks whilst avoiding others. The twist is that the race track is generated from the music you choose to play from your MP3 collection. So you can have a fast and furious race course by selecting some thumping guitar or a slow, easy route if you choose a crooner like Frank Sinatra. What’s more, every time you race, the track and your score is uploaded to a server on the net and you can compare your music and your scores with others around the world.

I’ve have also mentioned the Wii Balance Board a few times, most recently in the article The Future of Cerebellum Training

However, the Wii Fit balance board can also be made work with PC’s and Macs. At the moment the software is a hack, a quick & dirty solution, but over the next few months these will stabilize and become easier to work with. Now, any one with a bit of programming skills and a good knowledge of cerebellum training could create a great dyslexia / ADHD orientated training program. One that personalises the training plan every time it is used, not once every six weeks.

Now I get to mention these two great ideas in one go with Bodysurf. Using GlovePie as an interface, the balance board is connected to a PC and used to play Audiosurf. You can see it in action on this video clip.

For a different hack of the Wii balance board, check out this video of German researchers using it to surf over the word using Google Earth.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Medication, Memory, Music, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was interested in creating a cerebellum training program that was quicker, more effective than Dore. Myomancy was my notebook of interesting technology and relevant science. Over the years I’ve examined many different approaches to the treatment of dyslexia and ADHD. Some were simply nonsense, others had promise but were lacking the scientific, technological or business resources to make them viable. Some lacked the ethical honesty necessary when selling products to parents desperately worried about their children.

Slowly overtime I refined my ideas about how cerebellum training should work and how a independent company without much in the way financial resources could develop and sell such a product in an ethical manner. One main stumbling block has been the cost and availability of the technology necessary to track a user’s limb movements and balance. So I’ve been watching the progress of the Wii and latterly the Wii Fit with interest. The technology needed for cerebellum training was finally cheaply and readily available. What’s more many people already own it.

Originally I intended to make an announcement after slowly develop a proof of concept over the next few months but with the collapse of Dore and the shadow that will cast over the cerebellum training field, I’ve decided to move my plans forward. So I’m pleased to announced the creation of WyyMi, a project to create a free, open-source, open-science cerebellum training program.

What is WyyMi?
WyyMi is a project to develop a cerebellum training program to help people with dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and similar educational problems.

Project Goals
To develop a system that cost nothing (or as close to nothing as possible) to use; to do it using open-source software; and to make freely available as much scientific evidence on its effectiveness as possible.

How Will It Work?
The idea is to use cheap and easily available computer hardware that can monitor and assess gross motor movements and balance. At the moment the Wii Remote and Wii Fit Balance Board seem the best candidates but they need to be adapted to work on PCs and Macs because the Wii console itself is difficult to develop for.

Using this hardware and software on the website, users will be perform a series of exercises. The amount of time spent training and the accuracy of the user’s movement will be logged on the server so that the user can track their progress and so the server can inform the user which exercises to do next. This data will also be aggregated, made anonymous and published so that it can be analyzed by any interested 3rd party. Ideally, symptom specific measures (e.g. spelling tests) will also be included so that the training programs effectiveness in treating educational problems can be measured.

Other than a broad statement of goals and the planned route for achieving them, there is nothing else on site at the moment. Progress is likely to slow, not least because I am working on another project at the moment as well maintaining my existing portfolio of web sites. If you wish to help in anyway, please see the announcement for ways you can contribute, not matter what your skills are.

Myomancy will be continuing to report on anything and everything I think is relevant to dyslexia, ADHD and autism. Obviously as I am planning to create my own training program, that might create a conflict of interest when discussing other people’s approach. I will try and be as unbiased as possible and make my conflict of interest clear.