Grow. Eat. Live.

Grow.  Eat.  Live.
Grow. Eat. Live.


Sunday, May 10, 2015


"My Brain, Your Brain"

"The Human Brain"

     Another 100 posts has been accomplished and what better way to show an honor of a meaningful tribute for the 200th post in something that is essentially important to everyone and shine spotlights on those who has worked so hard in utilizing and hopefully taking very good care of this particular essential powerful main organ we called the "brain."

     I had the opportunity to get up close and personal to a real human brain. I've received very interesting information on its structure and the diseases that hinder its function.  I would like to share with you in the mystery and complexity of this particular organ that holds the key into our well being and the drive of passion we get from it.  The brain is the reason we all are able to function mentally and physically.  We rely heavily for its full capacity performance everyday of our lives.  In order for us to fully comprehend what the brain function entails we will have to begin by learning the process of understanding how the brain (nervous system) works.  Hopefully, we will realize that we should not take for granted the gift of an organ.  What surprises me is the fact that I was never a science biology lover in school.  But, I have grown to realize the appreciation for the human body and wonder how certain things can affect us physically and mentally.

     Before we get personal on the brain, first I would like to give thanks to the staff for letting me jump on the bus, blog viewers, and new viewers who contributed in sharing with me their "gifted talents" or "hidden passions."

On that note Let's Get Personal...

     The brain is an organ that operates the central nervous system of the body.  It is our primary control center and a complex organ.  The brain operates our internal organs, mind (thoughts, emotions, store and recall memories), and is in charge of all our senses (hearing, smell, taste, touch, and sight).  Therefore, the brain oversees the daily operations of the entire body.
Preserved Human Brain

Facts on "The Brain"
  • The brain weighs 3 lbs.
  • The brain is made up of 100 billion neurons.
  • The brain is composed of three parts:  brainstem, cerebrum, and cerebellum.

           1.  The brainstem is a stem like part located at the base of the brain in which it connects the brain to the spinal cord.  It is divided into three sections - midbrain, pons, and medulla.  The brainstem relays information between peripheral nerves and spinal cord to the upper parts of the brain.  The brainstem performs several functions such as, breathing, body temperature, heart rate, sneezing, coughing, swallowing, digestion, vomiting, wake and sleep cycles, and blood pressure.

           2.  The cerebrum is located at the front portion of the forebrain and largest part of the brain accounting for 85% of the organ's weight and fills up most of the skull.  It consists of two lateral hemispheres, right and left. It is divided into four regions or lobes - frontal lobes (behind the forehead), parietal lobes (located behind the frontal), occipital lobes (located at rear of the brain), and temporal lobes (located near the temples).  The cerebrum controls and integrates motor, sensory, higher mental functions, such as, thought, reason, speech, emotions, learning, memory, and fine control of movement.    
           3.  The cerebellum is located under the cerebrum and back of the brain.  It contains over 50% of the total number of neurons in the brain.  The cerebellum function is to coordinate the muscle movements, maintain posture, and balance (known as the "motor structure").
  • The brain texture is similar to jelly.
  • Nourished by blood vessels.
  • For every minute your heart beats 20-25% of your blood is carried through the arteries to the brain.  (750-1000ml of blood or about 3 full soda cans)
  • A newborn baby brain weighs 350-400g (about 4/5 lbs).
  • The composition of the brain - 77-78% water, 10-12% lipids, 8% protein, 1% carbs, 2% soluble organics, and 1% inorganic salt.
  • The left hemisphere of the brain has 186 million more neurons than the right hemisphere.
  • The brain can stay alive 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen.  Unfortunately, after that all the cells begin to die.
  • The energy used by the brain is enough to light a 25 watt bulb.
  • After the age of 30, the brain shrinks a quarter of a percent (.25%) in mass each year.
  • By the age of 2, the brain is 80% almost the size of an adult brain.
  • Touch is the first sense to develop.
  • Your skin weights twice as much as the brain.
  • The brain's gray matter is made up of neurons which gathers and transmit signals.
  • The brain's white matter is made up of dendrites and axons which create the network by which neurons send their signals.
  • At the age of 18 your brain stops growing. 

 What are neurons?
     Neuron is a nerve cell.

What are the two types cells of the brain?
     The two types of cells are neurons and glia.

What is a spinal cord?
     A spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of your back.  It is the main pathway that connects the brain and nervous system.  The spinal cord carries signals back and forth between your body and your brain.  A human spinal cord is 45 cm long for men and 43 cm long for women.

What are the three phases of memory?
     Memory is a complex process that has three different phases:
  1. Short term memory.  For example, dialing a phone number in which someone just told you.
  2. Long term memory.  For example, mesmerizing something in particular - presentation, events, such as your 5th year birthday, recognizing an old friend, and what I ate two weeks ago for dinner.
  3. Skill term memory.  For example, playing an instrument, tying a shoe, driving, climbing stairs, or swimming.
 So much information to comprehend right?  This is just some information about the brain.

     Hopefully, I was able to give you a good amount of clarification on the brain performance and how it intertwines with several important parts of the body that plays a major role in working the human system. 

Let's get acquainted with the BioBus staff...

     This past March the global campaign Brain Awareness Week (Dana Foundation, BraiNY) kicked off a full week of events and lectures around New York City to bring awareness to advances in brain science and how people can maintain their brain health.

What happens during Brain Awareness Week?
     Neuroscientists and non-neuroscientists talks to kids and adults about the brain.

By any means necessary... 

     A high tech way to bring loads of knowledge and research on the city streets to anyone who would listen.  You got to love the way people are passionate about giving informative information on health, parts of human anatomy, insects, and animals.

"High Tech Science Laboratory on Wheels"
Knowledge on wheels cruising the city streets and across the country.

BraiNY volunteers showing us the brain
     Volunteers from NYU, Columbia University, and Mount Sinai came together to help run the BioBus by giving free science lessons about the human brain to anyone who stopped by.  They had a table set up outside the bus displaying a "real human brain," a model of a brain, pamphlets, kids activity science books, pencils, and an eraser shaped as a brain!

Educational Activity Books for Kids!

Let's watch and listen to my one on one hands on science lesson...

Inside the bus...

     You were immediately greeted by the polite staff.  Then as you proceeded further inside you would noticed areas were section off into topic stations with high tech microscopes and film screens of worms, mouse brains, and brain tissue samples from an Alzheimer's patient.  There were one or two people at a station giving presentations.  The atmosphere was a more one to one personal education lesson in neuroscience.   

Inside the BioBus
  You are now entering the bio laboratory... "High-tech science laboratory on wheels"

One to One lesson
(love it, like it, and enjoy it)

Let's watch and listen in on some of the presentation lessons...

A volunteer gives a presentation on worms.

Watch and listen to volunteers, Deepika Dhawan and Fatou Gueye, giving me a lesson on how Alzheimer's disease affects the brain...

What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.  Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia among older people.

What is dementia?
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning - thinking, remembering, and reasoning and behavior abilities that interferes with a person's daily life.

Know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease (seek medical care if you are experiencing the signs)
  1. Memory loss that interferes with your daily life - forgetting important dates or events, medication, or asking for the same information over and over.
  2. Difficulty solving problems, developing and following a plan, or working with number - following a recipe or keeping track of bills.
  3. Challenges in completing familiar tasks - walking or driving to a familiar location.
  4. Becoming confused about times or locations, losing track of dates, days, or seasons, forgetting where you are or how you got there.
  5. Difficulty understanding visual problems- judging distance or determining color or contrast.
  6. Difficulty following a conversation, repeating things over and over or calling things by the wrong name.
  7. Misplacing things or putting things in the wrong location.
  8. Poor judgment or decreased capacity for decision making - giving large sums of money to telemarketers.
  9. Withdrawing from work or decreased involvement in social activities or hobbies.
  10. Personality changes or changes in mood - becoming anxious, confused, depressed, or easily upset.
Who are most affected by Alzheimer's Disease?

Great Grandmother
One person out of twenty over the age of 65 suffers from Alzheimer's disease.  In most people with Alzheimer's symptoms first appear after age 65 and older.  Many children with Down's syndrome will develop Alzheimer's disease if they reach middle age, although they many not display the full range of symptoms.  According to research studies Alzheimer's disease is hereditary (genetics DNA) and other factors.

 Is there a link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease?
Diabetes may increase your risk of  Alzheimer's disease.  Researchers are realizing they are connected in ways that aren't completely understood.  Many studies indicate people with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's or Dementia.  Taking steps to control your sugar level can help reduce your risk.

How do we care for our brain?

     Protecting your head (helmets) from high risk activities, such as, football, bicycle riding, skiing, skateboarding, roller skating, rock or mountain climbing, and motorcycle riding can help prevent severe head injuries. 

     Eating healthy helps the brain become stronger and defend you from receiving diseases that deteriorates the brain cells and tissues. 

Brain foods to support its function  (Feed the Brain)
  • Green tea - excellent amount of antioxidants EGCG to protect the brain cells and eyes.
  • Pure Dark Chocolate at least 70% or higher (the better) - boost heart health and improve memory. 
  • Vitamin D naturally present in some foods, such as, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), some cheeses, and eggs.  (see previous posting on vitamin D).  Take vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Cantaloupe - improve mental focus.
  • Red wine - boosts attention span and memory.  The resveratrol compound found in wine may help prevent brain plaques linked to Alzheimer's disease.  (Drink in moderation)
  • Olive oil, nuts, and avocados - these foods contain ultra healthy monounsaturated fats.  Reduces inflammation and helps memory function.
  • Rooibos tea - have the more antioxidants than green or white tea.  Fights off cancer and Alzheimer's disease.  Plus prevents the skin from UV damage. *Anti-aging
  • Nutmeg - boosts your mood. 
  • Bilberry - high concentration of anthocyanins antioxidants that increases capillary strength and enhance circulation - promoting blood flow to the brain and heart.  Beneficial effects on eyesight and enhances neurotransmission.  Protects against stroke and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Gingko - high antioxidants and boost circulation.  Improves memory, concentration, mental focus, and protects the brain from aging and protects neural cell membranes.
  • Coconut oil (MCT) - medium chain triglycerides a natural source of dietary fat found mostly in coconuts and coconut oil.  Helps give the brain energy and improve memory and recall, reduce mental decline, and treat cognitive dysfunction.  
  • Blueberries - have natural compounds, anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, shown to alleviate neurodegeneration and protect brain cells.  Helps to prevent Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, age-related diseases, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.  Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties.  Blueberries increases concentration and boost memory.  A cup a day!  *organic is best
  • Omega 3 fats from fish (wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, black cod) - are anti-inflammatory.  Helps memory, mood, learning concentration, improve behavior, and ensures the normal transmission of messages between nerve cells and in the eyes.
  • Turmeric (Curcumin) - antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  Reduces your risk in developing Alzheimer's disease.  Curcumin in turmeric protects the neurons from deteriorating by inhibiting free radicals and inflammation.  Make tea and mix in your foods (fresh root or powdered) or take supplements.
  • Coffee * (recent studies) - According to the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease those who drank moderate amounts of coffee in midlife had a 65 percent decreased of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  The caffeine's ability to block certain receptors in the brain to prevent the buildup of beta-amyloid a marker of Alzheimer's disease. (three to five cups a day)* avoid caffeine a few hours before bedtime
  • Gingseng - ability to enhance mental and physical performance.
  • Rosemary - known as the "Herb of Remembrance"  Improve memory and nervous disorders, and reduce mental fatigue.
  • Spanish Sage - used as a brain tonic and memory aid for over hundreds of years.  Inhibit cholinesterase a key enzyme associated with dementia.  Helps enhance memory, improve cognition, mood, and alertness. 
  • Water - maintains the tone of membranes for normal neurotransmission.  Enhances circulation and aids in removing wastes.  Keeps the brain from overheating.
  • Vitamin E - sunflower seeds, almond butter, and hazelnuts.  New research suggests vitamin E may protect against white matter lesions linked to Alzheimer's disease. 15mg daily
  • Vitamin B12 - yogurt, shrimp, chicken, fortified cereals, and nondairy milks.  Keeps the nervous system in working order. 2.4mcg daily
      Sleep helps the brain.  The brain is a busy bee during sleepy time.  The amount of sleep is very important for good health and well being for all ages.  Adults need to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.  Teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleepInfants are required about 16 hours a day.  Studies show sleep deprivation affects the immune system, learning ability, and memory.  Lack of sleep significantly hinders learning, focus ability, and memory because while the body rests the brain is busy processing to put together the new information we are taking in from the day for better later recall.  Insignificant sleep makes your brain foggy, poor judgment, and motor skills hindered.  For this reason, we should think twice before pulling an all nighter to study for an exam.  Therefore, the brain is working in forming new memories, consolidating older ones, and linking recent earlier memories during REM and non-REM sleep.  Sleep sharpens the mind. 

What's REM? 

Rapid Eye Movement sleep.  REM is one of the five stages of sleep and is characterized by quick random movements of the eyes and paralysis of the muscles.  REM sleep is also known as paradoxical sleep- during this stage most people are able to have vivid dreams.

      Exercising or being active helps the brain's nerve cells.  Exercise naturally boosts chemicals and hormones that can strength the connections between those cells.  When your heart is pumping (from exercise) that leads to improve the blood flood to your brain.  Remember the brain gets its daily nourishment from the blood.  So the body needs good circulation flowing to the heart.  Also, the body releases endorphins during exercise.  These "feel-good hormones" increases your sense of well being.  Studies have shown people who are physically active sleep better than those who don't.

Physical changes in the brain
  • Improved memory
  • Reduced stress, calmness
  • Better sleep (Remember a good workout leads to a good sleep)
  • Increased focus and mental sharpness
     Mediate helps the brain.  Studies shown meditation helps parts of the brain that governs compassion and self awareness are activated when people mediate.  Mediation raises the level of  happiness and calmness (reduces stress).

     As you can see it does take a lot to care for brain.   The brain needs proper nutrients to achieve good optimal brain health and function.  Exercising or being active and the required amount of sleep is imperative as well.  Learning something new, doing crossword puzzles, word searches, sudoku, puzzles, and using your opposite hand or non-dominant hand to write, brush teeth, open jars, or eating with chopsticks will strengthen neural connections in your brain and even grow new ones.  In conclusion, we all must stimulant the brain to keep functional.

     Here are some individuals that are stimulating their brains and letting their "gifted talent or passion" shine through.  

A man in Washington Square Park NYC letting his talent shine

Shining the spotlights on...  

"The Brothers"
Piano Recital

The Brothers have been studying the piano and taking private lessons for over two years from piano instructor, Jane Leslie.  The brothers are well-rounded active busy bees.  Music is just the topping on the cake on what they can do.  They are very active in sports activities.  The Brothers are prime examples of how important keeping young children active and doing challenging things can enhance their ability to comprehend in solving problems, utilizing motor skills, and stretching muscles.  Earlier in the post, I've stated the brain is still growing up until the age of 18.  So, the brothers are on the right track in caring for the brain.   

When Daylin is not studying the piano, saxophone, and flute, he is participating in swim meets which he has won 1st place in one out of three county championships, playing lacrosse, basketball, studying dancing (tap and hip hop), participating in yearly talent shows, and loves doing arts and craft.  Daylin likes to make smartphone protected covers out of 1000 rubber bands!  It takes him less than 1 hour to complete in making the smartphone cover protectors.  He knows the size and dimensions of iphones, ipods, and androids.

Let's hear and watch him perform "Rhythm Machine" by Lynn Freeman Olson...

When Tyler is not studying the piano, he is studying the cello, giving private piano lessons to his fellow peers, playing basketball, drawing, reading books (Diary of A Wimpy Kid series) and music notes, and loves playing video games.  He has the ability to play music by ear and about to learn his 3rd musical instrument - violin.  Tyler developed a passion in having an interest in computers - by the age of 1 he already knew how to work a PC computer.  The "tech savvy" kid.  Tyler already started to lay out his foundation of continuing to master the music industry by auditioning for musical programs for gifted kids and playing at recitals across the state.  Tyler's goal is to audition for The Juilliard School for the performing arts.

Let's hear and watch him perform "Rhapsodie" by Maxwell Eckstein...


     Drawing or participating actively in the arts has a positive affect on the human brain.  Creative activities stimulates the brain.  Art stimulates your imagination, makes you more observant, enhances problem solving skills, cognitive abilities, memory, and reduces stress.

Can Art Be Medicine?

Yes - that's what Karlene Lopez believes.  

Karlene has been embracing her artistic side by drawing.  She did not have any lessons in drawing but naturally practice on her own which revealed her "hidden talent" that fully blossomed to extraordinary drawings.

Karlene Lopez
"For me I love to draw scenes of nature.  Drawing a scenery relaxes me so much, it even brings an inner peace and joy within me.  I usually visualize a scene before I draw it.  Most of my drawings I have not been to that particular place but it all comes from my thoughts.  I think about where I would like to be and usually I express it on paper.  Also, I enjoy drawing trees, plants, and flowers.  They are so full of LIFE!  I enjoy LIFE... and I enjoy drawing the happy things in life that we sometimes take for granted.  Have a blessed day all!" 
Karlene's drawings...

K. Lopez
K. Lopez
K. Lopez
K. Lopez
(drawn on a mirror)

K. Lopez

K. Lopez
K. Lopez
K. Lopez

     As you can see there are those who have that natural ability who did not have prior training to enhance their creativity.  Then there are those who need the training to bring out their artistic ability.  On the other hand, there are those who just knows they are "naturally born" with the gift but need that foundation to glide them to master the experience.  For example, Elijah Williams...

Elijah Williams
Elijah Williams is a product designer with 13 years of product development and design experience.  Elijah has exceeded his and company's expectations in all professional jobs he held.  Therefore, it lead him to a nomination for the Hasbro Potato Head Award.  The majority of the work tasks he has performed were new to him.  But, it did not stop Elijah in proceeding to set in motion his unique designer skills allowing him to design lines from infant furniture, infant accessories, sporting goods, and hard goods (bar stools, dartboard cabinet, shot glasses, mugs, and game accessories).  His artistic ability was recognized at quite a young age by his mother and greatly encouraged.  Elijah loved drawing and only wanted to draw.  His mother supported his interested and enrolled him in art classes.  Check out his website portfolio 

     Children naturally love art - painting, drawing, making music, the theater.  The importance of art for a child helps build his or her brain.  Creative activities are the building blocks of a child's development.  The right hemisphere of the brain is used in emotional perception, intuition, and creativity.  Therefore, the right side of the brain is mainly used when a person is involved in creative endeavors, such as, making art.  When gifted kids solve problems in the area of giftedness, there is increased activity in both (left brain and right brain) hemispheres of the brain.  For example, Tameka Forman...

Tameka Forman
"Paper is my passion!"

Tameka loved arts and craft as a child.  You could always find her making something or anything.  She was nicked name "Crafty" when she was a preschooler.  The year 2004 was her year in blessings.  The baby "twins" blessings was her break through in revealing her hidden talent.  Tameka created scrapbooks and memorabilia of all her babies growth stages and received great reviews of her project works.  "The most flattering comment anyone could give me was that they loved what I had made."  Friends and family began asking Tameka to make scrapbooks and albums.  The requests and recognition of her work flourished into a "side hobby" business which eventually lead into her very own website Meka Necole Designs showcasing her crafty pieces.  By 2009, she began expanding into creating greeting cards, invitations, and favors. Check out her websites and

 Tameka's designs...

    According to researchers passive activities, such as, puzzles and listening to music are not the only things to keep a mind sharp.  Learning or doing photography showed significant gains in memory.  Seniors who learned digital photography and photoshop showed the greatest improvement in memory.  For example, Archie O. Reyes...

Archie O. Reyes
Archie O. Reyes greatest passion is photography.  He has been capturing pictures of people, places and objects since the 1970s.  Photographing is a wonderful stress reliever and gives a calmness to one's being.  "A piece of mind."   It inspires imagination and possibilities.  When Archie is not photographing he is dancing.  He loves to dance with his wife and give lessons to others once or twice a week.  Check out some of his works here

Last month was the revealing of Archie's photos to the public along with other photographers pieces at The Gallery of the Philippine Center.

SINAG/ American Society of Philippine Photographers

Self Expressions
(Sense of People, Places, and Objects)

Reception area
Gallery lobby

What's behind the pink ribbon?

Ribbon cutting ceremonies are time of celebration and thanking everyone for their hard work.

The ribbon cutting ceremony begins

A ribbon cutting ceremony is a public ceremony for the general public to inaugurate a new business or building.

Let's watch and listen as the ribbon cutting ceremony begins...

Let's watch and listen to the welcome speeches and Archie himself...

Some of the artists pictures...

Some photographers works on the wall

Archie's pictures...

"Foggy Brooklyn Bridge"
Archie O. Reyes
"La Princess"
Archie O. Reyes

"Spirit of Asia"
Archie O. Reyes

"Picasso's Box"

"Picasso's Box"
Archie O. Reyes

Archie had the opportunity to create two books of his pictures...

Silent Witness
By Archie O. Reyes

Some pages from Silent Witness

Chance Encounters
By Archie O. Reyes

Some pages of Chance Encounters

Let's watch him dance with his wife...

Does it matter if you are predominately a left brain or right brain thinker to have a special talent or gift?

No.  The two sides of the brain must work together to perform a wide variety of tasks and communicate with one another.  It's true some brain functions occurs in one or the other side of the brain.  We know that the left side of the brain is analytical, strategic, logic, numbers, and language.  The right side of the brain is best at expressions and creative tasks, such as, images, music, reading and expressing emotions, recognizing faces, and intuition.  The brain has to utilize all areas to be able to function in carrying out a skill (motor) or comprehend a thought process.  Researchers now realized that the right brain and left brain thinker theory is only a myth.  Therefore, corpus callosum is constantly transmitting between both halves of the brain.  For example, John Vega.

John Vega
April 25, 2015
Green Festival showcasing Noctua-Diem 

John Vega's passion and love of the human body was inspired by his parents.  By observing how his parents worked extremely hard at their wellness center, he too, wanted to dedicate his life in helping others care for their bodies through holistic alternative healing.  John's thrive in achieving his purpose lead him to study science, nutrition, and physical therapy.  He is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP).  The family business had its ups and downs struggling economically through the rapid growth of yoga studios, massage parlors, and wellness centers.  It still did not persuade John from stopping his dream in revamping the family's 25 year old business.  John's intensive background in alternative medicine lead him to create a formula of skin care regimens.  He would work his regular "survival" full time job during the day and then come home to work late at night on his project.  After four years of researching and studying, he officially launched his very own business.  He created the product Noctua-Diem a night to day health and beauty aromatherapy lineJohn's vision exploded into a full line of pure natural skin care gentle products for all skin types, such as, face wash, purified masks, lotions, bath salts, soaps, hair serums, and herbal supplements.  He realized he could no longer work at home so he invested in a studio "workspace" where he works on the products by himself, mixing and measuring various oils, bottling, designing, and packaging.  John still has not given up his full time "survival" job just yet.  Hopefully, he says one day he will be able to.  For now, he is continuing to spread his wings in letting Noctua-Diem shine.  You can find his products at some wellness centers and boutique stores.  Check out his website

Let's hear what John Vega says about Noctua-Diem...

Then there are those who are trying to tap into their creativity to find what are their hidden passions.  For example, Melanie Capers...

Not yet to reveal herself but feels confident in letting us see she has tried something new.

M. Capers
"We all have a creative side.  Some talents are more obvious than others and some just need to be developed.  I took a painting class for fun knowing that this is NOT one of my talents but I had a blast trying something new!  Take the time to expand your mind and try new things.  You might be surprised with what you come up with!"

     Melanie is absolutely right.  You would not know what you are good at unless you take the initiative in making those steps to find out.  Do something new and be productive.  Let's all utilize that gift of an organ the brain and care for it as best as you can.


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