Monday, July 14, 2014

Cognitive Training and ....Cinnamon?

I started 'brain training' with Lumosity last fall and usually play five games a day whenever possible.  If you aren't familiar with Lumosity, they provide cognitive training exercises that teach neuroplasticity, that is training the brain to use new pathways to complete a task.  Cognitive training has blossomed in the past few years and since some of my neural pathways are deteriorating, I thought Lumosity would be an interesting test and might help me build those new paths.

The Lumosity training works to improve five areas - memory, flexibility, problem solving, attention and speed - all improvements I can use!  After every five game session you get an overall score called  the Lumosity Performance Index or LPI which is an average of the five areas and hopefully goes up each day (I wish).  But enough of the background, if you want more info, check out this blog post from their website.

I have found that playing the brain games with PD can be a challenge, particularly the flexibility and speed games that usually require the use of the arrow keys on my laptop to select the right answer.  I have noticed that I can visualize the correct move but making my fingers press the right key is another thing altogether.  As I learned from the presentation by Kaitlyn Roland at the Kripalu session, one of the problems with a lack of dopamine is the brain sends the correct command but it gets scrambled and doesn't follow the correct pathway which results in the wrong action being taken which can result in a fall, freezing in place or, it appears, pressing the wrong key.   

So I am hopeful that by doing the games every day I am creating those new neural pathways and my LPI score will  reflect the improvement.  But sometimes I seem to be stuck with the old paths and my LPI chart ends up looking like this one for the last four weeks, up and down.  Such is life with Parkinson's :)

The big Parkinson's news of the last couple of weeks is the publication of a study that cinnamon might stop the progression of Parkinson's Disease!  I figure this means I should be baking and consuming my famous (in some circles) Gram's Pecan Rolls so named because the recipe is from my daughter in law Monica's Gram and it is full of cinnamon.  Of course the study was conducted on mice so I don't know how many rolls I need to eat daily but do know what the effect would be on my weight!  Guess I'll wait for more information before getting the baking equipment out but I wonder if my LPI would go up? Sounds like a clinical study in the making!

We had a great 4th of July visit with son Ryan and his wife Sarah and their son Julian and his half brother Trysten.  In addition, grandson Jake and granddaughter McKenna and her friend Katie also joined us for the  holiday weekend so we had a houseful.  The kids enjoyed tubing on the lake and swimming off the dock, and we all enjoyed taking the boat down to watch the fireworks go off over the lake.  We even managed to load the tube with all five kids for some fun on the lake.  Again some fishing and paddle boarding took place along with watching the World Cup games.

Next week it will be one year since my PD diagnosis and a lot has happened in the space of the year, most of which I have managed to chronicle in this blog.   Once again I thank you all for sticking with me on this journey, your support means  a lot to me. 

BTW, if you are a tweeter, follow me on twitter by clicking on the link on the right below my profile.

Friday, June 20, 2014

At the Beach -- Again!

I am writing this from the deck of a beautiful home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Bald Head Island, NC.  Yep, at the beach again!!  More about how we got here later in this post.

I have looked at several more clinical trials but again find that I don't qualify because I am already on medication.  It seems to me that communication between Movement Disorder Specialists (MDS) or Neurologists and clinical trial operators could increase trial participants.  If the Doctors were aware of the trials being conducted nearby, they could then offer their newly diagnosed patients the opportunity to particpate in the trial before they prescribed a medications.  Of course another issue is travel, most of the trials that I have tried to join are at least 200 miles away and the travel costs are usually not covered.  In her latest blog post, Soania Mathur MD states "...close to 85% of all clinical trials are delayed due to recruitment difficulties and a shocking 30% fail to recruit a single subject."  The post goes on to discuss both the logistical and the lack of knowledge issues I have discussed above.  The Michael J Fox Trial Finder website does a great job of listing all of the trials in my home radius of 300 miles and they notify me if a new one is added that meets the criteria but the newly diagnosed need to know where to look.  Perhaps one or more of the National organizations can develop a simple brochure that can be supplied to MDS and Neurologists for them to hand out or make available to patients.  It might be a start?

I was asked this week to be a PatientsLikeMe Research Ambassador.  PatientsLikeMe is an online support group I belong to and I had applied to be a member of a research advisory committee they were forming.  While I wasn't selected for the advisory group I was asked to be a Research Ambassador. Per the email .."Like the Team of Advisors, our Research Ambassadors are being asked to commit to a program that's designed to put you in the driver's seat of making research better."  As an Ambassador, I will get special communications each month for the rest of the year about new research initiatives, information about data being collected and how it will be used, and use my blog and other social avenues to share this information with the Parkinson's community.  I have participated in a couple of their research projects already, including the one where I did the voice test over the phone to see if they can track the progress of my Parkinson's. Sounds interesting and I am looking forward to participating. 

We had a great visit with my daughter Holly and grandchildren Charlie and Kayla.  The weather was great until the last evening so we got in a lot of boating, tubing, swimming, fishing and stand up paddle boarding along with side trips to the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum and a couple of rounds of mini golf.

Kayla turned out to be the fisherperson extraordinaire hooking a couple of nice catfish and a bunch of sunfish from the dock.  Charlie loved being on the water and riding the tube. Holly and Kayla both enjoyed stand up paddle boarding so much the first time, they went back for more before leaving for home.  It was a great visit and a good time was had by all.

We are enjoying our time at the beach in Bald Head Island.  The island is reachable by ferry from Southport, NC and once you are here, you travel by foot, bike or golf cart.  We have been lucky to spend a week here for the past several summers with my stepson David and his wife Shelly and the two grand kids Breanna and Garrett.  This year Breanna is in MN so this is the first time we have been here without her.  Garrett always brings along a friend or two, this year he brought along 4 high school buddies and they are having a blast.  Dave and Shelly's friends Mario and Missy have also joined us for the week.  It is a great place to just relax, read books, take long walks on the beach and watch the World Cup.  I am trying to catch up with all of the magazines I haven't read since we returned from Florida in early March and produce this blog post.  Looks like the blog post will make it, we'll see about the magazines.

Our friends Mary Ann and Don live nearby in Wilmington, NC so they came over for a day and we had a great time, we hadn't seen them for almost 2 years so we had a lot of catching up to do.  We enjoyed a nice lunch with them and a couple of 'slow' rides around the island as one of our golf carts is not super speedy. :)

Next up is a visit from my son Ryan and his wife Sarah and grandson Julian and his half brother Trysten for the Fourth of July, look for more fun on the lake in the next post.