Dementia Related Post

You Can Count On It!

Only 5 minutes long! Click the Play Button above and listen while you have a cuppa!

A while ago, I noticed something extraordinary about my counting. Counting is not one of my best activities, it seems more challenging than it should be, but I get by. So, I had to count something and held my hands out to use my fingers, and I realised I couldn’t count on my fingers!

I see my hands, although they do seem distant from me, as if not mine. I look at them, and I know what should be happening, but there is a block. The more I try, the worse it gets, and that frustration really starts to take a grip.

The reason I’ve not mentioned this before: have you been asked a question or asked to do something and get that moment of mental freeze, and you think, What? You’re not sure what they are asking or how to do what they’re asking you to do… your brain is slowly catching up! You see them look at you and your blank look! That’s why. They will most likely try and get me doing it again and again and again. It is all meant with the best in mind, but you know what I mean.

Back to the counting thing; It seems as if my brain is struggling with holding that abstract form of a number in my head and moving a finger simultaneously.

Counting number is a struggle at the best of times. Often it is as if I have to think hard and wait for that image of the following number to form. It is similar to when I am trying to think of words sometimes. It’s there but in the shadowy distance, and I just have to wait for it to come forth out of the shadows.

I’ve been looking at this since I realised the block I had, and I’ve just found a bit of research that I think could help.

The research article I was studying was in connection with BDNF.

I’ll need to quickly explain BDNF for those that may not have heard of it.

BDNF is an acronym for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor.

You have most likely worked out that it is related to the brain. So, what about the Neurotrophic Factor part?

A neurotrophic factor is a molecule that regulates the growth and generation of specific brain cells. (Neurogenesis) In addition to stimulating brain cell growth, it encourages new connections between those brain cells. (Neuroplasticity) As you can see, BDNF is important!

Published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2011, these researchers had no problem identifying the link between BDNF and the rate of cognitive decline. There is a significant correlation between BDNF levels and cognitive impairment. The lowest levels of BDNF were found in those with neural decline; dementia.

We know that neural decline has many causes, and it’s not just a matter of levels of BDNF, but BDNF does seem to be a crucial factor to consider.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a test for BDNF and know if your levels were normal or not? But, in this country, it’s not going to happen!

Back to my counting problem. A Japanese study, working with a group with mid to late-stage symptoms of dementia, found that a particular activity stimulated BDNF.

The activity was simple drumming. Over a short period of six weeks, each session is about thirty minutes three times a week. It started with elementary stuff and, to be honest, looked really dull for most involved, but moved on to more complex stuff that I couldn’t follow. The enjoyment level had certainly increased too. The staff stated that all those taking part showed a wide range of everyday improvements; communicating, movement, getting dressed and general happiness and wellbeing.

But, the thing that caught my attention was a man who, just like me, couldn’t count well and struggled when trying to use his fingers. You could see the difficulty he was having when starting with the drums, but he was doing so much better by the end. The big bonus, his counting had improved a lot too!

So, I’m looking at drumming lessons. That should keep my neighbours amused.

If you have a suggestion, then please share! I’ll give them a go and let you know how I get on!

My only criteria will be, can I count on my fingers?

You never know, I might become the next Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, Neil Peart, or Buddy Rich!

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