Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflections at Christmas and the Holiday Season

We stand at the door of a new Christmas and Holiday Season. I get asked "are you ready for Christmas" many times as the 25th draws near. I think the question refers to whether or not I have purchased all the gifts for the family and friends yet. I answered yesterday that I am always ready for Christmas and my intent was to remind myself of the spirit of the Holiday Season. My hope is that I am able to enjoy each moment with those I love and try to make time go just a bit slower. This time of the year is a great time to reflect, to celebrate, and to recognize where you have been and more important where you are going. Some of us are having a difficult time and the Holiday Season can mean increased stress and distress. I offer my prayers and best wishes for those in need. For those who have much, I also offer you the blessing of enjoying the small things in life as sometimes those are the most important. Life is short and time just keeps moving. Take the opportunity that this Christmas and Holiday Season provides to forgive, to express kindness, to share, and most of all to love. Love is the single greatest emotion humans possess. If we can all express love and loving behaviors to one another the earth will be a better place, even for just one day.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

Dr. Nussbaum
Brain Health Center

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Neurotheology and Brain Health

Neuroscience has taught us more about the human brain in the past 20 years than in our entire history. "Neural Plasticity" is a term that has been re-introduced to define a brain that is dynamic, constantly reorganizing, and malleable. Indeed, we now know the human brain can be shaped for health across the entire lifespan. I often educate my audiences that the "critical period of brain development is actually life itself." 

With the advancement of neuroimaging technology, we are now able to behold images and processes of the brain in real time that have advanced our understanding significantly. We also have the ability to see the brain influenced by different behaviors such as meditation and prayer. Indeed, there is an entire new field of study called "Neurotheology" that investigates what happens when the brain is in deep meditation or prayer.

Dr. Andrew Newberg is one leader in this field and he has taught us how meditation and prayer and other forms of spiritual experience can bring calm to the frontal lobes and to subcortical structures where emotional processing occurs. The key is to try and balance the logical chatter that takes place in our frontal lobes with the overt emotional energy that is produced in the subcortical regions of our brain. When we balance these two regions through meditation or prayer we actually feel at peace and harmony with the world inside and around us.

Our Anterior Cingulate Gyrus is the critical structure in the brain that sits near the front and serves as the balancing agent between the frontal lobes and the sub cortex. When we meditate and pray we actually stimulate the Anterior Cingulate that helps our brain feel joy, kindness, love, compassion, and peace. Activating the Anterior Cingulate also quiets the negative and toxic emotions of hate, rage, bitterness, and anger. 

Neurotheology will help us to learn more about practices that can bring our brain and body peace and balance. Research indicates meditation and prayer 12 minutes a day for 8 weeks can actually lead to a structurally and functionally healthier brain. I promote meditation at my Brain Health Center in Wexford, Pa ( and I encourage everyone to make meditation and prayer part of your daily lifestyle.

Dr. Nussbaum

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stress and Memory

Memory is a very important cognitive process that permits us to learn new information, retain experiences forever, and create our life story. Deep inside the temporal lobes (just beneath each temple on the side of your head) is a structure called the "hippocampus." I believe the hippocampus is the most important part of your body because it is responsible for creating new memories and for learning. We learned in 1998 the hippocampus generates new brain cells, known as neurogenesis. The hippocampus is vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease (AD) which is why persons with AD demonstrate memory problems as an early sign of the progressive disorder. It turns out the hippocampus is also vulnerable to chronic stress. When you experience a stimulus internal or external that you deem threatening a structure in your brain called the "amygdala" is triggered. The amygdala tells the brain and the body something is threatening and you are in danger. Your brain reacts by setting off the sympathetic nervous system that leads to a faster heart beat, enlarged lungs for greater oxygen flow, increased blood flow to your larger muscles such as the biceps and quads, and essentially a turning off of your digestive and reproductive systems while you deal with the threat. The other thing that happens is your brain unleashes neuropinephrine and the body adrenaline and also hormones such as cortisol to help increase your level of attention and arousal to deal with the stressor. If this natural stress response does not stop, it can do structural and functional damage to your brain. Indeed, if the amygdala does not settle, the hippocampus (learning and memory) will shut down. This is precisely why many individuals in their 50s and 60s report memory problems and may even fear having AD. For most, the issue is too much stress that is not effectively dealt with. Daily breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise, prayer, and quiet times in your space are necessary for a healthy brain and serve as a shield for your hippocampus! This is why I have included a Brain Health Studio in my new Brain Health Center. We all need a place to settle.

Dr. Nussbaum
Brain Health Center

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Brain Healing Power of Yawning

I just completed a wonderful book How God Changes Your Brain by Dr. Andrew Newberg. In the book, Andrew talks about the therapeutic effects of yawning. Yawning triggers neural circuits in the brain that elicit awareness, attention, and compassion. It is a means to cool the brain when we get involved in persistent mental work and can turn the heat up. Yawning stimulates the Precuneus, a region deep in our parietal lobes that gives us a sense of self distinct from others and from other things.

Yawning can help enhance our focus, our attention, our mental arousal and it can even help to promote memory function. It is a great exercise to bring calm, joy, and compassion to your brain. It will serve to bathe your brain with love and kindness that can be shared with others. Yawning will help you develop more empathy for others. It relaxes you and gives the brain a break, while increasing attention.

So do not be shy to yawn. Work at yawning. Go ahead and practice yawning and by the 5th try you will notice your brain will generate automatic yawns. Yawning is infectious, one yawn will lead you to another yawn and your yawning will elicit yawning from those around you! It is a great technique to relax, to gain focus, and to use when you are confronted with a challenge or in need of reducing stress.

Have a great day filled with yawns and make yawning part of your daily meditative practice.

Dr. Nussbaum

Friday, September 26, 2014

Welcome to Dr. Nussy's Brain Bits

Welcome to my new blog I call Dr. Nussy's Brain Bits. I will use this space to provide my latest thoughts on the human brain. This 3 pound structure sitting between our ears represents the greatest miracle ever designed and is unlimited in its capacity and power in my opinion. I look forward to using this space to chat about the brain, behavior, neural energy, and the great potential that lies in the spirit of the human being.

Check in and tell your friends about Brain Bits. You may also enjoy making a visit to My Brain Health Center in Wexford ( and following us on twitter and Facebook.

Dr. Nussbaum