iPods help Seniors re live their past and regain memories

For as long as humans have pounded drums and plucked strings, listening to music has affected people’s sense of well-being, lifting their spirits, and calming their nerves.  Now, a new film suggests that the right music can change the lives of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The documentary “Alive Inside” shows the transformative power of music as several elderly dementia patients are given iPods loaded with their favorite music.

The film follows social worker Dan Cohen, who decides on a whim to bring iPods to a nursing home.  To his and the staff’s surprise many residents suffering from memory loss seem to “awaken” when they are able to listen to music from their past.  The previously unresponsive seniors quickly start to tap their toes, swing their hands, and, incredibly, start having long discussions about their passion for music and its role in their lives.

One man – Henry – becomes especially impassioned when he is asked what music means to him. “It gives me the feeling of love, romance,” he says. “I figure right now the world needs to come into music. The Lord came to me and made me holy, I’m a holy man. So he give me these sounds.”

With great excitement, Dan turns to renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, and the film follows them both as they investigate the mysterious way music functions inside our brains and our lives.

Sacks best known as the author of 12 books, including: The Mind’s Eye, Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Musicophilia says “Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory and the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Besides telling a moving story, the film’s producers hope it will encourage widespread adoption of personalized music programs in nursing homes and that it will inspire and educate the millions of people burdened by diseases that affect memory.  They also hope to create a grassroots demand for music therapy and potentially help not only patients but also caregivers across the globe.

Although Alive Inside focuses on one man’s journey, it raises many questions about what it means to be Alive Inside. It questions when we stop being human, and what it takes to re-start a life that has faded away. It asks questions about how we see our elderly, and how we are going to treat an epidemic of these degenerative diseases.

The filmmakers have had an early trailer online for more than a year, but it recently premiered in New York and interest has exploded in recent days, thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and Reddit  They have also been able to raise over $50,000 to make an edited version of the film and obtain copyright approval for songs heard on the film.

Producer /  Director Michael Rossato-Bennett says following the work of Cohen and Sacks was one of the most fulfilling things he has done during his 30-year filmmaking and photography career.

Usually when you make a film you wait for a moment to make you cry and it might take three months,” he said. “On the first day of filming I cried like five times. There is something in seeing another person awaken. That does something to all of us.”

For more information about the film and music and memory please click here.

The Peak Time for Everything

Not enough hours in your day?  So much to do…so little time?  If you’re anything like me, these will be familiar expressions.

And in which case, you should be interested to learn that maybe, just maybe, you could pack more into each day if you did everything at the optimal time?

A growing body of research suggests that paying attention to your body clock, and its effects on energy and alertness, can help pinpoint the different times of day when it’s best to perform at specific tasks.

Most people organize their time around everything but the body’s natural rhythms.

But workday demands such as commuting, social events and kids’ schedules inevitably end up clashing with the body’s natural circadian rhythms of waking and sleeping.

And as difficult as it may be to align your schedule with your body clock, it may be worth a try, because there are significant potential health benefits.

Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to problems such as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity.

When it comes to doing cognitive work, for example, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California.  As body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness and concentration gradually improve. Taking a warm morning shower can jump-start the process.

The ability to focus and concentrate typically starts to slide soon thereafter. Most people are more easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m.

Alertness tends to slump after eating a meal, and sleepiness tends to peak around 2 p.m.  But you may want to rethink taking a nap at your desk.  It turns out, somewhat surprisingly, that fatigue may boost creative powers.

For most adults, problems that require open-ended thinking are often best tackled in the evening when they are tired. According to a 2011 study when students were asked to solve a series of two types of problems, requiring either analytical or novel thinking, their performance on the second type was best when they were tired.

Mareike Wieth, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Albion College in Michigan who led the study says, “Fatigue may allow the mind to wander more freely to explore alternative solutions.”

Of course, not everyone’s body clock is the same. Morning people tend to wake up and go to sleep earlier and to be most productive early in the day. Evening people tend to wake up later, start more slowly and peak in the evening.

Communicating with friends and colleagues online has its own optimal cycles, research shows. Sending emails early in the day helps beat the inbox rush.  6 a.m. messages are most likely to be read.

Reading Twitter at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. can start your day on a cheery note. That’s when users are most likely to tweet upbeat, enthusiastic messages, and least likely to send downbeat tweets steeped in fear, distress, anger or guilt.

Other social networking is better done later in the day. If you want your tweets to be re-tweeted, post them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when many people lack energy to share their own tweets and turn to relaying others’ instead. And posts to Facebook  at about 8 p.m. tend to get the most “likes,” after people get home from work or finish dinner.

When choosing a time of day to exercise, paying attention to your body clock can also improve results. Physical performance is usually best, and the risk of injury least, from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Muscle strength tends to peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. as does lung function which is almost 18% more efficient at 5 p.m. than at midday.

Is there a best time to eat? Experts suggest limiting food consumption to hours of peak activity to keep from packing on pounds.  Perhaps we are not only what we eat, we are when we eat!

Foiling the Midnight Snack Attack

On-line weight loss programs, calorie-counting apps, and even Nintendo DS weight-loss coaching games are nothing new. But a novel gadget released this month by a Brazilian “diet reeducation program” takes the tactic to a whole new level.

Enter the Virtual Fridge Lock – a high-tech security device designed to foil late night fridge raids!  Subscribers to the Meta Real program can sign up to receive a giant red magnet. They then stick this on their fridge and synch it to their social networks. Once the lock is activated, the device sends a wireless alert to all their social networks whenever the fridge is opened.  By harnessing the power and speed of social media, the idea is that on-line friends will talk you off the dietary ledge by posting words of advice and encouragement. Or if your friends aren’t the supportive type – there’s always the public shame and humiliation approach.  Either way, the Virtual Fridge Lock is meant to help you stave off the midnight munchies and pass on that slice of pizza.

And while the Virtual Fridge Lock is only available to Meta Real clients, there’s a similarly humiliating app available free of charge to the general public: Aherk! offers a “self-blackmailing service” that encourages weight loss in three easy steps.

First, the dieter defines their weight loss goal. Second, in the words of their website ‘you put your ass on the line’ by uploading an unflattering picture of yourself to the site. And lastly, after your goal deadline expires, your on-line friends vote on whether or not you achieved your goal.  If, if their opinion you failed, the picture will be posted to Facebook.

Is public shaming is the key to weight-loss success or is it just a social media marketing sham?  Although, research shows that those trying to lose weight do better with a support network or buddy, we suspect there’s nothing like being publicly outed in front of your friends on Facebook and Twitter to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Tweeting for the Stork

Word on Health is pleased to bring you a heartwarming story that demonstrates, in case there was any doubt, the power and reach of social media.

Smart, successful, socially aware San Francisco couple, Molly and Brian Walsh wanted a baby. When their efforts failed, they, like so many other couples, investigated in-vitro fertilization.  They had already saved about $10,000 towards the $12,000 treatment, when they found out that they actually needed closer to $30,000 for additional genetic testing of the fertilized embryos, to avoid passing on a rare, but incurable genetic disease to their offspring.

With their biological clocks ticking faster than their ability to raise the funds, the couple came up with a unique plan.  They decided to go public with their story and then host a series of fundraising parties, on-line auctions and other events.  These were announced to friends and strangers alike on their website, on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social media.

Response was overwhelming and as a result they have already raised an additional $8,000.

Which begs the question, if one couple can achieve this through social media, what could you achieve?  The SRxA team of social media strategists is waiting to hear from you.