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Brain Mapping That Seeks To Identify “Normal” Could Aid Alzheimer’s Treatment

Inside Florida’s largest retirement community researchers using new brain-mapping technology are trying to peel back the secrets of the brain.

The goal: Make world-changing discoveries about how our minds work that could lead to earlier detection of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. The research’s success could allow physicians to start treatments earlier than ever and perhaps delay the onset of this memory-robbing condition that haunts the older population.

“As you look at people as they grow older, from a health perspective they are probably more afraid of losing their memory than they are of getting cancer,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron, who is chief medical officer of The Villages Health, a medical practice in The Villages, a Florida retirement community that’s home to more than 125,000 people.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Part of the problem in finding one: For all the world’s scientific and medical advances, there is still a lot we don’t know about the brain, Lowenkron says.

“What happens with the electrical activity of the brain as it ages?” he says. “What’s normal and what’s abnormal? No one really knows.”

With this trailblazing research in The Villages®, we may be drawing closer to finding out.

About 1,000 residents of The Villages volunteered to participate in the brain-health research that’s being conducted in partnership with faculty from the University of South Florida and an Israeli company called ElMindA that originally developed the sophisticated BNA™ (Brain Network Activation) technology for use in concussion treatment with young people. All of the partners believe that the technology holds the potential to revolutionize the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of brain-related disorders.

Here’s how it works: An electrode monitoring device that resembles a hair net is placed on the volunteer’s head. The volunteer is then given a series of computer tasks to perform during an EEG recording. From there, a 3-D representation can be created to show what the brain looked like when the volunteer was responding to the tasks.

The goal is to develop a baseline of what a healthy brain looks like. ElMindA says the results can give physicians:

• Snapshot mapping of brain-network function in comparison to a healthy/normative group.

• The ability to compare multiple tests over time.

• Objective information to assist with better-informed medical decisions.

“In the future, doctors could routinely test how well a patient’s brain is functioning, just like they routinely test for cholesterol levels, vitamin deficiencies or other health problems today,” said Vandeweerd, the studies CoPrincipal Investigator who serves as Director of Research for The Villages Health and is a faculty member at the University of South Florida

The BNA technology also has been used in assessing brain damage caused by concussions, especially sports-related concussions, and it’s hoped it will be effective with other brain disorders, such as depression and dementia.

For the Alzheimer’s study, there’s probably not a better place in the country than The Villages because no where else can you find a community this large that’s made up mostly of people the right age for the study.

The community has a research board that gave the go-ahead and the project began in July 2017. The goal was to recruit 1,100 volunteers, and so far about 1,000 people between the ages of 55 and 84 signed on to help out.

“We are recruiting enough people to get a sense of how normal looks in the brain based on age categories and gender,” Lowenkron says.

The research participants will be monitored several times over the course of the study, which Lowenkron says will go on for about another year.

Most likely, the residents of The Villages who volunteered to participate will never gain any personal benefit from the research results. But the generations who follow them might, which Lowenkron says is enough to make it worthwhile to them.

“This is a very giving community from this perspective,” Lowenkron says. “If they can do things that will help others in the future, they are eager and willing.”

About Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron

Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron is the Chief Medical Officer of The Villages Health in the Villages, a retirement community in Florida. Before joining The Villages Health, he served as Chief Executive Officer of the USF Physician’s Group at University of South Florida and was Chair of the Department of Comprehensive Medicine from 2012 to 2015. Prior to his time at USF, Dr. Lowenkron spent 17 years with Kaiser Permanente. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and his Doctor of Medicine with honors from Creighton University School of Medicine. He also has a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University.

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5 Ways A Healthy Gut Makes A Healthy Brain

The idiom “trust your gut” means relying on intuition, rather than thoughtful, deep analysis, to make a decision. But research shows there is actually a tangible connection between gut health and brain health, and that linkage can affect emotions and cognitive processing.
Research conducted at the California Institute of Technology by Elaine Hsiao showed how unhealthy or healthy microorganisms in the stomach can influence behaviors differently. Another study, led by Kirsten Tillisch at UCLA, suggested probiotics can have a positive effect on behavior, mental outlook and brain function.
“Scientists have now determined that humans have two brains; the second one resides in the gut and is called the enteric nervous system,” says Richard Purvis, author of Recalibrate: Six Secrets To Resetting Your Age and CEO of Skin Moderne Inc. (www.skinmoderne.com). “It has more neurons than the spinal column or central nervous system. Understanding the relationship helps to clarify why the process of taking care of the gut and the brain within it also helps improve the health of the brain in your head.”
Given Americans’ notoriously poor eating habits, Purvis says gut health has never been more important. A Tufts University study estimates that over 318,000 deaths a year – or nearly half of American deaths caused by heart disease, stroke and diabetes – were hastened by unhealthy eating.
“Processed foods and sugar are among the biggest culprits for promoting the growth of bad bacteria in the gut,” Purvis says. “You can greatly improve your gut health – and by extension your brain health – by being kinder to it on a daily basis.”
Purvis recommends four nutritional tips – and a nature trip – that benefit your gut and your brain:
• Daily servings of cultured, fermented probiotic-rich foods. “Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha pickled veggies, yogurt, and kefir encourage the growth of good bacteria,” Purvis says. “By ingesting healthy, probiotic-rich foods, you are guaranteed colony-forming units of bacteria, plus food sources are much cheaper than supplements.”
• Prebiotic foods. Non-digestible short-chain fatty acids help your good bacteria flourish, says Purvis. These are found in artichokes, garlic, leeks, dandelion greens, beans, oats, onions and asparagus.
• A diet that keeps blood sugar balanced. “This also keeps gut bacteria balanced,” Purvis says. “A diet high in rich sources of fiber, especially derived from whole fruits and vegetables, feeds the good gut bacteria and produces the right balance of those short-chain fatty acids to keep the gut lining in check.”
• Gluten reduction. Reducing gluten, or avoiding it altogether, Purvis says, will further improve gut health as well as healthy brain physiology. He agrees with medical professionals who say gluten can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, hurting digestion and sometimes leading to “leaky gut,” or damaged intestine walls.
• Getting outside and into nature. “You need to connect with more microorganisms – the more, the merrier,” Purvis says. “Their purpose is to perform life-sustaining functions. Move outside, do some gardening, plant flowers, mow the lawn, take a walk in the woods. Do things that connect you and your immune system with all the microorganisms in the soil.”
“Lifestyle choice is considered by most the culprit contributing to our unhealthy bacteria,” Purvis says. “So you have a choice, and the one you make with your diet will affect your whole body, and not least of all, your brain.”
About Richard Purvis
Richard Purvis is the CEO of Skin Moderne Inc. (www.skinmoderne.com) and author of Recalibrate: Six Secrets to Resetting Your Age. He has more than 30 years of experience in nutrition, exercise, anti-aging and overall wellness. Along with starting Skin Moderne, he is the founder of wellness companies Nutrimax, Nutritbrands and Skin Nutrition, and the co-founder of Noggin Nosh.

Geisinger Holy Spirit offers pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with chronic lung diseases
CAMP HILL – Geisinger Holy Spirit now offers a pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients with chronic lung diseases.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and symptom management program that helps to improve the quality of life for those living with chronic lung conditions. Participation can be beneficial for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis, and a variety of other lung-related conditions.
“Pulmonary rehab is intended to be an open, friendly, supportive atmosphere where a patient can learn about their disease and how to manage it,” said Diana Prowell, lead therapist. “This is accomplished through interaction and education with both healthcare professionals and other patients suffering from similar diseases and symptoms.”
Geisinger Holy Spirit’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program is located within the hospital, 503 N. 21st St., Camp Hill. Patients must have a physician referral. For more information, call 717-972-4545.

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Breakfast Buffet

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Mechanicsburg Resident Recognized with Commendation Medal, Sets Example of Courage, Determination

by Jeffrey Landis, Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapons Systems Support 

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – A Navy lieutenant assigned to Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was recently recognized in an award ceremony, but this Guinea native’s life example is what garnered greater praise.
Lt. Ismael Tounkara, a Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Minnesota graduate, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, resident and Republic of Guinea, Africa, native is a Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer (NACO) intern and contracting officer for the Common Electronics Integrated Weapon Systems Team with NAVSUP WSS, was awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service to NAVSUP WSS from February 2016 to present. Tounkara came from humble beginnings, however.
Originally a native of the Republic of Guinea, he fled west toward the United States in 2004 during a period of great turmoil under a 24-year military dictatorship and violent ethnic clashes. He was homeless, living on the mean streets of New York City and peddling CDs just to survive. Tounkara was not scared, however, and he did not waver. 
Tounkara considered himself a troubled youth without much direction, and being surrounded by violence, ethnic strife and economic and political instability in Guinea, he knew he needed to make a drastic change from that life and what would follow. 
“Leaving Guinea was both difficult and exciting,” he explained. “It was difficult in the sense that I did not know if I would be able to go back and see my family and friends again. I was very involved in politics during my two years of college in Guinea. Being born poor, I knew education and politics were my only segue into a better life and leaving those two passions behind tore me apart. It was exciting, because I had always read about the opportunities in the U.S., especially the opportunity to be who you want to be based on merits and hard work.”
His mother reminds him almost daily of the sacrifice he made to give their family a better life.
Tounkara recalled her words, “How would our lives have been had you not fled to the U.S.? God knows best, but I certainly think we would still be living in extreme poverty, eating only one meal a day.”
Tounkara, who came to America with a dream but barely spoke a word of English, is an example of courage, determination and ambition.
After his arrival to the United States in 2004, Tounkara was awarded a one-semester grant to attend the Intensive English Language Center at Wichita State, where he learned English. With no money to pay for college and no access to federal or private student loan programs, Tounkara came back to New York City where he lived in the shadows as an illegal alien. He continued to informally study English until he was referred to the New York Human Rights First organization that eventually referred him to The Advocates for Human Rights – another nonprofit organization that assists low-income asylum seekers, in Minneapolis – a city he would eventually claim as home. Tounkara credits The Advocate organization for fighting on his behalf to apply for political asylum, to legally stay in the States and eventually become an American citizen.
While staying at a Minneapolis homeless shelter while his immigration case was pending, he would walk for several miles each day to the nearest library, collecting all of the English grammar and books on word enunciation he could find, trying to learn and master English.
“I used to be the first one in the library when the doors opened and the last one to be kicked out when the library closed,” said the eight-year Navy veteran. “Learning the alphabet and the English language at the age of 22 was very difficult. I doubt I could ever master the English language, especially English spoken in Harlem and the Bronx; it sounded so fast and so well cadenced that I thought it was like music.”
Back then, studying and learning English was hard,” he continued, “but in order to go to college and make a better life for me, it was the only way.”
He continued to study hard and his efforts paid off – he passed the Metropolitan State University (Minneapolis) college entrance exam and was accepted into the university. Three years later, in 2009, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. A feat not many can claim, Tounkara came to the U.S., with English being a foreign language, and in five years achieved a college degree. Tounkara’s train of success does not end there – for him, it’s “full steam ahead.”
After college graduation, he joined the United States Navy in 2010 and at his first duty station in Norfolk, Va., Tounkara became an American citizen, passing his naturalization test to join what he calls, “the lucky ones.” Tounkara credits the Advocates for Human Rights, the pro bono law school students, and professors of the University of Minnesota for giving him hope and the strength of resolve.
In Norfolk, Tounkara was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and deployed for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and INHERENT RESOLVE during the U.S. military’s intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Tounkara spent a mere two years as an enlisted Sailor, quickly achieving the rank of petty officer second class, and again his strength and determination paid off. In 2012, Tounkara was accepted to the Navy Officer Candidates School. Raising his hand proudly as an American, Tounkara took the Oath of Office to join the United States Navy officer corps, and later a member of the Navy Supply Corps.
Tounkara’s journey as a Supply Corps Officer led him to see and experience new adventures, such as a two-year assignment and deployment aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS KEARSARGE (LHD-3) as the Disbursing, Sales and Wardroom Officer. While supporting the campaign against ISIS, Tounkara also visited Israel, Jordan, Spain and Cyprus. Later, he served as the Coalition Logistics Officer (CLO) with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Manama, Bahrain from January 2015 to January 2016 and completed a 75-day individual augmentee assignment with the Office of Military Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait before arriving to NAVSUP WSS Mechanicsburg.
For his service with NAVSUP WSS in Mechanicsburg, Tounkara was awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal – his medal citation emphasized his expert administration, management and professionalism as the key to executing more than 112 contract actions valued at more than $2.4 million, among other achievements.
“At my award ceremony, I thanked the command and the admiral for giving me the opportunity – including being able to run five miles before I come to work every day,” said Tounkara, who recently received orders to U.S. Africa Command for his FAO program duties in February. “I have been incredibly lucky beyond words in this country, and I am a firm believer in the phrase, ‘I am entitled to nothing, and grateful for everything.’”
For those who know Tounkara, he is the quintessential example of how hard work, dedication, ambition, and effort can pay big dividends and change your life.
Tounkara’s mother, sisters, brothers, and in-laws still live in Conakry, Guinea today, and Tounkara credits much of his resilience and hard work to his parents.
He recalled his father, who passed away at the age of 55 in 2006, reminding him about education and the pursuit of a better life. He credits his mother for his will to succeed – it was her energy, resilience, tireless work ethic and “never give up, no matter how tough life gets” attitude that drove him to succeed. Tounkara, after establishing his first savings in the Navy, used the money to buy his mother a duplex and a new car.
“She displays my enlistment and commissioning pictures in her living room and keeps a four-by-six photo of me under her pillow,” said Tounkara proudly. “She is immensely grateful for the opportunity afforded to me and gets very emotional whenever talking about it. And I am very thankful and proud of her.”
To be thankful is to recognize and be grateful – to look at things with great concern and care – to embrace things much larger than yourself,” he added. “We all have the ability to succeed in life, to do the right thing and to make choices to make our world a better place.”
A field activity of the Naval Supply Systems Command, NAVSUP WSS is the U.S. Navy’s supply chain manager providing worldwide support to the aviation, surface ship, and submarine communities. NAVSUP WSS provides Navy, Marine Corps, joint and allied forces with products and services that deliver combat capability through logistics. There are more than 2,000 civilian and military personnel employed at its two Pennsylvania sites, and one site in Norfolk, Virginia.

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