Back in September, a few friends and I spent the weekend together in a classroom streaming the Medicine X conference from Stanford University. One of the sessions discussed patient involvement in research, and how the University of California – San Francisco can use your brain for research. . . even if you’re across the world. March is Brain Research Awareness Month—a great time to share with those around you just how easy it can be to get your head in the game (…okay, I’m done with the puns!) for research.
The Brain Health Registry is one different approach to studying brain health, sp ecifically in its relation to the development of Alzheimer Disease, a degenerative disease of the brain, most often linked to aging. By completing online surveys, your data becomes part of an expanding database of information that researchers at UCSF will use to learn more about our brains. The study does not take more than 90 minutes to complete, and does not have to be done all in one sitting.
Why get involved with research? Well, here are a few interesting things brain research has taught us already:
- Exercise has been linked to numerous mental health benefits: from having a beneficial role in treatment of a variety of psychiatric and neurologic disorders, including anxiety, depression, and addiction, to simply helping people reduce everyday stress.
- The positive health effects of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health has become widely known, and newer research that explores the benefits of fish consumption in mothers-to-be for their unborn children over the long-term (including a potential for decreased risk of autism spectrum disorder symptoms).
- Food may also affect your mood, according to research done at Tufts University—this article recommends following a moderate-carbohydrate, higher-protein diet to feel the positive effects, and notes the emotional link with food—chocolate may be beneficial for our brains… but not if we over-indulge and feel guilty!
- Concussions are a common head injury that have been brought into the spotlight in recent years. Return to Play protocols for athletes to safely return to activity, practice and competition after an injury are becoming more common, but research also indicates the effects of a concussion can last even after symptoms have disappeared, and be linked to mental illness—an increased risk that may be up to 400% compared to those who have not experienced a concussion .
- And, in February 2016, scientists at Johns Hopkins University grew “mini-brains”, which may speed up research on diseases like Parkinson Disease, Alzheimer Disease, and other forms of dementia.
Brains aren’t just for zombies. So, protect your head, learn about common conditions affecting the brain, and help do your part to improve brain health for generations to come by checking out the Brain Health Registry! And, if you have a condition that affects your brain—like Alzheimer disease, brain tumour, epilepsy, or have experienced a traumatic brain injury—consider keeping yourself safe with the peace of mind that can come with wearing a medical ID bracelet or medical alert necklace.