If you’re still alive at the age of 50 and you live in the United States or Europe, the average lifespan extends into the ninth decade of life. Just about every person who is reading this… can optimistically look forward to living past their 85th birthday. You should know, then, that at that age there is roughly a 50% chance that you will be formally identified as senile and demented.
— Michael Merzenich, Soft-Wired

Neurology: the study of the structure, functioning, and diseases of the nervous system. (OxfordMed) The neurologist V.S. Ramachandran describes his procedure for studying neurology patients: “I interview them, observe their behavior, administer some simple tests, take a peak at their brains (when possible), and then come up with a hypothesis that bridges psychology and neurology - a hypothesis that connects (abnormal) behavior to what has gone wrong in the intricate wiring of the brain.” (RamachandranTTB, 5) The basic method for studying the brain is how the whole field of (behavior) neurology got started back in the nineteenth century. The major difference between then and now is that in those days there was no brain imaging. The doctor had to wait around for a decade or three for the patient to die, then dissect his brain. (RamachandranTTB, 306) Brain imaging methods help us locate the areas of the brain that are affected by "neurological disorders" and develop new strategies to treat brain disorders. (Chudler, 59)


Biofeedback: information given to a person about his or her ongoing bodily activities; aids voluntary regulation of bodily states. (Coon) A training technique in which various bodily functions, such as heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, and brain activity are monitored so that people can learn to control them voluntarily so as to improve their health and physical performance. (NCIt) Visual or auditory readouts that track a person’s heart rate, brain wave activity, or other physiological variables, which the person can use to gain control over the “autonomic nervous system.” (Blakeslee, 212) A technique that measures bodily functions and gives you information about them in order to help train you to control them. Biofeedback is most often based on measurements of blood pressure, brain waves ("EEG"), breathing, "heart rate," muscle tension, skin conductivity of electricity, and skin temperature. (PubMedHealth2)

Neurofeedback: a treatment being studied to improve brain function in certain “brain disorders” and in patients treated with “chemotherapy” for breast cancer. Sensors are placed on a person's head, which allows brain activity to be shown as patterns on a computer screen. A beep or a tone may be used as a reward to a person for changing certain brain activities. Neurofeedback may help cancer patients deal with the stress and mental side effects of chemotherapy. (NCIt) Use of (visual imagery) techniques by subjects with "fMRI" to influence activity in the “ACC” and “right frontal insula.” (Blakeslee, 201) A technique to self-regulate brain activities provided as a feedback in order to better control or enhance one's own performance, control or function. This is done by trying to bring brain activities into a range associated with a desired brain function or status. (MeSH)

Brain Fitness: the general state of a good, sharp, brain and mind, especially as the result of mental and physical exercise and proper nutrition. Mental training in enriched environments increases brain weight by 5% in the “cerebral cortex” of animals and up to 9% in areas that the training directly stimulates. Trained or stimulated neurons develop 25% more branches and increase their size, increase the number of connections per neuron, and increase their blood supply. These changes can occur late in life. “Education” increases the number of branches among neurons. An increased number of branches drive the neurons farther apart, leading to an increase in the volume and thickness of the brain. The brain is like a muscle that grows with exercise. (Doidge, 43) Michael Merzenich argues that practicing a new skill, under the right conditions, can change hundreds of millions of the connections between neurons - our “brain maps.” He claims that the brain can be improved so that we learn and perceive with greater precision, speed, and “retention.” (Doidge, 47) Goldberg defines ‘successful aging’ as attaining complete lucidity and mental sharpness well into old age. (Goldberg, 70) Also referred to as 'mental fitness.'

Brain Sports Training Techniques: techniques to improve physical sports performance: Includes ‘symbolic rehearsal’,  ‘modeling’,  ‘covert practice’,  ‘cognitive rehearsal’,  ‘imaginal practice’,  ‘dream work’, ’hallucinatory hypnosis’, ‘visuomotor training’, ‘ideomotor training’, ‘introspective rehearsal’, ‘implicit practice’, and ‘sofa training’.  (Blakeslee, 54)

Fast Forward: software-based brain exercise program for children with learning disorders. (Doidge, 70-77) Students who completed the program showed improvements not only in language, speaking, and reading (original program design goals), but also in math, science, and social studies on standardized tests shortly after ending the program. The “matrix test’ also showed improvement in the visual component of IQ. (Doidge, 74) Editor's note - developed by Michael Merzenich and associates.

Brain Port: device invented by Bach-Y-Rita that transfers familiar “sensory” patterns from one organ to another. A camera mounted on a blind person’s head, transfers image information onto his tongue (Blakeslee, 77)

Cochlear Implant: electrical stimulation device which is designed to excite or shock the auditory nerve (the hearing nerve) in a person that basically has lost hearing because the sensory organ itself has been damaged or lost through "pathology" or through injury. (Merzenich, BSP54)  Not a hearing aid, this device is for those who are deaf because of a profoundly damaged "cochlea." The implant replaces the cochlea, transforming speech sounds into bursts of electrical impulses, which it sends to the brain. It consists of a ‘sound receiver,’ a ‘converter’ that translates sound into electrical impulses, and an "electrode" inserted by surgeons into the nerves that run from the ear to the brain. (Doidge, 57)

Corrective Lenses: remedy visual disorders by intercepting and bending the light so that the image falls properly on the retina. (Hockenbury, 90) (Eyeglasses include lenses positioned) in a frame or mounting which is supported by the nose and ears. ‘Contacts’ are corrective lenses designed to be worn on the front surface of the eyeball. The purpose is to aid or improve vision. It does not include goggles or nonprescription sun glasses. (MeSH)

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): a highly invasive form of 'electroanalgesia' mainly used in the management of debilitating chronic pain syndromes after all other less invasive therapeutic modalities have failed. (NCIt) An electrode about the size of a heart "pacemaker" is used to block the abnormal nerve signals that cause “tremors,” stiffness, walking difficulties, and other Parkinson's symptoms. (Nicolelis, 180)

Electroconvulsive Therapy: a biomedical therapy used primarily in the treatment of depression that involves electrically inducing a brief brain "seizure." (Hockenbury, 581) Used in the treatment of “major depression.” Commonly used for individuals who have not responded to antidepressant drugs. Used as a last resort. (Bamford, 11/1/10) Also referred to as ‘shock therapy’ and ‘electroshock therapy.’

LASIK: a surgical technique that corrects visual disorders by reshaping the “cornea” so that light rays focus more directly on the retina. (Hockenbury, 90) Eye surgery that permanently changes the shape of the cornea (the clear covering on the front of the eye) in order to improve vision and reduce a person's dependency on glasses or contact lenses. (PubMedHealth2) Editor’s note - full medical name is ‘laser In situ keratomileusis.’

Music Therapy: the use of music and the components of music to affect function, either cognitive, psychological, physical, and most psychosocial and behavioral function, through interaction with a professional music therapist. (Sacks3, 2)

Neuroprosthetic: device the size of a modern heart pacemaker that ‘harvests’ healthy brain electrical activity to coordinate the contractions of a (robotic device) such as a wearable vest. (Nicolelis, 8)

Neurosurgery: the surgical or operative treatment of diseases of the brain and spinal cord. This includes the management of head injuries and the diagnosis and treatment of "tumors." (OxfordMed) A surgical specialty concerned with surgical treatment of the nervous system. (NCIt) An operation to treat problems in the brain and surrounding structures. Before surgery, the hair on part of the scalp is shaved and the area is cleaned. The doctor makes a surgical cut through the scalp. The location of this cut depends on where the problem in the brain is located. The surgeon creates a hole in the “skull” and removes a bone flap. If possible, the surgeon will make a smaller hole and insert a tube with a light and camera on the end. This is called an ‘endoscope.’ The surgery will be done with tools placed through the endoscope. The bone flap is usually replaced after surgery, using small metal plates, sutures, or wires. The bone flap may not be put back if your surgery involved a tumor or an “infection,” or if the brain was swollen. (PubMedHealth2) Also referred to as ‘brain surgery.’

Hemispherectomy: a type of surgery in which one entire half of the brain is removed. Done to treat intractable “epilepsy.” As long as the surgery is performed on a child before he is about eight years old, the child is fine. (Eagleman, 125)

Split Brain Surgery: (procedure) to cut the “corpus callosum.” Even with the two halves of a brain separated, a patient did not seem to act differently. He could remember events normally and learn new facts without trouble. Patients could do different tasks at the same time, something that normal brains cannot do. For example, with a pencil in each hand, split brain patients could simultaneously draw incompatible figures, such as a circle and a triangle. (Eagleman, 124)

Nootropic Agents: drugs used to specifically facilitate "learning" or "memory," particularly to prevent the cognitive deficits associated with “dementia.” These drugs act by a variety of mechanisms. While no potent nootropic drugs have yet been accepted for general use, several are being actively investigated. (MeSH, 25Oct13) Also referred to as ‘cognitive enhancers.’

Progressive Relaxation: involves successively relaxing one muscle group after another until a deep state of relaxation is achieved. (Hockenbury, 557)

Sensory Substitution Inventions: devices like the “tactile vision machine” developed by Paul Bach-Y-Rita. Includes a ‘feeling glove’ developed for NASA astronauts who have difficulty feeling small objects with thick space gloves; a ‘leprosy glove’ for leprosy patients that have lost sensation in their hands; a glove that will allow blind people to read computer screens; a Navy SEALS device to help sense how bodies are oriented under water; and a ‘surgeon tongue relay’ with electronic sensors attached to scalpels that provide them info on the exact location of their scalpel. (Doidge, 20)

Tactile Vision Machine: device to help patients with “balance” problems and with vision problems. It proved that the brain was changing and adapting to new kinds of artificial signals. (Doidge, 18) Scientists using the small modern version have confirmed that tactile images that enter patients through their tongues are indeed processed in the brain’s “visual cortex.” (Doidge, 24) Bach-y-Rita’s team has used the device to train fifty patients to improve their balance and walking. (Doidge, 25)

Stress Management: the different ways in which people attempt to cope with “stress.” (Cardwell, 243) Involves controlling and reducing the tension that occurs in stressful situations by making emotional and physical changes. The degree of stress and the desire to make the changes will determine how much improvement takes place. (PubMedHealth2)

Coping: behavioral and cognitive responses used to deal with stress. Involves efforts to change circumstances to make them more favorable and less threatening. (Hockenbury, 497) Involves confronting the “stressor,” and developing strategies to manage the stress. (Bamford, 10/28/10) Strategies include "emotion focused coping" and "problem-focused coping," avoiding or minimizing the use of stimulants; exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and practicing a relaxation technique. (Hockenbury, 501) Strategies also include humor and optimism. (Bamford, 10/28/10)

Emotion-Focused Coping: efforts primarily aimed at relieving or regulating the emotional impact of a stressful situation. (Hockenbury, 497) Managing or controlling one’s emotional reaction to a stressful or threatening situation. (Coon, 505)

Denial: a refusal to acknowledge that a problem exists. (Hockenbury, 499) Refusal to admit the truth or reality of a situation or experience. (MeSH) Protecting oneself from an unpleasant reality by refusing to perceive it. (Coon, 510)

Distancing: attempting to minimize or eliminate a stressor’s emotional impact. For example downplaying or joking about the stressful situation. (Hockenbury, 499)

Escape-Avoidance: to escape or avoid the stressor and neutralize distressing emotions. Excessive sleeping and the use of drugs and alcohol are “maladaptive” forms, as are escaping into fantasy or wishful thinking. Constructive strategies include exercise or immersion in studies, hobbies, or work. Helpful when facing a stressor that is brief and has limited consequences. Counterproductive when the stressor is a severe or long-lasting one, like a serious or “chronic” disease. (Hockenbury, 497) Reduces discomfort by leaving frustrating (stress-causing) situations or by psychologically withdrawing from them. (Coon, 507)

Positive Reappraisal: trying to minimize the negative emotional aspects of the situation, but also trying to create positive meaning by focusing on personal growth. Perhaps the most constructive emotion-focused coping strategy. For example, in coping with the ‘911’ collapse of the twin towers, (a women) noted, "Everyone was pulling together, New Yorkers were helping each other." (Hockenbury, 499)

Problem-Focused Coping: efforts primarily aimed at directly changing or managing a threatening or harmful stressor. May include analyzing the situation, identifying potential solutions, and then implementing them. (Hockenbury, 497) Directly managing or remedying a stressful or threatening situation. (Coon, 505)

Confrontive Coping: aggressive or risky efforts to change the situation. Best if direct and assertive without being hostile. (Hockenbury, 497)

Relaxation: promotes “parasympathetic” activity, and reduces physiological “arousal.” When one is in a state of relaxation, it is impossible to experience stress and arousal because those are two opposing physical and emotional states. (Bamford, 10/8/10)

Vegal Nerve Stimulator: a small battery-powered device that can be implanted in the body to serve as a pacemaker for the giant nerve that carries “visceral” sensations to the brain. (Blakeslee, 215)

Virtual Reality (VR): an artificial environment generated by a computer that simulates the actual (real) world. Users can control VR programs through sensory loaded gloves and headsets, that are equipped with video monitors that give feeling of movement through 3-dimensional "virtual" environments. (NCIt) Allows a person to interact with a computer-simulated environment. Potentially very useful in remapping the brains of stoke patients (Blakeslee, 97) Example virtual reality communities include ‘Second Life’, ‘The Sims’, “World of Warcraft’, Runescape’, and  ‘Ultima Online.’ Nintendo Wii (was a) first generation virtual reality game consul. A future application of VR will be to change the nature of your own body perception through an “avatar.” (Blakeslee, 161)

Virtual Reality Box: a device ... used to create the illusion of observing a “phantom limb.” (Ramachandran, 46)