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Kathy Marshack News

How Much Do You Know About Memory?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


how much do you know about memoryMemory is such an important part of our lives. It helps define who we are. It assists us in our relationships with others. And it definitely affects the decisions we make. So much of this is done without our even thinking about it. That is…until we start to lose our ability to remember. Then we wish we could do something to decrease memory loss. The good news is that there are things you can do to support your brain’s memory functions.

First, though, WebMD has a fun and interesting memory quiz to test how much you already know about how memory works and what affect our choices have on the quality of memory. You’ll learn the answers to the following questions:

Can sex trigger amnesia?
Does pregnancy cause “baby brain”?
How long do memory problems due to smoking marijuana last?
How does déjà vu work?
At what age do we start losing brain cells?
Why can you remember a song from your youth, but can’t remember someone’s name?
Why and how does – skipping breakfast, poor eyesight, working crosswords, drinking alcohol, taking statin drugs, antihistamines and sleeping pills – affect your memory?
Why does a sudden, high-stress event boost your memory?
Is the memory loss from perimenopause permanent?
Why does rest or sleep enhance memory?
What foods can boost memory?
Why do some diseases cause “brain fog”?

The function of the brain can be improved by holistic health choices that help you control memory-damaging stress, getting enough exercise, keeping your mind active and improving your concentration. A NET practitioner can help you not only protect your brain but even retrain your brain to cope with the brain fog caused by painful illnesses such as fibromyalgia. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more about memory on Psychology Today and PsychCentral.

Studies Show that Cell Phones and Smartphones Damage Relationships

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


studies show that cell phones and smartphones damage relationshipsDoes it bother you when you try to have a conversation with someone and they keep their cell phone in hand, ever ready to interrupt you in order to send a text or talk to someone who calls? You say it doesn’t? Well, research is showing that it really can have a larger impact on our relationships than you might think.

A recent CNN article by Ron Friedman collected a variety of studies that shows the distracting nature of having a visible cell phone. Visibility rather than actual ringing or using the phone was studied and how that affected a person’s task performance , as well as, interaction between people. The following four areas were researched:

Concentration: American Psychological Association published a study wherein the participants were asked to perform a task – some with the cell phone visible, some without. And they found that the ones who could see the phone did nearly 20% worse on the task. Their minds were distracted by the possibility of receiving a call or message.

Perception of Others: Another study at the University of Essex found that visible cell phones change how we perceive new acquaintances. It made them seem “less understanding and less trustworthy. They were also more skeptical that further dialogue with their partner would yield a close friendship.”

Quality of Conversation: Virginia Tech did a follow-up study that confirmed that visible cell phones change the actual quality of in-person conversations because there’s less eye contact, which makes a person miss the subtle but essential social interactions, i.e., facial expressions and tone of voice.

Memory Formation: The Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology study shows that constantly checking messages or emails via your phone interferes with long-term memory formation because your brain isn’t given the rest it needs.

What can you do to make sure your smartphone isn’t damaging your relationships?

  • Turn off the email bell and pop-up message so your brain doesn’t constantly have to decide whether or not to interrupt your task.
  • Create set times to check your emails and messages.
  • Schedule phone-free times to start and finish important tasks.
  • Turn your phone off and put it away when talking with someone in person.

Do you find that technology is controlling your behavior? It’s not too late to regain control. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can help you learn to redefine and focus on what is important. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Not only can your health improve, so will your business and personal relationships.

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression – A Deadly Combination

Monday, January 12, 2015


asperger syndrome and depression is often linked with suicideA large number of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from depression. Scientists don’t know if this is a result of the struggles and rejections they face in life or if it’s because of the way their brains are hard wired. As Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen said in a recently published study on Asperger’s and depression, “Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, underachievement, and unemployment.”

What we now know, regardless of the causes, when your loved one has Asperger’s Syndrome and shows symptoms of depression, alarm bells to go off. The study mentioned above found that there’s a significant increase in suicidality among adults with Asperger’s. They are ten times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicidal attempts than the general population, which is even more than those who have psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Up until now, studies on Asperger’s Syndrome and depression have been concentrating on preadolescents, and they show a low rate of suicidal behavior. So, even though previous studies have shown that there’s a link between autism and suicidal thoughts, these findings about adults with AS come as a surprise to many. What concerns me is that many adults with Asperger’s have lived their lives undiagnosed, so they haven’t sought help from a mental health professional unless they’ve experienced severe mood or psychotic changes.

Nomi Kaim of Asperger/Autism Newtwork (formerly Asperger’s Association of New England or AANE) describes poignantly how depression affects someone with Asperger’s. She highlights the paradoxical battle that goes on inside in the following areas of life:

  • Those with Asperger’s focus on and gain comfort from their special area(s) of interest. Depression steals any delight in doing such activities. This leaves an immense sense of emptiness.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome deal in concrete, black and white thinking. Depression forces them leave the comfort of these thoughts as they have to learn to deal with overwhelming emotions they are unprepared to handle.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome find comfort in being alone. Depression makes it essential to seek out others so they don’t spiral into self-destruction, which causes the pain of socializing to become more pronounced and threatens their sense of being self-sufficient.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome hate to be touched. Depression creates a need for physical yearning to be held and comforted, which, in turn, may leave them feeling violated.

This study highlights the need for us to be alert and prompt about seeking professional help for our Aspie loved ones who are depressed. If you live near Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Together we can create new ways for them to cope with this situation before it becomes a tragedy.

How Does the Brain Make Moral Judgments?

Monday, December 29, 2014


brain research reveals how the brain makes moral judgmentsHow do you determine what’s right and what’s wrong for yourself? How do you judge the actions and ethics of others? Are we hardwired with a set of standards? What accounts for the differences among people? Neuroscience of morality is uncovering the remarkable way in which reason and emotion activate the brain networks when we make decisions, especially moral judgments.

As studies are conducted using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) patterns are emerging, which give us clues as to what is going on in the brain. A CNN article, “How your brain makes moral judgments”, reports on many of these findings. Here are a few that I found fascinating…

Joshua D. Greene, associate professor at Harvard University, published an influential study in 2001. His study suggests that the three brain structures involved in the emotional processes that influence moral decisions are the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate and angular gyrus. Other studies also confirm that these areas, as well as the ventral prefrontal cortex are activated in processing moral judgments.

And there’s evidence that supports that we are hard-wired to activate these regions as we’re confronted with moral dilemmas.

Randy Buckner and colleagues wrote a 2008 study that says in part:

“Thirty years of brain imaging research has converged to define the brain's default network…(this) default network is active when individuals are engaged in internally focused tasks including autobiographical memory retrieval, envisioning the future, and conceiving the perspectives of others.”

His study goes on to say that this default network can be defined by the interaction of multiple subsystems in the brain, i.e.,

“The medial temporal lobe subsystem provides information from prior experiences in the form of memories and associations that are the building blocks of mental simulation. The medial prefrontal subsystem facilitates the flexible use of this information during the construction of self-relevant mental simulations. These two subsystems converge on important nodes of integration including the posterior cingulate cortex.”

Understanding the brain’s networking systems will enable us to better understand those with impaired abilities to make good moral judgments – which includes various mental disorders. Until there’s a cure, psychotherapy has proven very effective in helping people to live a much fuller and more meaningful life. A healthy brain equals healthy relationships. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Morning Person or Night Owl – Which Are You? Does It Matter?

Thursday, December 18, 2014


this woman is a night owl who is sleeping inHave you ever heard the word chronotype? It’s a way of classifying whether your internal circadian clock is set for you to be a night owl or a morning person. Our society is greatly shaped by the belief that early risers will be the movers and shakers and those who are night owls are the partiers and are more creative. We’ve all heard this sentiment in sayings such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” or “The early bird gets the worm”.

The Harvard Review carries an article by Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany on his study of morning people verses evening people and their role in job performance. He found that there’s a genetic predisposition to whether you’re a morning person or night owl. And those who wake up early are more likely to be productive. Morning people anticipate problems and try to minimize them. Evening people, on the other hand, tend to be more creative.

The Huffington Post has an article by Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and board certified sleep specialist, and he reports that the brain structure actually differs between night owls and early risers. “Compared to early risers and intermediates, night owls showed reduced integrity of white matter in several areas of the brain. White matter is fatty tissue in the brain that facilitates communication among nerve cells. Diminished integrity of the brain's white matter has been linked to depression and to disruptions of normal cognitive function.” The article also said night owls are prone to significant tobacco and alcohol use. They are inclined to eat more and have less healthful diets. On the positive side, they tend to be more analytical and have more stamina.

Can a person change from night owl to morning person? According to a recent CNN article, there are 19 ways to trick yourself into becoming a morning person. They involve creating a new routine and having a definite goal in mind. Some of them include:

  • Make the change in 15-minute increments.
  • Turn off the electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Use that hour to prepare for the next day.
  • Write out your to-do list and get those things off of your mind.
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep – darken the room, turn the temperature down to 65˚F.
  • Avoid eating or drinking a lot before going to bed.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button, but get up. Going back to sleep may put you into a deep sleep stage, which will make you really groggy.

A good sleep routine is crucial to optimum health, job performance, and quality of life. A night owl trying to fit into a morning person society may suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects as it can escalate into psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. If you feel this is a problem for you, please contact a mental health care professional in your area. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

By proactively managing your sleep pattern, you could create an extra hour in your day. How would you use it? Please join me on my Facebook page and tell me about it.

Your Thoughts – Are They Making You Healthier or Making You Sicker?

Thursday, December 04, 2014


our thoughts can make us healthier or make us sickerWe know that our thoughts can change the way we feel. Have you ever been so stressed out you got a stomachache or a headache? Your thoughts did that to you. But can your thoughts actually change the brain’s physical make-up?

Scientists, who are studying the neuroplasticity of the brain, are discovering how much our thoughts really do shape our brain and our health. In an earlier article, I shared how different forms of meditation change the structure of the brain. This isn’t surprising because thoughts have physical properties. Every thought sends electrical signals through your brain, which in turn influences every cell of the body. Learning to control negative thinking is one of the most effective ways to have better health.

What health benefits may positive thinking provide?

  • Increase your life span
  • Lessen depression
  • Lessen distress
  • Gain a greater resistance to the common cold
  • Create better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improve coping skills during times of stress

But why exactly does positive thinking cause these improvements? Science is still researching this question, yet we do know that there are a number of reasons…

  • Positive people take better care of themselves – they eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.
  • They avoid unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking, and risky sex, which protects the body from debilitating diseases. 
  • An optimistic outlook lowers the level of cortisol associated with inflammation and raises the chemical that fosters communication between the two halves of the brain.
  • A can-do attitude generates a sense of empowerment and confidence in your abilities in contrast to the self-defeating I-can’t attitude.
  • The qualities of forgiveness, resilience, commitment, challenge, and control combat the harmful feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, resentment, anger and cynicism.
  • Optimistic people are more fun to be around, so they have better relationships with friends and family.

Positive thinking often starts with how you talk to yourself. The best advice is to only say things to yourself that you would say to a dear friend. When a negative thought enters your head, use positive affirmation to replace it. This will keep your brain chemistry in balance.

If you find you’re being controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Healing everyday thought patterns is crucial to gaining optimum health.

Parents – Have You Weighed the Risk of Football?

Friday, October 31, 2014


parents have you weighed the risks of footballWe can’t keep our children in bubble wrap. Living involves risk. Responsible parenting means we’re on the lookout for potential hazards that can harm our children. That’s why we teach them “look both ways before crossing the road” or “don’t get in a stranger’s car”. We naturally want to protect our children.

But what if your children WANT to do something that you KNOW will harm them? Do you give in and let them decide to do it? What if it’s an activity that is viewed by many as “harmless fun” or touted as “building character”? Specifically I’m thinking about football…

Is Football Safe for Children?

Recently I watched a heart wrenching YouTube video that I think all parents should watch. The handsome, grinning face of twenty-one year old Owen Thomas is followed by a photo of his tombstone. He looked so happy being a hard-hitting lineman from 9 years old and onward. Yet, out of the blue, he committed suicide.

Concussion is a leading cause of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in football players, which in turn has caused some players to commit suicide. Surprisingly, Owen had never experienced a concussion during all his years of playing football, so there seemed to be no explanation for his death.

It was shocking to discover that when Dr. Ann McKee, neuropathologist at BU CTE Center, examined his brain, he had advanced CTE! She concluded that the CTE had resulted from sub-concussive hits he’d experienced throughout the years of playing the game. Just from playing the game.

When you sign your child up for a sport, you know there’s a physical risk. They can sprain an ankle or even break a bone. Are you prepared to deal with the brain damage that results from playing football? I urge every parent to do the research and weigh the risks. Dr. Robert Cantu, Neurosurgeon at Boston University said, “No one under 14 should play football. The youth brain is lighter in weight, so it takes less to put it in motion. You tap a youth brain and it moves much quicker than an adult brain.”

While Dr McKee would not make a blanket proclamation for all, when asked if she had a child who was 8, 10 or 12, would she allow that child to play football, she emphatically said, “I would not, because of the way football is being played currently. It’s dangerous and it could impact their long-term mental health. You only get one brain. And you want your kids to succeed in life and be everything they can be. If there’s anything that would infringe on that, I wouldn’t do it.”

Watch the Frontline YouTube Video: Is Football Safe for Children?

Read on my website: Depression – How To Recognize The Symptoms.

Research Shows That the Autistic Brain Is too “Noisy”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


the autistic brain in too noisy from too many connections being made at one timeFor years I have described the brains of my autistic clients as too "noisy". I’ve long suspected that this also applies to those with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. Now it appears that science is proving my point. Health and science writer for the New York Times, Pam Belluck, reported on an exciting new study in her article: “Study Finds That Brains With Autism Fail to Trim Synapses as They Develop”. Scientists have long debated whether autism occurs because there’s too much connectivity in the brain or not enough. Now it seems we are much closer to having the answer…

Research published by a group of researchers from Columbia University Medical Center is showing that it’s a matter of too much. A baby’s brain produces a massive amount of synapses – the electrical and chemical connections that allow the neuron’s spines to send and receive signals. It might help to think of each neuron being covered with spines that are like very sensitive antennae. When there are too many signals, the system gets jammed.

One of the groundbreaking findings in this recent study is that all the children started with approximately the same number of synapses and spines on their neurons. So they’ve discovered that it’s not a question of overproduction of at birth.

The problem arises as the child ages. It’s normal for the brain to start pruning these synapses, so each area of the brain can develop its specific function. Within the group of autistic children, they found that the brain was not pruning the synapses, resulting in “too much noise”.

Ralph-Axel Müller, a neuroscientist at San Diego State University, agrees that there’s growing evidence of over-connectivity. After conducting brain imaging studies, he concluded, “Impairments that we see in autism seem to be partly due to different parts of the brain talking too much to each other. You need to lose connections in order to develop a fine-tuned system of brain networks, because if all parts of the brain talk to all parts of the brain, all you get is noise.”

This goes a long way in explaining why those with autism spectrum disorder experience oversensitivity to noise, problematic social interactions, and even why they are more prone to epilepsy. This is an exciting discovery, because it brings us one step closer to discovering effective treatments. Studies are already being done on possible drug therapy. But they have a long way to go to find an effective one that doesn’t have troubling side effects.

The use of medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can help heal the brain. Combining this type of holistic health regimen and therapy has helped many of my clients to live a fuller and more productive life. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and set up an appointment.

Learn more on my website – Mind and Body: Holistic Health and Therapy FAQ.

New Gene Research Reveals Possibly Eight Different Types of Schizophrenia

Thursday, October 02, 2014


genetic research uncoding link to schizophreniaSchizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, affects about 1% of the population. Thankfully ongoing genetic research is unlocking the mysteries of complex diseases like schizophrenia. According to new findings from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis there may be eight different classes of schizophrenia. Other doctors, like Dr. Charles Raison, professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, say this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

The breakthrough came when they began looking for gene clusters rather than at individual genes. Dr. C. Robert Cloninger, one of the study's senior authors, explained, “Genes don't operate by themselves. They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they're working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact." And co-author Dr. Dragan Svrakic stated, "What was missing was the idea that these genes don't act independently. They work in concert to disrupt the brain's structure and function, and that results in the illness." As the researchers analyzed the DNA, they matched any gene variations they found in the DNA with individual symptoms.

It’s been known that the risk for schizophrenia is inherited. Now they are beginning to identify the gene clusters that are responsible for specific symptoms. They found that “some gene clusters were responsible for hallucinations and delusions, other gene clusters disorganized speech and behavior, while still other gene clusters affect lack of initiative, problems organizing thoughts or making the connection between emotions and thoughts.”

Why is this gene research so exciting?

Previous studies have linked genetic mutations in older fathers with mental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. The more they can identify the cause at the genetic level, the greater the chance of predicting who might get it and, more importantly, finding a highly targeted therapy and medication for treating each individual.

Today, psychotherapy is an effective means of treatment mental disorders. As a psychologist with 30 years of experience in counseling families, I also see how important it is for caretakers to get therapy when they have the ongoing stress of caring for someone who is seriously mentally ill. Please contact my Portland office and set up an appointment if you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA.

For more information: Read CNN writer Jacque Wilson’s article, Study: Schizophrenia is 8 diseases.

Muse Headband – New Technology Could Help Us Stay on Top of Mental Health

Friday, September 26, 2014


new technology - muse headband- could help us stay on top of mental healthFor a number of years, people have been able to travel to brain scanning facilities and find out how their brains respond to stimulation in a clinical setting. It hasn’t been possible for everyone to see how the brain is really responding to situations in every day life. 

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could monitor your brain activity at home, at work, or at the shopping center? If you found that something was bothering you more than you really expected, then you could focus on changing your responses and gain greater control of your life immediately. The idea of everyone being able to do this isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. 

Ariel Garten CEO of interaXon, was interviewed by CNN about a computer headband they’ve developed that tracks the brain’s electro-signals. It’s called Muse. She said,We're very interested in creating solutions that help you calm yourself; that can help you stay grounded, choose what to focus your attention on, and understanding and managing your own mind and response to the world so that people can be more productive in life.” 

While Muse isn’t a medical device, it has fantastic possibilities for controlling stress, helping those with ADHD to increase their abilities to focus, and providing cognitive recognition of negative thinking patterns so you can turn them into positive ones. It tracks your brain activity and then sends that information to your computer, smart phone or tablet, giving you real time feedback. 

While I haven’t tried this product out myself, I’m interested in the possibilities that a product like this could have for helping people gain greater control of their emotions, thoughts, and activities. I’m happy to keep you current on the latest technological advances that could contribute to greater physical and mental health. 

Being able to identify your self-condemning internal dialogue and self-defeating attitudes and actions in the instance of them occurring doesn’t give you the skill to automatically overcome them. It’s helpful to seek the guidance of a psychotherapist who can help you learn the skills to deal with the frustration and anger from years of unresolved emotions and to feel better about yourself. A psychotherapist can also build on the strengths you have so you can cope with daily problems and learn alternative ways to handle your emotions.

Are you ready to gain control of your life with the help of a trained psychotherapist? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office to make an appointment. 

For more information read on my website: Psychotherapy Options.



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