Stay Fit to Stay Sharp: Physical Activity Encourages Improved Cognitive Function

Fitness for Cognitive FunctionThe number of excellent reasons there are to stay in great shape seems to grow daily. There is an enormous body of scientific literature that confirms an incredibly wide range of benefits that the human body derives from remaining physically active. The most obvious benefits are well-known to basically everyone at this point. From childhood, the connection between physical fitness and physical health is made clearly apparent. Although obesity is a rising epidemic in the developed world, most adults are well aware of at least a few very good reasons that they should exercise regularly.

Unfortunately, finding the motivation to actually make a change can be very challenging. However, the increasing amount of research indicating a direct connection between physical activity and cognitive function may be enough to tip the scales when it comes to healthy life habits. The scientific community is steadily progressing towards an undisputed consensus that it is not just your waistline, heart, or cholesterol that relies on getting enough exercise – your very mind could be at risk if you fail to get up and get moving.

Last year, a team of researchers out of the University of Minnesota concluded that young adults who consistently participate in aerobic exercise maintain thinking and memory skills well into their middle-aged years. 2,747 healthy people with an average age of 25 took a treadmill assessment twenty years ago, and then again after two decades had passed. Cognitive tests analyzed a number of metrics, including verbal memory, psychomotor speed, and executive function. The team found that better performance in every category was aligned with better cardiorespiratory fitness 25 years before. Essentially, the fitter a participant was in youth, the sharper they were when they aged.

Another study completed by the University of Eastern Finland discovered that middle-aged individuals who live a physically active lifestyle are measurably protected from the onset of dementia once they are elderly. Study participants who took part in some sort of exercise at least twice a week exhibited a lower incidence of dementia than those who were less physically active. Their research also indicated it is never too late to start, if you are interested in reaping the cognitive function benefits. Even adopting healthy exercise habits after midlife revealed a decrease in the prevalence of dementia. Similarly, people who participated in leisure-time physical activity at least twice a week were also less likely to succumb to dementia. All this holds especially true for individuals who are overweight or obese at midlife. It is possible these results could impact how exercise interventions are structured and instituted to prevent cognitive deterioration and extend the quality of life of patients

It is already established in neuroscience that the brain-derived neurotrophic factor released during aerobic exercise stimulates the growth of new neurons. Recently, science has even begun to identify an “exercise hormone” dubbed Irisin that is associated with improved health and cognitive function. Hopefully, knowing that staying fit will keep you bright well into your later years will be enough to inspire an even greater societal shift towards healthier living.

Sleep Your Way to a Better Day: Rest & Cognitive Function

Ask any healthcare provider or expert and he or she will gladly attest to the importance getting enough sleep for physical well being. Whether your goal is losing weight or just maintaining a healthy lifestyle, sufficient sleep plays a critical role in improving your body composition. Unfortunately, modern society can make prioritizing our rest an increasingly formidable challenge. When you consider the extent to which technology and contemporary culture emphasize work productivity and offer so many options for distractions, it is easy to see how so many individuals fail to sleep for anywhere near their optimal amount of time.

The consequences of this trend, however, impact more than just your physical health. Sleep deprivation and impaired sleeping pattern also compromise your cognitive function. This can create a negative feedback loop, especially in regards to your work or school life, where you stay up late to complete tasks, do not get enough sleep to mentally excel during the day, and thus fall behind so you need to stay up even later. This cycle is critical to break, not only because it adversely affects your productivity, but also because of increased stress and the effect on your emotional being.

Acute and/or chronic sleep deprivation inevitably detract from your ability to both think and learn. The science community is also in agreement that a loss of alertness and attention also results, a conclusion for which the anecdotal evidence is wildly abundant. This inability to focus indicates a series of lapses or slowed responses – in short, sleep deprivation causes waking-state instability in cognitive processes like working memory. Certain mental skills are more dramatically impacted than others, like creativity or the ability to innovate. However, cognitive function in terms of reaction times, memory assignments, and reasoning skills all also end up significantly impaired by acute sleep loss.

So, it is obviously important to take getting to bed and enjoying enough sleep seriously. If you are struggling with cognitive issues, evaluate whether or not you are sufficiently rested. The signs that you may be struggling with sleep deprivation are much more nuanced than just being vaguely tired. Many individuals become accustomed to adequately performing with an inadequate amount of sleep, so that they do not realize they are not operating to their fullest potential. Consider if you suffer from a lack of motivation, if you are irritable or moody, if you are unable to cope with stress, if you struggle with memory problems, if you lack enough energy to sustain the day to day activities, or if you gain weight easily. All that and more might very well indicate that you need to get to bed earlier or stay in bed later. Remove all distractions (especially electronic ones!) at least an hour before you end your evening and start taking care of yourself by finally taking sleep seriously.

Assessing and Treating Dyslexia

Dyslexia is predominately a reading disorder. The main symptoms include the inability to read properly, spell correctly and at times even write efficiently. Generally, dyslexia is considered a language-based impairment, and it is the most common learning disability. People who have dyslexia experience difficulties processing read material. They tend to read slower than others, often skipping words, even complete sentences. They tend to skim rather than read material thoroughly. They may have problems sounding out words, and their speech might at times sound confused or unclear.

Dyslexia is inherited. Most times it can be seen in one of the parents, other times in relatives. It is believed that 5 to 10 percent of the population in North America is suffering from this learning disability.

Dyslexia does not mean that the person is not intelligent or lazy. Only that he or she learns differently. Albert Einstein, as an example, was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was younger.

Children with dyslexia may show excess frustration associated with their deficiencies. They may also exhibit poor self-confidence and self-esteem and low motivation to succeed. Often times they give up quickly, when they find it difficult to perform. In more extreme cases, dyslexia can lead to depression.

A series of tests can verify the impairment. The tests mainly focus on expressive oral language as well as written language, intellectual functioning, educational success, cognitive process and receptive oral and written language. The tests are adjusted to the age of the person being tested. The diagnostic process of dyslexia is slightly different for younger children. The tests are not only confined to check for dyslexia, but can also be used to find other learning and attention-related problems such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and central auditory processing disorder. A large percentage of the dyslexic population is indeed co-experiencing symptoms of ADHD, such as the inability to sustain attention, day dreaming, losing track in conversations and problems with executive functions, such as organizing, prioritizing, decision- making and time management.

Recently, more advanced testing modalities have been developed to assess function of the frontal region of the brain using advanced EEG technology. When combined with core skills and working memory testing, it can shed more light on the specific deficiencies associated with the condition. Identifying these weak areas in the cognitive process is paramount in order to treat the condition successfully.

It’s important to recognize dyslexia at an early age. In order to help throughout the process of learning, a child can use educational tools to increase his or her reading ability. Educating yourself about this learning disorder can be very helpful in helping your child deal with the condition. An Individualized Education Programme (IEP) is often established at school to assist a child diagnosed with this learning disorder. It is important for the child’s school and teachers to know about the child’s specific deficiencies. Until recently, dyslexia has been regarded as a lifelong condition, and therefore, it was (and still is) important to observe the reading habits of the child and get additional help for the child when needed.

People with dyslexia can be quite intuitive. They are able to sense emotions of others, but they get easily distracted as well. Other difficulties associated with dyslexia include mispronouncing or misusing of words, remembering faces but not names, inability to remember and follow verbal instructions and confusing directions. Individuals with dyslexia may experience short-term memory when it comes to facts and events. They may have difficulty in following procedures and routines. They usually need to write down notes in order to remember information.

While learning how to deal with dyslexia is important, correcting deeper neurological structures in the frontal cortex may hold the key for a significant improvement in cognitive function.

Neuro-cognitive therapy and training have shown excellent results in the treatment of dyslexia, with marked improvement on all levels of cognitive performance. Improving brain regulation combined with developing core cognitive skills such as visual processing, auditory processing, divided attention, multitasking, and working memory, can contribute to considerable and permanent gains on all aspects of cognitive function, and significantly reduce symptoms.

The ACEclinics in Toronto, Canada, headed by Bob Gottfried, PhD is a pioneer in this field. The clinic specializes in assessment and treatment of, learning disabilities (LD), such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, CAPD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), non-specific neuro-cognitive deficiencies and memory disorders.

More information can be obtained on their website:

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Assessment and Treatment of Learning Disabilities

It can be disheartening to learn that your child has a learning disability. It is, however, very important to know that this does not mean that the child lacks intellect. Your child can be smart, yet still experience significant cognitive difficulties. Learning disabilities are characterized by a certain level of brain impairment to receive, store, analyze and process information.

Naturally, children with a learning disorder will grow up to be adults with learning disabilities, which is why early intervention is always preferable.

There are different types of learning disabilities, but in general, they will affect one or more of a person’s cognitive abilities such as reading, listening, reasoning, writing and doing basic math. Certain learning disorders can also be linked to difficulties with motor skills. Almost without exception, individuals having a learning disability will also have problems concentrating, focusing and remembering certain information. Children with learning disabilities may hear, see and think differently as their brain operates in a different manner.

As a parent, it is important to identify your child’s disability at an early stage so that your child can learn how to deal with the condition, or better yet receive specialized treatment of learning disabilities, which will make it easier for the child to process information. That, in turn, would improve all aspects of learning.

Types of learning disabilities


  • Dyslexia is predominantly a reading disability. It manifests itself in a number of ways. The child may not be able to comprehend the correlation between alphabets or words and their sounds. Skipping words even sentences when reading is quite common. Spelling may also be a challenge. Other typical signs that characterize dyslexia include taking a long time to read, mixing up letters in a word, and inability to retain read material.
  • Dysgraphia is a writing disability, which can become very restrictive when a child or an adult suffering from this learning disability is having difficulty with penning down their thoughts on paper. The child will typically have problems with grammar and with writing complete sentences. This disability is characterized by grammatically unclear and incomplete sentences. Other symptoms related to this disability include: poor grip of a pen or pencil and messy handwriting. The person may express himself/herself verbally well but unable to write thoughts on paper, coherently.
  • Dyscalculia, is a math-related disability that affects the recognition of numbers and the understanding of simple mathematical concepts. The symptoms include: inability to recollect a number sequence, confusion with numbers that look similar, problems during money transactions like counting money or calculating change, difficulty with basic mathematical functions like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Even simple counting and telling the time could be difficult for those experiencing dyscalculia.
  • The auditory disability also called Central Auditory Process Disorder (CAPD, or APD) involves a child’s auditory processing ability, which affects understanding of information received verbally. The signs to watch out for include inability to follow instructions, inaccurate pronunciation, inability to understand conversations or part of them, sensitivity to background sounds, difficulty with processing any type of information that requires listening.
  • Nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) also referred to as nonverbal learning disability has to do with nonverbal skills. The condition manifests itself in poor fine motor skills and coordination, poor social skills, although the child may do well academically. This disability shows itself through signs that include the inability to discern facial expressions, questioning more than usual, complaining about being frequently misunderstood, difficulties with reading, writing, doing math and inability to handle any disruption in their daily routine.
  • Visual Processing disorder disrupts a child’s ability to handle and process information received visually. The symptoms include: poor spelling, copying words and getting disorientated while reading.
  • Aphasia is a language-based disability that affects the child’s ability to express their thoughts and understanding of both written and spoken language. Signs that indicate this disorder include difficulty with understanding written material, speaking incomplete sentences or unrecognizable words.
  • Dyspraxia also known as Sensory Integration Disorder and is a learning disability that affects fine motor skills (such as writing, using tools like scissors or buttoning a shirt) and/or gross motor skills (such as running, jumping, throwing, hitting or catching a ball).The condition is also characterized by poor eye-hand coordination.


A learning disability is often combined with attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with kids (and adults) experiencing a learning disability, is that they suffer from low self-esteem and low self-confidence, which can have a detrimental effect on their performance and achievements in life.

Assessing your child’s disability

Assessment of learning disabilities consists of various steps- testing of learning disabilities and specific aspects of the learning process. Lately, more modern neuro-cognitive assessment tools have been developed to point out specifically different cognitive deficiencies.

New technologies to assess frontal lobe function have helped in both assessing and treating all types of learning disabilities. While teaching kids how to improve and better deal with their deficiencies is important, correcting deeper neurological structures in the frontal cortex is very important. Neuro cognitive therapy and training have shown excellent results in the treatment of learning disabilities with marked improvement on all levels. Improving brain regulation combined with developing core cognitive skills such as visual processing, auditory processing, divided attention, multitasking, and working memory, can contribute to considerable and permanent gains in cognitive performance and significant reduction in symptoms.

The ACEclinics in Toronto, Canada, headed by Bob Gottfried, PhD is a pioneer in this field. The clinic specializes in assessment and treatment of, learning disabilities (LD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), non-specific neuro-cognitive deficiencies and memory disorders.

For more information please contact:
Toronto, Canada
416 222 0004

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder- ADHD is a neuro-cognitive disorder. In most cases, it will continue through one’s adolescence and adulthood. It involves difficulty in concentrating for a long period of time, difficulty to control behaviour, and sometimes emotions, which can hamper a child’s performance in school, home as well as adversely affect relations with other children. Although ADHD cannot be cured, there are advanced neuro-cognitive treatment programs to correct the underlying deficiencies and resolve, or significantly improve most symptoms of ADHD.

The symptoms of ADHD in children include getting easily distracted, missing details, forgetting things, difficulty in organizing and completing tasks, losing things, difficulty with listening when spoken to, daydreaming, struggling to follow instructions, fidgeting, excessive talking, inability to sit in one place for too long, impatience, blurting inappropriate remarks, acting without restraint, interrupting others, becoming easily bored and more. In case of ADHD in children, a child must have symptoms such as lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness for 6 or months or more and in greater degree than other children of the same age. The symptoms of ADHD in children may start appearing before the age of six. Some kids do not display signs of hyperactivity and restlessness and are therefore categorized under the inattention subtype. It is difficult to spot ADHD in children as some symptoms may appear in some situations and not in others, but if ADHD symptoms persist consistently, it is important to do a specialized ADHD assessment with an experienced clinician, in order to identify the underlying causes of the condition.

The symptoms of ADHD in adults may slightly vary. More than half of adults who are diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder- ADHD experienced it during their childhood. ADHD affects approximately 3% to 10% of children and an approximate 60% of them may continue to have these difficulties towards their adulthood. ADHD in adults may result in problems on interpersonal and professional levels and may also result in other psycho-emotional problems and disorders.

There is no certainty on what causes Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder- ADHD, yet studies suggest the role genetics as the primary cause. Other causes include a combination of factors such as environmental factors, excessive smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy, exposure to high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals as well as brain injuries.

Methylphenidate and amphetamines are the most common types of medication used for the treatment of ADHD. The stimulants essentially activate brain circuits that support attention and focused behaviour, thus reducing impulsivity, hyperactivity and help children to focus better.

The side effects often reported with treatment of ADHD using drugs include decreased hunger, problems related to sleep, uneasiness, and irritability. They can also cause more serious symptoms such as hallucinations, increased heart beat and stroke. Currently, these medications can only control the symptoms when taken. The intake of these medications does not result in better learning abilities, and recent studies have shown that for the long run, these medications do no improve academic performance. While the traditional models of treatment of ADHD include use of counselling, behavioural therapy and emotional support to help children and adults cope with ADHD, there are more modern approaches that offer long-term resolution.

Because ADHD is a neuro-cognitive disorder, only a neuro-cognitive approach can correct the difficulties related to the condition. Neuro cognitive therapy and training have shown excellent results in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and learning disabilities with marked improvement on all levels. Improving brain regulation combined with developing core cognitive skills such as visual processing, auditory processing, divided attention, multitasking, working memory and more, can contribute to considerable and permanent gains in cognitive performance and significant reduction in ADHD-related symptoms.

One of the pioneers in neuro-cognitive training is the ACEclinics in Toronto, Canada, headed by Bob Gottfried PhD. The clinic specializes in assessment and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disorders (LD), non-specific neuro-cognitive deficiencies and memory disorders.

For more information please contact:
Toronto, Canada
416 222 0004