Change is Good: Exercise Your Brain

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By Debra A. Lopez, CRA, FAHRA

Change is good: we hear this a lot. However, if you are anything like me, you don’t always appreciate change. I have my favorite sweat pants, favorite bike trails, and favorite foods (too many of which contain chocolate!). I will also admit that I get just a little bit irritated when someone sits on “my” chair at the dinner table.

But I was just reading an article—okay, I’ll confess, I amover 50, and the article was in the April AARP Bulletin. The article is called Put Your Brain to Work, and its author, Barbara Stauch, is the deputy science editor at The New York Times and author of The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain. She cites studies that have been done at Columbia University and elsewhere in which scientists observed the birth of new cells in the brains of animals and humans who have exercised vigorously. (Now, she is not talking about an hour at the gym, but rather exercising our brainpower.) The article then refers to a leading neuroscientist of the Salk Institute in San Diego, Fred Gage, who believes these new cells help us better integrate and cope with new ideas, places, and people. He also believes that these new cells may even help ward off depression.

To keep our brains sharp, we need to not just recall information, but really push our brains to actively embrace the new. When we do this, new brain connections will be created and nourished. These new brain cells must be presented with “disorienting dilemmas,” concepts that challenge our view of the world.

As radiology leaders, we are constantly challenged with new technology, rules, and regulations, and occasionally we may find it necessary to confront ideas and perhaps even people with whom we disagree. How nice to know that these challenges and encounters will stimulate our brains so they will flourish! I suppose that means that the technologist or doctor who is never happy with the way the department is operating and whose ideas are so very different than our own should be welcomed wholeheartedly into our offices each week (or day). They are actually there to improve our brain health!

A challenge I have recently undertaken is learning how to use my iPhone. I was a bit of a holdout in purchasing such a device, so I am playing catch up. I had a good laugh reading a current thread on the AHRA List Server. One of our members asked how “connected” everyone was to the workplace. He talked about attending a work related seminar and how he noticed so many people using these handheld electronic communication devices, even while the speaker was presenting. The responses this post received were interesting, as well as entertaining. A member from Michigan said that as far as he knows, twitter is what a bird does and blackberries are for eating. Another member admitted he was addicted to his Blackberry, but mentioned that the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. I guess I am somewhere in the middle: learning something new and therefore stimulating my brain cells, but not yet addicted. (To view the entire discussion, log on to the List Server.)

I plan on taking my dog on a new walking route this evening, as well as reading more on what new challenges the healthcare reform bill may create for us. Even if there are portions of it with which I may disagree, I will try and remind myself that these challenges will at least be providing me with some energized brain cells!

I would now like to introduce you to yet another member of our great AHRA staff, who is busy every day energizing her brain, Jillian Nanof.

Jillian Nanof

Hometown: Westborough, MA

Family:  I was born and raised in the same house my parents currently still reside in, in Westborough. I have one older brother who will be 28 in August. On May 17, we will celebrate his one year anniversary from receiving a heart transplant. He spent the better part of 2009 in Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and we couldn’t be more grateful to the nurses and doctors who cared for him. He is currently enrolling in nursing school and totally changing his profession because of his experience. I now live in Shrewsbury, MA, a few towns away from my hometown and plan to stay put for at least a year or two!

Interests: My family and friends are extremely important to me and I spend most of my free time with them. Now that the warm weather is approaching, I enjoy spending time outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, camping, and softball are my favorite outdoor activities! I also enjoy reading, cooking, live music, and travelling.

Deb Lopez, CRA, FAHRA is President of the 2009-2010 AHRA Board of Directors. She lives in San Jose, CA and can be reached at

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