Semper Fi Fund's NeuroFitness

The famous Danish scientist Nicolaus Steno was credited with saying back in 1669, “The brain, the masterpiece of creation, is almost unknown to us.” There can be no doubt that our brains are fascinating organs. But how much do we really know? And why should you, our dear reader, care?

Whereas once modern medicine thought the brain was a fixed or static organ, nothing could be further from the truth. The basic building block of the brain is the nerve cell, or neuron. Scientists tell us that the human brain has upwards of a hundred billion neurons. If you think that is impressive, what makes this fact even more astounding, given that the average neuron has thousands of connections with other neurons, or synapses, the total number of synapses our brains have exceeds 100 trillion! Think about that: each of our brains have more connections than there are stars in our galaxy. These are exciting times to be sure, precisely why the Semper Fi Fund feels it is important emphasize this Performance based model.

What members of Semper Fi Fund’s Team Semper Fi already seem to understand, scientists now tell us aerobic exercise is particularly good at facilitating the growth of new synapses. Recovery through sport not only heals the mind while benefiting the body, but so does exercise strengthen the brain and improve cognition. Also wonderful for the brain are diets rich in healthy brain fats, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Did you know that the brain is almost 75 percent fat? These “low tech” solutions, i.e., diet, physical exercise and brain exercise, stimulate neurogenesis, or the growing of new grey matter. And yes, let’s not forget about restorative sleep’s contribution to enabling our brains to rewire and re-grow.

There is another new, “high tech” approach the Fund is interested in sharing with you, our precious service member, veteran, family member, and supporter. It is a technology called Neurofeedback. Like its more well-known sibling Biofeedback, Neurofeedback (NF) is a form of behavioral training which helps the brain develop new skills — and synapses — for self-regulation of brain activity.

Without getting too technical — think simple video games or musical tones — reflecting the ratio of the various brain waves that are continuously fed back in real time to the individual undergoing NF. Different brain waves are responsible for different moods or brain states. Alpha rhythms, those brain waves present during deep relaxation, particularly when the eyes are closed, can promote visualization, imagination, memory, and learning. Other types of brain waves are also important in helping the brain to balance and be the best it can be. Imagine, the holistic potential of the brain healing itself. This is not science fiction…This is science fact. Neurofeedback shows great promise as an alternative — or adjunctive — intervention to treat the hidden wounds of war.

Semper Fi Fund is committed to understanding, promoting, and supporting emerging technologies to care for our veterans and service members.

—Dr. Robert Koffman
Semper Fi Fund Director of Wellness