Tag: brain

13 Feb

Fertilizer for your brain: How to grow your resilience

Suzana Popovic-Montag Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Health / Medical, In the News, Uncategorized Tags: , , 0 Comments

Let me give you the bad news first: some people are naturally more resilient than others – and life can be tough if your resilience falls in the low end of the range.

Now the good news: your level of resilience isn’t static. You can grow it – with the right brain fertilizer – to become mentally stronger in the face of adversity. This recent New York Times article discusses some of the ways it can be done.

The article is just one of many to explore the link between greater (and lasting) resilience and activities such as mindfulness, social stimulation, and physical activity. It also sets out a great definition of resilience, courtesy of Huda Akil, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan:

“Active resilience happens when people who are vulnerable find resources to cope with stress and bounce back, and do so in a way that leaves them stronger, ready to handle additional stress, in more adaptive ways.”

In our line of work, the “vulnerable” part mentioned in the above definition is often death, and the estate dispute that follows. From our observations, while death is one of life’s certainties, dealing with it is anything but. In estate disputes, some people are able to cope with the family death and the dispute over assets. Others crumble under the weight of grief and anger. What we’ve seen in many cases is that a higher level of resilience can make a positive difference to outcomes.

How to increase resilience

So, what’s the magic “brain fertilizer” that can increase our resilience? As it turns out, it’s not really magic at all. Better health equals greater resilience, so exercising and good nutrition go a long way to improving resilience. A strong social network also plays a key role. After that, much of it involves shifting our way of thinking – which is where a trained therapist can make a huge difference.

Take a look at the American Psychological Association’s 10 ways to build resilience  and consider the opportunities you may have to bounce back stronger the next time adversity comes your way.


Thanks for reading!
Suzana Popovic-Montag

15 Oct

Pulling No Punches: The NHL’s Persistent Concussion Problem

Hull & Hull LLP In the News Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

Over the past few years I have written several articles about the incidence of head injuries in professional hockey.  Sid Crosby, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak – these men have all played a role in my education about the perils of the sport.   On Saturday night, I finally made my way into the city to watch my first live hockey game (sidebar: in case you missed it, after three crazy see-saw periods, the Leafs’ centre Dave Bolland eked out the OT winner against the Oilers).   I craved a firsthand immersive experience in hockey culture, and I needed to know: Do dirty hits and fighting have a place in the game?  Is on-ice violence a necessary cog in the greater machine?

Since the start of the 2013/14 season, the media has been saturated with opinion pieces spouting the points and counterpoints in the hockey violence debate, and with good reason.   On October 1st, Habs’ forward George Parros engaged in a fight with the Leafs’ Colton Orr, awkwardly tumbled over his opponent and hit the ice face-first in an unbroken fall.  He lay motionless for several minutes and was ultimately carted off the ice on a stretcher.   Last week, Habs GM Marc Bergevin indicated to the Montreal Gazette that Parros was ‘almost symptom-free’.   Interesting concept, in theory, not unlike being ‘kind of pregnant’, I suppose.   Anyone who has suffered a concussion knows that all it takes is one lingering symptom to shift your life’s pace from 6th gear down to 1st.   You’re either symptomatic, or you’re not.  On October 4th, the Nashville Predators’ defenseman Roman Josi took a huge hit from Colorado’s Steve Downie and sustained what is reportedly his fifth concussion since 2009.  Not only has Josi not returned to the ice, but he has not even been able to work out since his head injury.  On October 8th, the Rangers’ Rick Nash sustained a concussion after taking a first-period headshot from Sharks’ defenseman Brad Stuart.   While Nash is on mandatory IR for 7 days, technically he could return to the ice this Wednesday, although the most recent reports indicate he is still ‘experiencing symptoms’.  This is familiar territory for Nash, as he was already forced to sit out four games in February of this year due to a concussion.

In the midst of these early season head injuries, researchers at a Mayo Clinic conference last week called for a ban on fighting at all levels of the sport.  As the sport is played now, they said, it causes too much trauma.  Scientists are calling for reforms in bodychecking and want to see fighting banned in the NHL, in the minors, as well as at the junior level. Researchers are asking for immediate ejection after a single fight in the NHL, because they firmly believe the NHL needs to serve as the role model for the rest of hockey.  Then just a few days after the conference wrapped up, hockey legend Bobby Orr wrote this in the Globe and Mail:  “But the more I look at the current state of the game, the more I realize a simple truth about it.  The threat of a fight, or the fear of doing something that might trigger retaliation, is a powerful deterrent.  It always has been, and it always will be.”   On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable argument, however a recent study out of the University of Ottawa found that ‘the kind of blow delivered in a hockey fight [particularly a left or right hook to the jaw], is as dangerous to the brain as it gets’.


So here we are, just a couple of weeks into the season, and already 3 players are out with concussions.  Head injuries.  Brain injuries.  The back and forth banter about the role of fighting in hockey, of course, continues.  I enjoyed the game on Saturday night. I soaked up the incredible agility of some of the players, their stickhandling skills, the game strategy…  It was, admittedly, a much more organic experience seeing the game played in person.   Then something changed.  Between the second and third periods, the lights dimmed, and bombastic choral action-movie-trailer type music filled the arena.   All eyes were on the Jumbotron, on which commenced a ‘fight reel’ with clips of a series of epic hockey fights through the history of the NHL.  All the ‘great’ enforcers were featured – Semenko, Domi, McSorley.  Nearly everyone rose to their feet, fists pumping, cheering; it was a surreal scene, and it had more than a whiff of Roman Colosseum to it.   In that moment, it was clear that in order for the incidence of brain injuries in hockey to be reduced, not only will NHL culture need to shift, but that of the audience as well.   Bruce Arthur, sports columnist for the National Post summed it up so eloquently, so tidily, in the summer of 2011, just a few days after Wade Belak reportedly hung himself:  “This shouldn’t be a political issue in the sport; it should be a human one.”

Jenn Hartman, Medico-Legal Analyst

19 Dec

Damn You Star 102.5. Damn You!

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, General Interest, Health / Medical Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day.
That’s the island greeting that we send to you
from the land where palm trees sway.
– Mele Kalikimaka, as sung by Bing Crosby, or Don Ho, or Jimmy Buffett, or the tormenting little gremlin in my head at 3 a.m.  Take your pick.

It all started on November 1st, 2011.  I am referring, of course, to the launch of "Continuous Christmas music" on Star 102.5, your friendly station from across the puddle in Buffalo, New York.   I was in the car, surfing radio stations, when I made the grave error of landing on 102.5 FM.  With the kids in the backseat.  No putting the toothpaste back in the tube on that one.  Every day since then (when did Christmas morph into an 8-week affair, I ask you?) I am forced to listen to Madonna’s DNA-unraveling attempt at "Santa Baby", the thankfully-only-occasional "Last Christmas" (WHAM.  Oh George – why didn’t you answer any of my fan mail in high school?) and the radiator-rattling Mannheim Steamroller.  And then it happened, really, I’m not sure how, but it just did: Mele Kalikimaka was stuck in my head.  Didn’t matter if I was working, vacuuming, driving, cooking… that piece of tropical treacle was doing laps in my head and there was no off-ramp in sight.   

James Kellaris, associate professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati refers to this phenomena as ‘getting bitten by an earworm’.  As detailed in an article in the December issue of Mental Floss magazine, "certain pieces of music may have properties that excite an abnormal reaction in the brain – a cognitive itch".  We rehearse the tune in our heads in order to scratch said itch, but the outcome is a form of perseveration hell – you have, in fact, exacerbated the itch so that the rehearsal becomes involuntary and you are trapped, like me, on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day.  According to Kellaris, songs that are simple, repetitive or have some aspect of incongruity in them are most likely to get stuck.

Fear not, my friend.  For every problem, there is a solution.  Kellaris states that the best cure for an earworm is to unleash an ‘eraser tune’.  He theorizes that the eraser tune devours the earworm by ‘combining the benefits of both distraction and replacement.’  Prudence dictates that the eraser tune of choice is itself not too sticky.

Whoomp…     …there it is.

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger

16 Feb

Einstein’s Estate: Theories of Relatives and Relativity

Hull & Hull LLP General Interest, Litigation Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

Albert Einstein died in 1955. In his will, he bequeathed the literary rights for the more than 75,000 papers and other items in his estate to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since his death, this is said to have generated millions of dollars, mostly through the marketing of videos, bobblehead dolls and Halloween masks.

Recently, as reported by CNN, Einstein’s granddaughter, Evelyn, has cried foul. She states that she has not received anything from the marketing and sale of Einstein merchandise. She asks what Einstein’s image has to do with the bequest of his literary estate. On a sentimental note, she states that she is 69, and a cancer survivor who needs the money for health care.

The University takes the position that the bequest of Einstein’s intellectual property includes the rights to the use of his image. It counters the granddaughter’s emotional plea with a statement to the effect that the income from Einstein’s estate is dedicated to scientific research.

It is not apparent as to whether any legal claim has been commenced by Evelyn.

As an aside, in 2002, Evelyn wrote an introduction to “Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s letters to and from children”. In her introduction, she states that Einstein died when she was 14, and that she had little contact with him, although she exchanged correspondence with him.

As a further aside, Einstein’s brain was removed upon his death for scientific purposes. Controversy and questions surround this episode of Einstein’s estate, as well. In a 1994 documentary, Einstein’s Brain, film maker Kevin Hull depicts an encounter with Einstein’s granddaughter by adoption, Evelyn Einstein, who believes that she is biologically related to Einstein and who has been in dialogue with an institute to compare her DNA to that of Einstein’s brain. A book by Michael Paterniti, Driving Mr. Albert: a Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain is a further account of the author driving across the US with the brain and the brain’s supposed keeper, Dr. Thomas Harvey, to deliver the brain to Evelyn Einstein.

Thank you for reading.

Paul E. Trudelle – Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle.

14 Feb

What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?

Hull & Hull LLP Health / Medical Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

The frontal lobe of the brain is a true workhorse; it is responsible for reasoning, planning, sequencing, modulation of emotions, and conversion of thoughts into speech. The temporal lobes (one right, one left) are no multitasking slouches either. They serve to process auditory sensation and perception, are integral to language comprehension, and also play a role in the formation and retrieval of long-term memories. 


In frontotemporal dementia (also referred to as Frontal Lobe Dementia), the frontal and/or temporal lobes degenerate, resulting in dramatic personality and behavioural changes. These changes can include lack of insight, impaired judgment, lack of empathy, loss of inhibitions, inappropriateness, a general decline in social graces, impulsivity, withdrawal, ease of distraction, and perseveration of actions. In the later stages of FTD, symptoms include loss of language (‘aphasia’) and loss of muscle movement (‘akinesia’).

Onset of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can occur at any time during adult life, however most individuals are typically between 50 and 60 years of age. There is currently no known cure for FTD, nor is there a means of slowing its progression. The average length of disease is about 8 years.

FTD accounts for approximately 2-5% of all dementias. Risk factors for the development of FTD are currently unknown, however there is a form which is passed genetically from one generation to the next, although it is extremely rare.

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger
* image courtesy of Fotolia


25 Oct

Hypoxic-Anoxic Brain Injury

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, General Interest, Health / Medical Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

The brain requires a constant flow of oxygen to function normally. In fact, the brain consumes about a fifth of the body’s total oxygen supply. When this flow is disrupted, brain cells begin to die, and one of two conditions results: i) hypoxic brain injury (due to a partial lack of oxygen supply to the brain); or ii) anoxic brain injury (due to a complete lack of oxygen supply to the brain). The two conditions are sufficiently related that the medical community uses the acronym HAI, which stands for hypoxic-anoxic brain injury.

Causes of HAI

The disease processes and injuries that can cause HAI vary widely, and include:
• stroke
• cardiac arrhythmia
• cardiac arrest
• suicide attempt
• near-drowning
• near-suffocation
• electrocution
• severe bronchial asthma attack
• carbon monoxide poisoning; and
• barbiturate poisoning.

Symptoms of HAI

Assuming one recovers from the initial loss of consciousness or coma, he or she may exhibit any of a number of symptoms. These cognitive symptoms may include:
• short-term memory loss
• a decline in executive functions (judgement, reasoning, information synthesis, attention, concentration)
• confusion
• depression
• hallucinations
• delusions
• personality changes; and
• language difficulties.


Chances for recovery from HAI are dependent upon length of unconsciousness, extent and location of brain damage, age of the victim, and initial recovery in the first month post-injury.

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger


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