Charlotte doctor says tasks like knitting may increase brain health in cancer patients, creates community project

Charlotte doctor says tasks like knitting may increase brain health in cancer patients

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Knitters across Charlotte aren’t just working on sweaters and hats.

“We knit to relax, relieve stress, but it does help our brains,” Charlotte Yarn owner Remi Haygood says.

Right now, people who come into her shop are making small, yarn neurons.

“There are at least 80 billion neurons in the brain,” Dr. Jennifer Hartzell says. “So, we have a ways to go.”

Hartzell, of the Levine Cancer Institute, is asking the community to step in and help make these cells. In the summer, they’ll all fit together, to make one giant art piece – it’ll look like a brain.

“It’s going to be rather massive and structural,” she says.

The purpose is to raise awareness about brain health, particularly in cancer patients.

“Cognitive problems and psychological problems in cancer patients are under-recognized and certainly under-treated,” she says.

It’s something, she says, most patients don’t see coming.

“They tell me that they had no idea that cancer somewhere else within their body outside of the brain could affect how their brain is working,” she says.

The cancer itself and cancer treatment can change the brain.

“That correlates to changes in your cognition, in your emotional well-being and at times your personality and behavior,” Hartzell says.

Right now, she’s researching the positive impact tasks like knitting may have on these changes.

“Creative tasks like crafting have neuroplastic effects,” she says. “Meaning that they promote beneficial changes within the brain.”

It’s why her team chose this way of creating what they hope to be a conversation-starting art piece, and they are hoping people across Charlotte will help create it.

“It’s not about knitting and crochet,” Haygood says. “It’s also about community…You’re doing it for a bigger purpose, it’s bigger than yourself.”

Anybody can download the instructions to make these neurons, here. The Levine Cancer Institute will be gathering them until August. There will then be an educational event held to discuss this topic further.

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