Grow your Mind
in the January 10 & 17, 2011 issue of Newsweek got our minds
(Can You Build a Better Brain by Sharon Begley)
As some of
us start reaching certain age milestones, our thoughts move
towards keeping our brains active and living for as long as
possible. The 2010 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience
had some very interesting research presented.
cognitive capacity comes from having more neurons or
synapses, higher levels of neurogenesis (the creation of new
neurons, especially in the memory–forming hippocampus), and
increased production of compounds such as BDNF (brain
derived neurotrophic factor) which stimulates the production
of neurons and synapses. Both neurogenesis and synapse
formation boost learning, memory, reasoning and creativity.
we’re already good at don’t make us smarter if we don’t
continually practice them. In contrast taking up a new
cognitive activity – new language, ballroom dancing – is
more likely to boost processing speed, strengthen synapses
and expand or create functional networks.
you use a circuit, the stronger it gets. As a result, a
skill you focus and train on improves and even commandeers
more neuronal real estate, with corresponding improvements
in performance. London cabdrivers who memorise the
incredible maze of the London streets, have a larger
posterior hippocampus than the average Londoner. Conversely
if we offload our navigational ability onto a GPS, we’ll
processing speed does not improve memory and improving
memory does not improve reasoning. Similarly doing Suduko
will increase your ability to ... do Suduko!
three ways we can train our brain to increase, as we get
Physical exercise. Simple aerobic exercise such as
walking 45 minutes a day 3 times a week improves
episodic memory and executive control by about 20%. It
has been found that a year of exercise can give a 70
year old the connectivity of a 30 year old - improving
memory, planning, dealing with ambiguity and
second form of overall mental training is meditation.
This can increase the thickness of regions that control
attention and process sensory signals from the outside
Finally some videogames might improve general mental
agility. Strategy heavy, action orientated games that
require full attention and switching between tasks,
improve executive control functions such as task
switching, working memory, visual short-term memory and
exercise, meditate and challenge people to strategic
computer games and we will keep mentally alert and
inquisitive for many more years to come!