Sep 7, 2006
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Just came back from a presentation at the San Francisco Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where I am teaching a class this fall. This centerÃ‚Â is part of a network of more than 80 centers supported by the Osher Foundation.
It is the third time I lead this class, and am looking forward to another fun experience. Working with a number of scientific advisors, we haveÃ‚Â prepared some great information based on recent brain research, and funÃ‚Â activities that exercise our key “mental muscles”.
Let me give you a flavor:
According to simplified brain anatomy, we can think of the following major “mental muscles” and ways to exercise them:
1) Cerebellum and brain stem area
– Motor coordination: dancing in couples is one of the best activities, as well as sports. You can also try to sign with your non-dominant hand
2) Limbic system area
– Emotions: see how good you are at identifying the feelings associated with facial expressionsÃ‚Â Ã‚Â Activities like yoga and meditation, and biofeedback-based games, can be very powerful to help us improve our emotional intelligence
– Memory: maybe the easiest tricks are to categorize things (so instead of trying to remember we need to do 8 things we structure them in 3-4 groups) and to visualize fun connections (for instance, if you want to remember that you are meeting a friend in the corner of Powell and Market streets, you could visualize Colin Powell buying a tomato at an organic market). You can also read about a Ã‚Â very powerful memory technique that requires training and has been used since classic Greece
3) Neocortex area
– Language: crosswords, casual games like BookWorm Ã‚Â BookWorm. Maybe write a haiku about the chocolate experiment below
– Visual/ spatial: many casual games, like Tetris
– Senses: well, just get a good piece of chocolate, get into a silent room, close your eyes, and let it melt in your mouth. Ã‚Â At least to me, this made me realize how little attention I pay to my senses
– Executive function (planning, problem-solving,…): solve any complex real-world problem. Maybe help a local nonprofit fundraise, or plan the next holiday vacation if it is not too stressful…or help your kid do his/ her math homework