Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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What is Brain Fitness?

Many peo­ple ask us, “What is brain fit­ness?”

Our short answer:

In a way anal­o­gous to phys­i­cal fit­ness, Brain Fit­ness is the state of brain health and men­tal well-being that makes you “fit” for life and work demands.

It’s not about IQ (or EQ). It’s  more fun­da­men­tal mea­sure of the brain’s abil­i­ty to func­tion effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly dur­ing work and leisure activ­i­ties, to be healthy, to resist dis­ease.

Our longer answer:

Brain fit­ness grew out of the study of neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science, and relies on mul­ti­ple men­tal and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and process­es such as neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, neurogenesis–the cre­ation of new neu­rons–, and brain vas­cu­lar­iza­tion. Cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties include things like atten­tion, stress and emo­tion­al man­age­ment, mem­o­ry, visual/spatial pro­cess­ing, audi­to­ry process­es and lan­guage, motor coor­di­na­tion, and exec­u­tive func­tions like plan­ning and prob­lem solv­ing dimin­ish over time unless they are used reg­u­lar­ly. It is evi­dent in an abil­i­ty to assim­i­late infor­ma­tion, com­pre­hend rela­tion­ships, and devel­op rea­son­able con­clu­sions and plans.

Brain fit­ness can be pro­tect­ed and nur­tured by lifestyle, by for­mal edu­ca­tion, by being active­ly men­tal­ly engaged in life, and by tar­get­ed prac­tices designed to chal­lenge impor­tant men­tal skills. Healthy lifestyle habits includ­ing men­tal stim­u­la­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, good nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, and sleep can improve brain fit­ness. On the oth­er hand, chron­ic stress, anx­i­ety, depres­sion, aging, decreas­ing estro­gen, excess oxy­tocin, and pro­longed cor­ti­sol can decrease brain fit­ness as well as gen­er­al health.

Brain fit­ness can be eval­u­at­ed by behav­ioral mea­sures such as mem­o­ry, atten­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, exec­u­tive func­tions, deci­sion-mak­ing, men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty, and oth­er cog­ni­tive capa­bil­i­ties. Sci­en­tists are also begin­ning to learn how to mea­sure brain fit­ness phys­i­cal­ly, at the cel­lu­lar and cir­cuit lev­els, by study­ing neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis and the func­tion­al con­nec­tions of synaps­es and den­drites between neu­rons.

Emerg­ing neu­rotech­nolo­gies, espe­cial­ly new brain imag­ing meth­ods, are start­ing to show that brain activ­i­ty results in an increase in blood flow to the areas of the brain involved in car­ry­ing out the tasks at hand, bring­ing with it oxy­gen and nutri­ents for the cells, and there­fore con­tribut­ing to the health and fit­ness of brain net­works involved. Addi­tion­al­ly, stem cells con­cen­trate in the areas where there is greater brain activ­i­ty and func­tion in the same capac­i­ty as the sur­round­ing cells — in essence, cells grow over time in the active areas of the brain.

Our book:

SharpBrainsGuide_3D_lowreMod­ern life places extra­or­di­nary demands on our brains. Not only do we live longer than ever before, but we must con­stant­ly adapt to com­plex and rapid­ly evolv­ing per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al real­i­ties. Yet, we often ignore our most pre­cious resource to do so: our brain.

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness cuts through the clut­ter of mis­con­cep­tions, super­fi­cial and con­flict­ing media cov­er­age, and aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims, to help read­ers dis­cov­er what real­ly works, and what doesn’t, to improve brain health and per­for­mance at any age, to delay or pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline, and become smarter con­sumers of both media cov­er­age and sci­en­tif­ic research in the process.

Whether your goal is to become more resilient, enhance mem­o­ry, ward off Alzheimer’s dis­ease, or sim­ply improve men­tal focus to per­form bet­ter at work, this how-to guide shows you exact­ly how to “use it or lose it.”

This new and much-expand­ed edi­tion com­bines a user-friend­ly tuto­r­i­al on how the brain works with advice on how to choose and inte­grate lifestyle changes and research-based brain train­ing. Fea­tur­ing an inde­pen­dent analy­sis of hun­dreds of sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies pub­lished in the last 10 years, the book also includes in-depth inter­views with 20 lead­ing sci­en­tists who often chal­lenge con­ven­tion­al wis­dom and pre­vail­ing brain health think­ing and care.

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Further Reading:

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