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Want to Improve Memory? Strengthen Your Synapses.

News­wise released an arti­cle called “Want to Improve Mem­o­ry? Strength­en Your Synaps­es. Here’s How.” based on find­ings find­ings pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary issue of Mind, Mood and Mem­o­ry, a newslet­ter from Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal, a lead­ing cen­ter of excel­lence in the field of cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Essen­tial­ly, they explain how a decline in the health of neu­ronal synaps­es can lead to a decline in mem­o­ry and gen­er­al men­tal fit­ness.
Neuronal Synapse
For those you aren’t famil­iar with synaps­es, they are the spaces between neu­rons where the elec­tri­cal sig­nal trav­el­ing down from the tree-like den­drites at the top of the cell through the cell body and down the tubu­lar axon changes into a chem­i­cal sig­nal (neu­ro­trans­mit­ter) to talk to neigh­bor­ing cells. In this pic­ture from the arti­cle, the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter is rep­re­sent­ed by the red dots. We have more than 100 bil­lion neu­rons that can be con­nect­ed to hun­dreds of oth­er cells by as many as 10,000 synaps­es.

Here are a few good quotes from the arti­cle …

New infor­ma­tion is absorbed and retained through a process char­ac­ter­ized by changes in synap­tic inter­con­nec­tions among neu­rons in the hip­pocam­pus and cere­bral cor­tex, regions of the brain asso­ci­at­ed with mem­o­ry. But the abil­i­ty to learn and remem­ber, along with oth­er men­tal and emo­tion­al process­es, can be influ­enced by the effects of lifestyle and envi­ron­ment on the synaps­es. Stud­ies sug­gest that neu­rons that are adverse­ly affect­ed by fac­tors such as stress, lack of stim­u­la­tion, or neu­ro­tox­ins may be ham­pered in their abil­i­ty to form new pat­terns of con­nec­tiv­i­ty and may lose synap­tic con­nec­tions.

It is gen­er­al­ly agreed that learn­ing occurs when the acqui­si­tion of new infor­ma­tion caus­es synap­tic changes, but sci­en­tists are not yet cer­tain pre­cise­ly how these changes come about. Sev­er­al the­o­ries have been pro­posed. In one, called the Heb­bian the­o­ry, it is thought that any two cells or sys­tems of cells that are repeat­ed­ly acti­vat­ed at the same time will tend to become “asso­ci­at­ed,” so that activ­i­ty in one makes it more like­ly the oth­er will become active. Repeat­ed co-acti­va­tion of con­nect­ed cells is thought to make phys­i­cal changes in the brain—such as the devel­op­ment of new synaps­es between neu­rons or more recep­tors in the post-synap­tic membrane—that lead to a last­ing mem­o­ry.

The arti­cle con­cludes with these rec­om­men­da­tions to help you keep your mind active and alert:

  1. Reduce stress: Make time for leisure activ­i­ties. Learn relax­ation tech­niques such as med­i­ta­tion. Cut down on unnec­es­sary respon­si­bil­i­ties and avoid over-sched­ul­ing.
  2. Stim­u­late your brain: Avoid rou­tine. Enjoy new sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences. Chal­lenge your mind and body with new sit­u­a­tions.
  3. Exer­cise: A brisk walk or oth­er car­dio­vas­cu­lar work­out oxy­genates the brain and pro­motes brain growth fac­tors.
  4. Chal­lenge your mind: Tack­le puz­zles, games and demand­ing intel­lec­tu­al tasks. Make an effort to learn new infor­ma­tion through class­es or read­ing.
  5. Stay healthy: Eat a nutri­tious diet, get ade­quate sleep, avoid smok­ing, and if you use alco­hol, drink in mod­er­a­tion.

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