Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Use It or Lose It, and Cells that Fire together Wire together

Every­one has heard of “Use It or Lose It.” Now…what is “It”?

Last week I gave a talk at the Ital­ian Con­sulate in San Fran­cis­co, and one of the areas atten­dees seemed to enjoy the most was learn­ing about what our brains are and how they work, peak­ing into the “black box” of our minds. With­out under­stand­ing a few basics, how can we make good deci­sions about brain health?

At a quick glance:, the brain is com­posed of 3 “brains” or main sub-sys­tems, each named after the evo­lu­tion­ary moment in which the sub-sys­tem is believed to have appeared.Theropod

A) Neo­cor­tex, or Human Brain, is the most recent area, where we per­form high-lev­el think­ing and com­plex inte­gra­tive tasks. Oth­er mam­mals do have this part too, but in small­er pro­por­tion of the whole brain vol­ume. This is where we have our right and left hemi­spheres.

B) Lim­bic Sys­tem, or Mam­malian Brain, crit­i­cal for emo­tions and for mem­o­ry,

C) Cere­bel­lum and Stem, or Rep­til­ian Brain, that reg­u­lates basic vital vari­ables such as breath­ing, heart­beat and motor coor­di­na­tion


About the Lim­bic Sys­tem

Emotions are gen­er­at­ed here, as well as the appetites and urges that help us sur­vive.

For instance, the amyg­dala gets trig­gered to pre­pare us to deal with a threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion, result­ing in our feel­ing of fear.

The hip­pocam­pus is key in the for­ma­tion of mem­o­ry.


About the Neo­cor­tex

The Neo­cor­tex is com­posed of:

  • Frontal Lobes: or the CEO of the Brain, for sophis­ti­cat­ed brain func­tions such as plan­ning and con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing.
  • Pari­etal lobes: Deal­ing with move­ment, the sens­es, and some forms of recog­ni­tion
  • Tem­po­ral lobes: Audi­to­ry process­es and lan­guage
  • Occip­i­tal: Visu­al pro­cess­ing cen­ter


Use it or lose it

When we exer­cise our brains, we put our neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons in action.

Cells that fire togeth­er wire togeth­er” means that synaps­es-unions between neu­rons- get solid­i­fied the more often the respec­tive neu­rons “talk” to each oth­er.

Giv­en the diver­si­ty of func­tions out­lined above, it is clear that dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties are going to acti­vate dif­fer­ent brain areas, which sci­en­tists now know thanks to neu­roimag­ing tech­niques.

There is no one mag­ic bul­let that is best (either cross­words puz­zles, or com­put­er-based pro­grams, or phys­i­cal exer­cise): We do need a vari­ety of men­tal stim­u­la­tion or “brain exer­cis­es” to main­tain the whole brain healthy.


Read more about the brain and brain skills/cognitive abil­i­ties:

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10 Responses

  1. Wilson Teh says:

    This is a infor­ma­tive site for brain relat­ed knowl­edge. Great job !

    Wil­son Teh

  2. Alvaro says:

    Glad you enjoy it, Wil­son!

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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