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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