Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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In honor of Brain Awareness Week 2017, let’s discuss these 10 Key Facts To Harness Neuroplasticity And Improve Brain Fitness

This week is Brain Aware­ness Week, so let me share–and let’s discuss!–these 10 Key Facts to Har­ness Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty & Improve Brain Fit­ness that come from the hun­dreds of sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical stud­ies we ana­lyzed to pre­pare the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Improve Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age:

  • 1. Genes do not deter­mine the fate of our brains. Thanks to life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, our lifestyles are as impor­tant as our genes-if not more- in how our brains grow and our minds evolve.
  • 2. There is more than one “It” in “Use It or Lose It” — our per­for­mance depends on a vari­ety of brain func­tions and cog­ni­tive skills, not just one (be it “atten­tion” or “mem­o­ry” or any oth­er).
  • 3. Phys­i­cal exer­cise and increased fit­ness pro­mote brain func­tion­ing through a vari­ety of mech­a­nisms, such as increased brain vol­ume, blood sup­ply and growth hor­mone lev­els. In par­tic­u­lar, car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to bring the great­est brain ben­e­fits.
  • 4. Men­tal stim­u­la­tion strength­ens the con­nec­tions between neu­rons (synaps­es), improv­ing neu­ron sur­vival and cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing and build­ing your cog­ni­tive reserve–which helps your brain bet­ter cope both nor­mal aging and Alzheimer’s pathol­o­gy in the long-term.
  • 5. The only leisure activ­i­ty that has been asso­ci­at­ed with reduced cog­ni­tive func­tion is watch­ing tele­vi­sion. What could explain that? Well, rou­tine, pas­sive activ­i­ties do not chal­lenge the brain. Keep­ing up the chal­lenge requires going to the next lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty, try­ing some­thing new, gen­er­at­ing new thoughts and strate­gies and lessons learned.
  • 6. The Mediter­ranean Diet, sup­ple­ment­ed with olive oil and nuts, is asso­ci­at­ed with decreased risk of cog­ni­tive decline.
  • 7. Mod­er­ate dos­es of caf­feine increase alert­ness but there is no clear sus­tained life­time health ben­e­fit (or harm).
  • 8. Tak­ing “brain sup­ple­ments”  does not seem to boost cog­ni­tive func­tion or reduce risks of cog­ni­tive decline or demen­tia, unless direct­ed to address an iden­ti­fied defi­cien­cy.
  • 9. Chron­ic stress reduces and can even inhib­it neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Mem­o­ry and gen­er­al men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty are impaired by chron­ic stress…so it’s good to see the grow­ing evi­dence that med­i­ta­tion and biofeed­back can suc­cess­ful­ly teach users to self-reg­u­late phys­i­o­log­i­cal stress.
  • 10. No size fits all…so it’s crit­i­cal to under­stand and address indi­vid­ual needs and start­ing point.

What counts in terms of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and brain health is not read­ing this article–or any other–but prac­tic­ing healthy behav­iors every day. Revis­it the fact above that real­ly grabbed your atten­tion, ide­al­ly one that you may have over­looked and there­fore may bring most “bang for the buck,” and make a deci­sion to try some­thing new this spring.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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