Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


In honor of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, let’s discuss 10 Key Facts To Harness Brain Plasticity And Prolong Brain Health

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Aware­ness Month, so let me share 10 Key Facts to har­ness brain plas­tic­i­ty & pro­long brain health 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 (not even the infa­mous APOE4). Thanks to life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, our lifestyles are as impor­tant as our genes-if not even more impor­tant- in deter­min­ing 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 with 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, to improve and pro­long brain func­tion, 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. Please 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” now–and make a deci­sion to try some­thing new this sum­mer.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.