Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Let’s improve Brain Health Literacy during Brain Awareness Week 2018

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Please join us in get­ting ready to cel­e­brate Brain Aware­ness Week 2018 (March 12–18th), the annu­al glob­al cam­paign orga­nized by the Dana Foun­da­tion to increase pub­lic aware­ness about the progress and ben­e­fits of brain research.

To learn about activ­i­ties in your area, please vis­it BAW’s Inter­na­tion­al Cal­en­dar of events.

And remem­ber you don’t need to trav­el any­where to improve your brain health lit­er­a­cy and to adopt smarter, brain-friend­ly habits. Here are ten use­ful facts and tips com­ing from the hun­dreds of sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies 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. As evi­denced by life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, our lifestyles are even more impor­tant than our genes in shap­ing how our brains grow and our minds evolve.

2. There is more than one “It” in “Use It or Lose It” — our men­tal per­for­mance depends on a vari­ety of brain func­tions, 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. Chron­ic stress reduces and can even inhib­it neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons), and impair mem­o­ry, men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty and deci­sion-mak­ing. So it’s good to see grow­ing evi­dence that med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py and biofeed­back can empow­er every­one to self-reg­u­late phys­i­o­log­i­cal stress.

5. 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 even with Alzheimer’s pathol­o­gy.

6. The only leisure activ­i­ty that has been asso­ci­at­ed with reduced cog­ni­tive func­tion is watch­ing tele­vi­sion. Why? Well, rou­tine, pas­sive activ­i­ties do not chal­lenge the brain. Exer­cis­ing the brain requires try­ing new and effort­ful things, gen­er­at­ing new thoughts and strate­gies and lessons learned.

7. The Mediter­ranean Diet, sup­ple­ment­ed with olive oil and nuts, is asso­ci­at­ed with decreased risk of cog­ni­tive decline.

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. Mod­er­ate dos­es of caf­feine increase alert­ness but there is no clear sus­tained life­time health ben­e­fit — or harm.

10. Final­ly, one very impor­tant fact. There’s no “mag­ic pill” that works for every­one and for every­thing, so it’s impor­tant to nav­i­gate best options based on indi­vid­ual needs and pri­or­i­ties.

What counts in terms of brain health and men­tal fit­ness is not read­ing this article–or any other–but prac­tic­ing smart behav­iors every day. Revis­it the fact above that real­ly grabbed your atten­tion and make a deci­sion to try some­thing new to cel­e­brate Brain Aware­ness Week.

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

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