1. Brain Fitness Fundamentals

High­lights from Sec­tion 1. Brain Fit­ness Fundamentals

  • The brain is com­posed of a num­ber of spe­cial­ized regions serv­ing dis­tinct functions.
  • Our life and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty depend on a vari­ety of brain func­tions, not just one.
  • There is noth­ing inher­ent­ly fixed in the tra­jec­to­ry of how brain func­tions evolve as we age.

In order to make informed deci­sions about brain health and brain train­ing, you need to first under­stand the under­ly­ing orga­ni­za­tion of the human brain and how it evolves across our lives.


Brain structures: all you need to know

The dom­i­nant struc­ture of the human brain is called the cere­brum, which con­sists of the grey, curly cor­tex. The cere­brum is divid­ed into two hemi­spheres (right and left), each con­sist­ing of four lobes, and con­trols high­er men­tal func­tions. As you can see in Fig­ure 1, the four lobes of the brain are the occip­i­tal, tem­po­ral, pari­etal and frontal lobes. Keep read­ing.


Brain functions: perception, attention, memory, and more

You have prob­a­bly heard about cog­ni­tive func­tion or cog­ni­tion. What is cog­ni­tion? Cog­ni­tion has to do with how a per­son under­stands and acts in the world. It is a set of process­es that are part of near­ly every human action. Cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties are the brain-based skills we need to car­ry out any task – from the sim­plest to the most com­plex. They have more to do with the mech­a­nisms of how we learn, remem­ber, prob­lem-solve, and pay atten­tion rather than with any actu­al knowl­edge. Any task can be bro­ken down into the dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive skills or func­tions need­ed to com­plete that task suc­cess­ful­ly. Keep read­ing.


The aging brain: cognitive improvement and decline

As we age, our whole body changes. The same is true for the brain. The most com­mon struc­tur­al change is brain atro­phy as neu­rons, and most­ly con­nec­tions between neu­rons, die. In terms of func­tion­al changes, age-relat­ed cog­ni­tive decline typ­i­cal­ly starts at about forty when the brain pro­cess­ing speed slows down. Keep read­ing.


Neuroplasticity: the potential for brain development

In the past decade there has been a fun­da­men­tal change in our under­stand­ing of human brain capac­i­ty. New research from sci­en­tists at the Salk Insti­tute, the Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute, Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and else­where has giv­en a renewed, pos­i­tive view of the human brain and its poten­tial for change and devel­op­ment through­out life. Keep read­ing.


Lifelong learning: why it is neuroprotective

Learn­ing is the phys­i­cal process of chang­ing our brains. Today we know this is pos­si­ble at all ages, bring­ing the con­cept and prac­tice of life­long learn­ing to the fore­front. Keep read­ing.


What is brain fitness: improving cognitive abilities

Brain fit­ness is our brain’s abil­i­ty to read­i­ly cre­ate addi­tion­al con­nec­tions between neu­rons, and even to pro­mote new neu­rons in cer­tain parts of the brain. Research in neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science shows that vig­or­ous men­tal activity
can lead to good brain fit­ness, which in turn, trans­lates into a sharp­er mem­o­ry, faster pro­cess­ing of infor­ma­tion, bet­ter atten­tion, and oth­er improved cog­ni­tive skills. Keep read­ing.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewsletter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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