Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


2. The 4 Pillars of Brain Maintenance

High­lights from Sec­tion 2: The 4 Pil­lars of Brain Main­te­nance

  • Thanks to life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, our lifestyles and actions play a mean­ing­ful role in how our brains phys­i­cal­ly change.
  • There is no “gen­er­al solu­tion” to brain main­te­nance. A mul­ti-pronged approach cen­tered on nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, and both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise is rec­om­mend­ed for bet­ter brain health.

In Sec­tion 1, you learned about brain func­tions and neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. As you will dis­cov­er in the present sec­tion, the idea of brain main­te­nance rests upon these two key con­cepts. Before focus­ing on brain train­ing in Sec­tion 3 we would like to give you now an over­all view of what one can do to main­tain good brain health.

Why a brain-healthy lifestyle is so important

The lat­est sci­en­tif­ic research shows that spe­cif­ic lifestyles and actions can, no mat­ter our age, improve the health and lev­el of func­tion­ing of our brains. Such improve­ment can hap­pen thanks to neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty that is, when the rate of cre­ation and sur­vival of new neu­rons in cer­tain parts of the brain is increased, or when the rate of cre­ation and sur­vival of synaps­es (the con­nec­tions between neu­rons) speeds up, or when a neu­ro­chem­i­cal envi­ron­ment is nur­tured in our brains to sup­port infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing.

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Assorted Fruits & Vegetables

Nutrition and supplements (DHEA, Ginkgo Biloba, Omega‑3): separating myth from fact

The brain con­sumes con­sid­er­able amount of glu­cose. One of the ear­li­est sign of demen­tia is a decrease in the abil­i­ty of the brain to use glu­cose effi­cient­ly. As such a dys­func­tion is at the core of dia­betes, some neu­ro­sci­en­tists refer to Alzheimer’s Dis­ease as Type 3 dia­betes.

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Stress management: exercise, relax, socialize, empower, biofeedback

Pro­longed expo­sure to high lev­els of stress can dam­age the brain. As part of a brain-healthy life-style it is essen­tial to man­age stress effi­cient­ly.

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Physical exercise: why aerobic exercise enhances neurogenesis and neuroplasticity

As lit­tle as three hours a week of brisk walk­ing has been shown to halt, and even reverse, the brain atro­phy (shrink­age) that starts in a per­son­’s for­ties, espe­cial­ly in the regions respon­si­ble for mem­o­ry and high­er cog­ni­tion. Exer­cise increas­es the brain’s vol­ume of gray mat­ter (actu­al neu­rons) and white mat­ter (con­nec­tions between neu­rons).

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Mental stimulation: building a Brain/ Cognitive Reserve with novelty, variety and challenge

The cog­ni­tive or brain reserve hypoth­e­sis states that it is pos­si­ble to build up the brain’s resilience to neu­ronal dam­age and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symp­toms. The con­cept of brain reserve stems from the repeat­ed obser­va­tion that the rela­tion­ship between clin­i­cal symp­toms and actu­al brain pathol­o­gy is not direct.

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Brain maintenance: cognitive enhancement first, Alzheimer’s delay second

Brain main­te­nance may play a role in post­pon­ing the emer­gence of demen­tia-relat­ed symp­toms. A sig­nif­i­cant amount of research has been con­duct­ed on healthy aging in the past two decades. A num­ber of fac­tors have been asso­ci­at­ed with reduced risks of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

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Summary: how to live a brain-healthy lifestyle

As a gen­er­al guide­line, what is good for the body is also good for the brain. Chron­ic stress reduces and can even inhib­it neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Phys­i­cal exer­cise has been shown to enhance brain phys­i­ol­o­gy in ani­mals and, more recent­ly, in humans. Men­tal Stim­u­la­tion strength­ens the synaps­es or con­nec­tions between neu­rons, thus improv­ing neu­ron sur­vival and cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing.

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.

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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