We are at an unprecedented moment in history, one in which brain science and technology are co-evolving. We can now hack our own hardware, so to speak, and as a result, our brains don’t need to remain as we’ve inherited them. We’re now just discovering the tools to shape our own destiny. Who we become is up to us.
A new area of science is analyzing which healthy habits best keep your mind and memory unaffected even when a brain scan would reveal the inflammation, free radical damage, and weakened synapse connections that often cause “senior” moments in the 40’s and beyond.
Play Games with your Frontal Lobe
Here is a tip from Kenneth S. Kosik, MD, the co-director of the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of Santa Barbara. Whether you’re deliberating a chess move or bluffing at cards, you’re also giving the frontal lobe, the area of your brain that handles executive function, a workout. “The frontal lobe is particularly vulnerable to degeneration and the effect of aging,” says Dr. Kosik. According to a 2014 University of Wisconsin study, older adults who routinely worked on puzzles and played board games had higher brain volume in the area of responsible or cognitive functions including memory, than those who didn’t play games.
You don’t need fancy computer programs or complicated “brain games” to do it – simple “brain calisthenics” or “aerobics for your brains” that involve new ways of doing everyday things are all it takes. Adding brain calisthenics to your mix of brain healthy pursuits could make an even bigger difference. Your brain is activated by your senses, and you encounter new stimuli all the time. Activities that involve one or more of your senses in a new way, such as getting dressed with your eyes closed, or that combine two or more senses in unexpected ways, such as listening to a piece of music while smelling an aroma, can strengthen synapses between nerve cells and make brain cells produce more brain growth molecules.
What are some ideas of things you can do? Love crossword puzzles or Sudoku games? Try more challenging ones. Are you a lifelong lover of books? Practice fixing things around the house. Cross-train. Get out of your comfort zone. Expect to feel challenged and even a little bit out of your depth- the idea is to push the mental envelope.
Does this really help? In a 20 year long Bronx Aging Study of nearly 500 women and men, those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities, such as games or even dancing, four times a week were up to 75 percent more likely to stay mentally sharp than those who stayed on the sideline.
Some other ways to keep you mind active for a long life are Listening to or playing music, acting and art like drawing, painting and sculpting. Listening to or playing music can activate the motor cortex (touching a piano key or guitar string), the auditory cortex (hearing the notes you make) and the emotional center, or limbic system (feeling moved by a beautiful passage). Circuits and networks are stimulated by these activities, which help keep the brain healthy,” says Dr. Kosik. Older adults who had at least ten years of musical experience did better on cognitive tests, according to a 2011 Emory University study. Acting, also is another way. Learning lines for a production or an acting class engages the hippo-campus, the temporal cortex, and the frontal lobe, says Dr. Kosik. Lastly, in regards to art, when you draw, paint or sculpt, you have to make spatial calculations and focus attention on details Dr. Kosik says. Engaging in these activities helps protect octogenarians from mild cognitive impairment.
So, what does this all mean for you? Obviously there are differences depending where you are starting right now. If you are in your 20’s and 30’s it is never too early to start setting up your mind for the future. If you are in you 40’s, 50’s & 60’s it is not too late to turn yourself around to be able to enjoy the same Long and healthy life.
Source: Readers Digest
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