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Life Talk!

Brain Exercise 101: Answers to your 7 Most Common Questions

Genti

Genti

Albania

Major media publications (Time Magazine, Newsweek, CBS, USA Today…) are starting to explain the scientific evidence behind how brain training can improve memory and concentration and help delay diseases such as Alzheimer's. We have engaged our neuroscience and health experts to prepare answers to these 7 Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why is it so important to exercise our brains?

Answer: Our brains are composed of different areas or "mental muscles", and we can strengthen them through mental exercise- or they get atrophied for lack of practice. The benefits are both short-term (improved concentration and memory, sustained mental clarity under stressful situations…), and long-term (creation of a "brain reserve" that help protect us against potential problems such as Alzheimer's).

2. What are 1 or 2 things that are guaranteed "brain drains"?

Answer: Too much anxiety can make us waste our mental efforts on things we don't control and can derail our efforts to reach our goals. A very repetitive and routine-driven life, lacking in novelty and stimulation, does too. We have brains to be able to learn and to adapt to new environments The trick therefore, is to take on new challenges that are not way too difficult/ impossible, and learn how to manage stress to prevent anxiety from kicking-in.

3. Tell us a few easy-to-do activities that we should all be doing often?

Answer: For stress management: a 5-minute visualization, combining deep and regular breathings with seeing in our mind's eye beautiful landscapes and/ or remembering times in our past when we have been successful at a tough task.

For short-term memory: try a series subtracting 7 from 200 (200 193 186 179…), or a series involving multiplication (2,3 4,6 6,9 8,12…) or exponential series (2 4 8 16 32 64…). The goal is not to be a math genius, simply to train and improve our short-term memory.

Another way is to try and remember our friends telephone numbers. In general: try something different every day, no matter how little. Take a different route to work. Talk to a different colleague. Ask an unexpected question. Approach every day as a living experiment, a learning opportunity.


4. Are crossword puzzles and sudoku really as great for exercising our brain as they are reported to be? Why? And what about activities like knitting?

Answer: "Use it or lose it" may be misleading if we think that "It" is just one thing. The brain is composed of many different areas that focus on different things. Doing a crossword puzzle only activates a small part of the brain. The 3 key principles for good brain exercises are: novelty, variety and constant challenge. Quite similar to cross-training our body muscles.

The first time we do a crossword, or sudoku or knitting, that is great, because it forces us to learn. But when doing it is completely routine, the marginal benefit is very limited. Nowadays neuropsychologists do not recommend paper-based activities but computer-based brain exercise software programs, since they can provide a variety of new activities all the time, always tailored with a proper increasing level of challenge.

5. Any foods that increase our brain fitness?

Answer: The main principle is that foods that are good for our body are also good for our brain. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, and tuna, also have shown some benefits. There is contradictory data on Ginkgo biloba. The best "brain food" is, literally, mental stimulation.

6. Does physical exercise also exercise our brains?

Answer: In summary, physical exercise is important because it influences the rate of creation of new neurons in our brains. Mental exercise is important because it helps determine how those new neurons are used-and how long they survive. Stress can reduce both the creation of new neurons and their lifetime, so stress management is important too.

7. Isn't active learning, that combines physical and mental exercise, the best way to stimulate the brain?

Answer: We are talking about 2 different things here: a) Habits for long-term good brain health: we typically list the 4 pillars of nutrition, physical exercise, stress management and brain exercise. Yes, constant active learning provides with great mental stimulation; b) Short-term Training and improvement of one specific area (memory,...): you need something more direct and well-targeted training experience such as that provided by a computer-based program, that assesses where you are today and "stretches" that specific capacity.

Both aspects are very important, in the same way that both walking often and going to the gym to do targeted workouts are complementary for physical fitness.

This article should have provided you with good information to reclaim your brain! remember, Use It and Improve It!
     

09:07 PM Jan 11 2008 |

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Ŧңέ Ģâறє

Ŧңέ Ģâறє

United Arab Emirates

thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaNx Genti

11:22 PM Jan 11 2008 |

Genti

Genti

Albania

u are welcome :)  

11:32 PM Jan 11 2008 |

KieuChinh

KieuChinh

Viet Nam

Among these things you wrote, Which thing is the most important for improving memory and concentration? Did you do all these things? The things you wrote are logical. However, if i don't have enough time to do all of them. Do you think what i should do?

04:59 AM Jan 12 2008 |

Genti

Genti

Albania

well good is to do all of them:P   

07:37 PM Jan 14 2008 |

Genti

Genti

Albania

well good is to do all of them:P   

07:37 PM Jan 14 2008 |

englishlrnr

Pakistan

Your efforts are acknoledged

11:11 PM Jun 25 2016 |

antony101

antony101

India

Thanks for this useful info, i would love to make my english better


02:24 AM Feb 21 2017 |