Research has shown that keeping the brain active, and providing it with varied stimulation, can improve and prolong healthy brain performance. At any age, brain training creates new neural pathways and connections that can be used as a sort of “brain piggy bank,” letting you draw on these reserves later in life. Many people function at a high level of razor-sharp brain performance throughout their lives by training their brains with stimulation and challenges. It is important, in making a difference to your brain’s health, to provide it with stimuli that are diverse and complex.
The following is a list of just a few of the benefits that can be achieved by training your brain:
- Enhanced problem-solving
- Enhanced reasoning abilities
- Enhanced understanding of new information
- Enhanced ability to practice essential habits
- Enhancement of abstract thinking
- Enhanced perception in judgment
- Enhanced observation skills
- Enhanced decision-making skills
If I stress “enhancement,” it’s because the result of brain training is just that: enhancement of your thinking, your performance, and your reasoning skills.
Studies tell us that we may radically improve the odds of staying mentally and physically fit throughout our lives. While good diet and exercise are key factors in staying physically fit, they also play a part in staying mentally fit. Consistent physical exercise, a balanced diet, a healthy social life and connections with others, and mental stimulation, are key factors keeping our brains sharp and agile.
There are several physiological mechanisms that come into play with brain training. These mechanisms assist in keeping your brain healthy:
- Stimulated (and, therefore, active) neurons receive more oxygen and beneficial nutritional elements.
- Stimulation of neurons increases the number of connections between synapses.
- Neurons that are kept active are crucial to producing new neurons, as well as cultivating them and helping them to last.
- Neurons can be restored with stem cells, even in adulthood.
Over the last 25 years, scientists and physicians all over the world have followed and tested large groups of people in an attempt to understand why some people, over the course of their lives, stay sharp and “with-it”, while others don’t. As a result, we now have a substantial body of research in an area called “cognitive reserve“. It is now known that complex mental activity can benefit the brain by building cognitive and brain reserves. These reserves (remember our “brain piggy bank”) represent an increase in neurons and synaptic connections (previously, it was believed that once we reached adulthood, new neurons could no longer be generated). Additionally, this backup of cognitive abilities represents a functional evolution of neural plasticity. This heightens our performance, either by calling on other brain regions, or implementing new cognitive strategies. If we have our brain thus strengthened, we boost its capacity to face the effects of aging or neurodegenerative diseases.
Challenging, interactive games, targeted brain training, dancing, and other interaction with people, gives you a 65% to 75% chance of remaining “sharp,” and avoiding memory disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers.
When we use the phrase “use it or lose it,” we can apply it to neural pathways and connections in our brains as well as to muscles in our bodies. This is true at any age. The scientific evidence is overwhelming: brain training and a mentally stimulating life increases brain power.
*Photos courtesy of hubblesite.org
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