Improve your brain how? Does improve your brain mean a better memory, a higher IQ, less chance of Alzheimers, better spelling, quick insights, witty retorts, mind reading, superiority, Nobel Peace Prizes, greater wealth?
Most of us who want improved brains also want the things that go with it in the external world, and most of us think that all I need to do to improve my brain in pour in knowledge, and at some point there is a tipping into superiority, I guess is the phrase to use.
Actually that kind of expectation for improving your brain is a pipe dream.
However, there are some things we can do now to increase neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, two recently discovered capacities of the human brain which underlie an improved brain.
Your brain grows new neurons every day, which is neurogenesis, and your brain is incredibly plastic, which means it grows new connections each time you learn something, and if those connections are fired enough they will remain available for work.
Until about ten years ago, no one knew our brains could rewire so profoundly or so rapidly, and now we are working on developing tools to enhance neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
In fact, in April of 2009 the IMPACT study was published which put the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program to the research test, and both the participants and the researchers were impressed by the rigor of the results.
If you are curious about what the brain fitness folks are saying about improve your brain research, and counseling, then you should read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan. Evans and Burghardt have culled the neuroscientific research looking for tidbits that you and I can use to keep our brains improved.
They write for the layperson and also write with a sly sense of humor, and they say that we can all improve your brain if we attend to the the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical activity/exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experience, and novel learning experiences might include using a computerized brain fitness program.
So now maybe you can see why I said that the phrase improve your brain might not mean what you thought it would mean.
Improve Your Brain Through Physical Exercise
The most important pillar of brain fitness according to the experts is physical activity/exercise. There is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the level of activity/exercise is not required to be Ironman Triathalon level, it can be more of what you already do. So if you walk around the block, walk enough to develop some deep breathing, deep enough that it is hard for you to talk and breathe at the same time.
The bad news is that if you want neurogenesis and neuroplasticity you have to do it.
Improve Your Brain Through Nutrition
You can find a tremendous amount of information about nutrition and your health and immune system, but I bet you had not given too much thought to how nutrition impacted neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Evans and Burghardt go into great detail about micro and macro nutrients and what they are, and they emphasize the tremendous importance of omega 3 fatty acids to your neurons. It turns out that our neurons are mostly omega 3 and if there is not a regular supply of replacement omega 3 our neurons get brittle and do not communicate with each other effectively. That looks and sounds like confusion and disorientation.
The best source of omega 3 is fish, which runs the risk of mercury poisoning, so perhaps you want to get that part of the improve your brain puzzle through a supplement which has been appropriately processed to remove mercury.
Sleep Your Way to an Improved Brain?
According to Evans and Burghardt the improve your brain process requires a good nights rest so your brain can consolidate the days learning and complete some hormonal tasks. If we cut our sleep short, our brain improvement degrades.
Same goes for stress management. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol kill those new neurons, so managing stess is a very important part of the improve your brain game plan.
Improve Your Brain Through Novel Learning Challenge
Most of the brain fitness folks indicate that to improve your brain, you must challenge it with novel learning experiences like learning a new language or learning a new instrument.
We cannot do more of the same old same old and expect to get more neuroplastic connections in our brain. So I cannot read another counseling book and expect any improvements because my brain knows counseling.
However, I can get some neuroplasticity going if I give my brain a challenge that involves an increasing level of challenge and an opportunity for an appropriate number of correct responses, like around 80%.
The improve your brain writers report that the best novel learning challenge is the kind of challenge involved in learning a new language or a new musical instrument.
Not sure about you, but I do not have time to do that even though I am inching towards retirement, so I have looked at using computerized brain improvement tools.
I have enjoyed them, and if you are considering them for your novel learning experience, then look at the IMPACT or the PNAS study to see what researchers are saying about a couple of the computerized programs. Please let me know about your experiences. Thanks. Mike with the improved brain.