Saturday, 15 April 2017

Best ways to improve your Brain

A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain. They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage simply isn’t true. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change—even into old age. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. You can train your brain just like you would your biceps to perform at a significantly higher level, says neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of the University of California San Francisco, and the creator of, a site designed specifically for getting your brain into better shape. According to Merzenich, no matter what your age or current intelligence level, that gray matter in your skull is constantly changing and evolving. Put a little work into it, he says, and your IQ, visual acuity, and ability to manage and process data (i.e., the stuff that makes you “smart”) can grow and improve right along with it. TIPS ON THE BEST WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN 1 Mind what you eat What you eat affects how you think,” says Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “And eating a high-fructose diet over the long term may alter your brain’s ability to learn and remember information,” he says. In a study of almost 4,000 children, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers found that kids who were given a “traditional” or “health-conscious” diet consistently scored better on IQ tests than children fed a diet high in processed foods. Although the human brain grows at its fastest during the first three years of life, researchers say a clean, healthy diet is just as important after the brain is fully developed. Research also shows that omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for brain health. Fish is a particularly rich source of omega-3, especially cold water “fatty fish” such as salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. 2 Exercise Scientists at the University of Illinois have proven exercise’s prowess at keeping the brain healthy. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School. Also many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. 3 Sleep Your brain isn’t just fresher after eight full hours of sleep. It also has more learning potential, and performs better than when it’s sleep deprived, according to studies. Research from the University of Notre Dame found that people who get enough sleep are also better able to remember visual cues and process emotional information than men and women who skimp on pillow time. Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleeping, but few realize that their performance has actually improved. When German researchers at the University of Luebeck gave a group of men and women between the ages of 18 and 32 a series of complex math problems to solve, they found that well-rested individuals were three times more likely to figure out the rule for solving the equations than those who weren’t getting enough sleep. 4 Social Interaction Studies show social activities improve your mind. Interacting with people challenges your memory, and forces your brain to stay nimble and grow,” says Pasinski. When psychologists at University College London analyzed brain scans from 125 college age students and then looked at their Facebook accounts, they found that the students with the most friends also had significantly larger brains, especially in the areas associated with memory and emotional response. As psychologist Daniel Goleman notes in his book Emotional Intelligence, “laughter… seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely.” 5 Listening to music research has shown that listening to music while exercising boosted cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease (coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities). In this study, signs of improvement in the verbal fluency areas more than doubled after listening to music compared to that of the non-music session. Several studies also found that playing video games stimulates the parts of the brain that control movement, memory, planning, and fine motor skills. 6 Learning new skills Pick something new each day—a cell phone number, a song lyric, a new vocabulary word, a favorite quote—and try committing it to memory, quizzing yourself every few hours to see how well you’re remembering it. “It may sound like a waste of time, but it’s an incredibly useful exercise,” says Marie Pasinski, M.D., a Harvard neurologist and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost your Brain Power. 7 Take some drinks In a study conducted at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in Italy, researchers found that 29% of people over the age of 65 who rarely drank during the course of their life experienced some form of mental impairment as they got older, compared with just 19% of people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol. Sources: Havard health publication