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Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they help you maintain brain health. Include balance and coordination exercises. Balance and coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid spills. Try yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises using balance balls. In fact, adding just modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine can have a profound effect on your health.
Choose activities you enjoy and start small—a minute walk a few times a day, for example—and allow yourself to gradually build up your momentum and self-confidence. It takes about 28 days for a new routine to become habit, so do your best to stick with it for a month and soon your exercise routine will feel natural, even something you miss if you skip a session.
This includes repeated hits in sports activities such as football, soccer, and boxing, or one-time injuries from a bicycle, skating, or motorcycle accident. Protect your brain by wearing properly fitting sports helmets and trip-proofing your environment as you exercise. Avoid activities that compete for your attention—like talking on your cell while walking or cycling.
Human beings are highly social creatures. By adjusting your eating habits, however, you can help reduce inflammation and protect your brain. Cut down on sugar. Sugary foods and refined carbs such as white flour, white rice, and pasta can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar which inflame your brain.
Watch out for hidden sugar in all kinds of packaged foods from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and low or no-fat products. Enjoy a Mediterranean diet. That means plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil—and limited processed food.
These fats can cause inflammation and produce free radicals—both of which are hard on the brain. Get plenty of omega-3 fats. Food sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, seaweed, and sardines. You can also supplement with fish oil. Stock up on fruit and vegetables. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the more the better. Eat up across the color spectrum to maximize protective antioxidants and vitamins, including green leafy vegetables, berries, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.
Enjoy daily cups of tea. Regular consumption of great tea may enhance memory and mental alertness and slow brain aging. White and oolong teas are also particularly brain healthy. Drinking cups daily has proven benefits. Although not as powerful as tea, coffee also confers brain benefits. Cook at home often. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil may help to preserve brain health. Activities involving multiple tasks or requiring communication, interaction, and organization offer the greatest protection.
Set aside time each day to stimulate your brain:. Study a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, learn to paint or sew, or read the newspaper or a good book. One of the best ways to take up a new hobby is to sign up for a class and then schedule regular times for practicing. The greater the novelty, complexity, and challenge, the greater the benefit.
Raise the bar for an existing activity. Start with something short, progressing to something a little more involved, such as the 50 U. Create rhymes and patterns to strengthen your memory connections. Enjoy strategy games, puzzles, and riddles. Brain teasers and strategy games provide a great mental workout and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Do a crossword puzzle, play board games, cards, or word and number games such as Scrabble or Sudoku.
Observe and report like a crime detective. Capturing visual details keeps your neurons firing. Follow the road less traveled. Take a new route, eat with your non-dominant hand, rearrange your computer file system. Vary your habits regularly to create new brain pathways.
She was required to have her brain monitored while playing a simple Pac-Man-like game, controlling movements by manipulating her brain waves. Not only that it was possible, that it was up to me.
That includes yoga, meditation, visualisation, diet and the maintenance of a positive mental attitude. You may be given certain genes but what you do in your life changes your brain. You can go from being a victim to a victor. Claims for its benefits are widespread and startling. And age is no limitation: We say we are in charge of our brain.
The techniques promising to change her brain via an understanding of the principles of neuroplasticity have clearly had tremendous positive effects for her. But is it true that neuroplasticity is a superpower, like X-ray vision? Can we really increase the weight of our brain just by thinking? And learn to love broccoli? Once you were grown, you entered a state of neural decline. This was a view perhaps most famously expressed by the so-called founder of modern neuroscience Santiago Ramon y Cajal.
Everything may die, nothing may be regenerated. It is for the science of the future to change, if possible, this harsh decree. Although the notion that the adult brain could undergo significant positive changes received sporadic attention, throughout the 20th Century, it was generally overlooked, as a young psychologist called Ian Robertson was to discover in At the hospital, he witnessed adults receiving occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
And if a part of their brain had been destroyed, everyone knew it was gone forever. So how come these repetitive physical therapies so often helped?
That attitude really went back to Cajal. He really influenced the whole mindset which said that the adult brain is hardwired, all you can do is lose neurons, and that if you have brain damage all you can do is help the surviving parts of the brain work around it.
Rather than receiving information about the world from the eyes, he wondered if they could take it in in the form of vibrations on their skin. Pressing up against the back side of that metal sheet were plates that would vibrate in accord with the way an object was moving. Although this hypothesis is yet to be firmly established, it seems as if their brains had rewired themselves in a radical and useful way that had long been thought impossible. Next, he co-developed the cochlear implant, which helped deaf people hear.
Although it took several decades, Merzenich and Bach-y-Rita were to help prove that Cajal and the scientific consensus were wrong. The adult brain was plastic. It could rewire itself, sometimes radically. This demonstrated their brains had rewired themselves as a result of their many, many, many hours of practice.
Three years later, a Swedish-American team, led by Peter Eriksson of Sahlgrenska University Hospital, published a study in Nature that showed, for the very first time, that neurogenesis — the creation of new brain cells — was possible in adults. It went on to sell more than one million copies in more than countries. Suddenly, neuroplasticity was everywhere.
I do think human beings have much more control over their brain function than has been appreciated — Ian Robertson. But neuroplasticity really is a remarkable thing. Does he agree that the power of positive thinking has now gained scientific credibility? Surely, I ask Robertson, they still hold a powerful influence over everything from our health to our character?
Adding extra tangle to the already confused public discussion of neuroplasticity is the fact that the word itself can mean several things. But the brain can adapt in many different ways. Neuroplasticity can refer to structural changes, such as when neurons are created or die off or when synaptic connections are created, strengthened or pruned. It can also refer to functional reorganisations, such as those experienced by the blind patients of Paul Bach-y-Rita, whose contraptions triggered their brains to start using their visual cortices.
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