Adult neurogenesis is real. We grow new brain cells on a daily basis.
When you are my age, 61, that is good news.
While we do grow new neurons, research indicates that the body may not keep them unless they are challenged by a novel learning experience.
We lock them into existing circuits when they are challenged by learning something new, and most of what I read says learning a new language, a new musical instrument, starting a new career, or using certain of the new computerized brain fitness programs provides the necessary learning experience.
It is important, if using the computerized brain fitness programs, to use one which provides the right kind of feeback at the right challenge level to help us to lock in the neurons
So the feedback needs to adapt to my increasing skill level, and get a little bit harder as I get better at the game.
So a crossword or sudoku, while challenging, may not provide the kind of increasing challenge necessary.
Here is what Tadzia Grandpre, Ph.D. has to say about adult neurogenesis;
"Over the past decade, adult neurogenesis has become one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving areas of research in the field of neuroscience.
A central focus of current investigations is to increase understanding of the functional significance of newly generated neurons—what they do and how they contribute to the brain's activities.
While many answers remain unknown, new insights are emerging at a stunning rate.
Indeed, experimental studies suggest that new neurons are not only generated throughout life, they also integrate into the circuitry of the brain and actively participate in its functions.
The hippocampus is known to play a critical role in learning and memory and many scientists have hypothesized that newly generated neurons within the hippocampus contribute to these processes.
Although currently limited, there is support for this hypothesis.
It appears, for instance, that conditions that impair adult neurogenesis, such as stress, also impair learning.
In contrast, conditions that promote the generation of new neurons, such as physical exercise, often are associated with improved memory and learning of tasks that rely on the hippocampus.
Studies also have shown that learning promotes the survival of new neurons.
In fact, better learners seem to retain more new neurons, especially when trained on difficult tasks.
These findings suggest an intriguing link between neurogenesis and learning.
Some evidence suggests that adult neurogenesis is not only correlated with learning and memory, but actually may be required for some forms of learning.
One study has shown that blocking adult neurogenesis in rats leads to specific impairments in the animals' ability to perform some learning and memory tasks that rely on the hippocampus.
This finding suggests that new neurons could be required for the acquisition and retention of new memories."
Research published late in 2008 indicates that one of the computerized brain fitness tools which provides the kind of learning we need for adult neurogenesis is the dual n back task.
Folks who completed 19 days of 1/2 hour per day training increased their IQ scores significantly, and actually enhanced a measure of intelligence called fluid intelligence.
That is the intelligence I use when I come into a situation where I am learning new information, and cannot use my crystallized intelligence.
(For example, if I read another counseling book, I would be using crystallized intelligence, not fluid intelligence).
One of the interesting side lights of the dual n back research is that there appears to be no upper limit to the increase in IQ possible.
The more you practice the better you get.
I have tried several of the computerized brain fitness games, and I like these four the best.
They are the ones that have made the biggest difference for me in terms of attention, memory, focus, and word recall.
Word recall is really impacted by the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program.
But to really lock in those new neurons, try the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which is the dual n back task.
He has developed a version for your kids too.
So now you know there are some computerized tools which aid in the process of adult neurogenesis.
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