The concept of brain fitness has gotten much more refined in just the last few years, as our technology, like fMRI, has taken us inside the human head to watch activity as brains are presented certain stimuli, like Helen Fisher, Ph.D. has done with the experience of love.
My mom and dad did nothing specific for brain fitness, and until the 1990's, which was called the Decade of the Brain, there was not a great deal of thought given to specifics about keeping your brain sharp in your later years.
However, that has all changed. There is now a great deal more knowledge about how the brain and its circuits can be enhanced.
(Read The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD, to get a taste).
Dr. Doidge will introduce you to brain fitness discoveries and concepts like neurogenisis and neuroplasticity, which were unheard of until recent years. Neurogenesis is very important to me, as my brain continues to generate new neurons throughout the life span, if I prepare the garden, so to speak, and those new brain cells migrate to the hippocampus, which is so important in memory. What poisons the garden, hindering or eliminating neurogenesis? Stress hormones.
What techniques can I use to manage stress and maximize my brains health, and wealth?
Most of the things we need to do to maximize brain fitness are rather mundane, unless you are not doing them, of course, and include physical fitness, nutrition, stress management, sleep, and finding creative and novel challenge for the brain.
That "creative and novel challenge" is where the marketers are holding sway right now.
And that is where I can offer a bit of experience, and even a recommendation for further reading.
In fact, I have recently seen posts online about hiring a brain coach like one would hire a personal coach.
A brain fitness pro?
Actually,there are a number of brain fitness pros emerging into the research and marketing of brain fitness.
As I have a 60 year old brain, I am interested in this field both personally and professionally. As a counselor, I want to bring the best possible tools to my clients, as a parent and husband, I want to take the best possible care of my family, so I am looking at what the brain fitness pros are doing, even trying some of it out, in hopes that I can pass along the benefits of my experience.
While I have a lot of professional experience as a clinician and can teach based on my experience as a professional in regards to what can help a client move through the counseling experience, I have not done any research and cannot evaluate research as well as I can work as a counselor, which leaves me feeling at a bit of a disadvantage when I read about brain fitness research, and it leaves me feeling worried about my ability to sort through the marketing chaff for the beneficial wheat in regards to brain fitness.
However, I have discovered a resource which I really like put together by two neuroscientists at the University of Michigan, Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D., called Brainfit for Life, which you can explore by clicking the link below.
Dr. Doidge, in his exploration of Michael Merzenich's work at Posit Science, indicates that for the brain to have its best chance at neurogenesis, the brain must be challenged by new learning.
For example, for me to read another book about counseling would not be a novel challenge to my brain, since it already has many brain maps in place in regards to counseling.
Learning a new language or how to play an instrument would be a new challenge, and would facilitate neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, characteristics of a healthy brain.
And if learning a new language is not your cup of tea, but exploring a tool for use on your computer is, Dr. Merzenich has created a couple of programs which are excellent, according to the research, for fomenting novel challenge to the brain.
His program uses auditory processing, and as an older brain uses it, all the neurons involved in hearing are reminded to fire in tight sequence and the dendrites which grow on active neurons are encouraged to sprout and connect, which keeps that brain able to process auditory data effectively.
The practical gain for older brains? We can remember just the right word at just the right time to communicate a subtle concept.
Martin Walker is another of the brain fitness pros to pay attention to. Martin looked at the research that Bushkull and Jaeggie were doing with something called the dual n back task, which can be a frustrating tool to practice with until you get a sense of how to use it, then you will see your scores get stronger and stronger.
Martin calls his adaptation of this task Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, and it is a program you buy to download to your computer for daily practice for 19 days, about 20 minutes at a time.
After that initial daily sequence, practice can be of the maintanence variety. Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro trains what is called fluid intelligence, which helps us discriminate between all the different kinds of stimuli in our lives. In other words, it is easier for me to stay focused on the task at hand, without so much distraction.
This brain fitness program is measured using before and after IQ tests, and the improvements are statistically significant.
In fact, there does not appear to be any upper level to your improvement.
(Please remember that increased IQ scores do not translate to immediate fame and riches).
From Evans and Burghardt, "Brain Fitness for Life", their commentary on the research mentioned above.
"However, there is promise on the global training front.
A recent study at the University of Michigan showed
improvement in ‘fluid intelligence’ with a specific training
protocol. Fluid intelligence is your ability to reason your way
to solve problems in areas where you have no prior experience.
It’s the ability to generalize your knowledge to fit and adapt to
new situations, which is what the human brain is so advanced
at doing. Researchers in the UM study were able to train
volunteers on one cognitive task and get them to improve their
performance on a completely different task, which no research
had successfully shown before. Working on fluid intelligence
is the goal of the brain-fitness software industry and maybe
more research on fluid intelligence will eventually get them
The next brain fitness pro is actually a brain fitness company, called Lumosity.
The Lumosity program is a subscription program which I practice on my computer, at my leisure.
There are a number of tools offered to increase any number of brain fitness kinds of issues, working memory, processing speed, spatial recall, (monster garden defeats me sometimes), focus, response inhibition, and verbal fluency, for example.
As I practice my Lumosity, I can see my improvements, and I will see where I can use extra work.
The nice thing about this kind of practice is that it is time effective, I can spend 10-20 minutes on it regularly and the benefits are there for my family and professional life, just like my cardio or weight resistance workout.
One of the nice things about Lumosity is the constant updates and opportunity to interact with the company staff online. I consider that to be a true bonus.
The next brain fitness pro to pay close attention to is Alex Doman from Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT). ABT has been involved in this field for a long time, sixty years, and Alex has a tremendous amount of knowledge about brain fitness. His company is soon to come into the affiliate marketplace with their new brain fitness program Brain Builder 3.0, which is fun and lively game, utilizing classical music as part of the experience. None of the other programs utilize classical music as extensively as Brain Builder 3.0.
If you are looking for a nutritional supplement to aid and abet your brain fitness, these are the best. Omega 3's are vital to your neuronal well being. Think of trying to talk without access to all the letters of the alphabet. Communication is garbled, and so it is when our cells try to communicate with one another without all the chemical letters in their alphabets. Signals are crossed, confusion results, immune system is less functional. Neurons have a huge amount of omega 3's in their outer layer. If neurons need omega 3's I will even eat fish.
From Brainfit for Life, by Evans and Burghardt,"...This is important because it’s difficult to get all the
brain-boosting affects of omega-3s strictly from grain and nut
sources. Fish is really the best.
All in all omega-3s play a role in many brain functions;
from regulating mood to increasing cognitive abilities. These
reasons put foods rich in omega-3s near the top of the list for a
brain healthy diet."
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.