How can you improve your "brain muscles?"
When I was a kid, a long time ago, maybe even in a different galaxy, my mentors and instructors said that the way to be successful in the world was to read, when you had problems, even emotional difficulties, gathering knowledge was the way to surmount this internal (feeling) and external issues, and so I did that. Still do that, and over the years I have continued to look for tools that help me develop my mental muscles.
I remember a speed reading course that my dad bought in the 1950's for example, which had this little blue box with a shutter, which allowed only so much exposure to a phrase, and I worked with that over the years, in hopes that speed reading would make me into a brain muscle giant, but it did not seem to work much better than what I was already doing, which was read a lot.
In the mid-1990's I came across a book by Michael Hutchinson or Hutchison titled "MegaBrain", which was about the emerging field of brain technologies.
Hutchinson wrote about Open Focus, a kind of Zen based biofeedback, which I found very useful for soothing my somewhat fevered brain, and he wrote about EEG biofeedback, another tool that I have used which allows me to train brain wave frequencies, which proved to be very useful for addiction clients, and through my involvement in that field, I was introduced to HeartMath, or heart rate variability biofeedback, which has proven to be an incredibly useful tool in my brain muscles game plan, because of its stress management capacities.
There were other technologies that Hutchison wrote about, but I will not go into those here, because nowadays there are actually some computerized brain muscle building tools available, which you can use on your home or work computers.
When Hutchinson wrote, for example, PC's were not available in everyone's home, and now they are.
When I returned to graduate school in 1993, I was actually proud that I could not use a computer, now I am earning my living on one, and funding my retirement online too.
And since Hutchinson's book, the neuroscientists have discovered some very interesting stuff about the human brain, for example, that our brains grow new neurons everyday, and those neurons can become available for use in existing brain circuits for productive memory in seniors for example. That is called neurogenisis.
Our brain muscles can actually reorganize themselves based on our life experiences, and want to do that, by the way, since the brain is a data seeking organ, so if you are my age, 61, and you want to keep the brain functional, then challenge it with new learning, like starting lessons for an instrument.
And then add in those computerized tools that will exercise your brain muscles like an elliptical trainer will exercise your gluteaus maximus.
But why would we pay anymore attention to this than we used to those speed reading tools which did not work?
Read what Alvaro Fernandez has to say about the emerging field.
1- New paradigm in brain research: today it is clear that the brain retains a lifelong capacity to change responding to experience (neuroplasticity), paving the way for lifestyle-based interventions.
2- Neuroimaging tools such as fMRI enable, for the first time i history, the scientific exploration of the live brain.
3- The brain has a core set of brain functions-or “mental muscles”. Our vocabulary must expand beyond "memory" and "intelligence" if we are to help move "Use It or Lose It" from theory to practice.
4. Some brain functions improve as we age – others typically decline. And there is major variability among groups of individuals.
5- The four “pillars” of brain health: balanced nutrition, physical exercise, stress management and brain exercise.
6- Cross-training the brain builds up the Brain Reserve.
7. Well-directed mental exercise (meditation, cognitive therapy, software-based programs) can be effective to train specific skills and provide needed mental stimulation.
(Note his mention of soft-ware based programs).
8. Cognitive assessments will become critical to identify bottlenecks and measure progress.
9. The earlier we start, the better. But it is never too late to start.
10. This is still an emerging field: much more research needs to be done.
While the assessments that Mr. Fernandez advocates for are not yet available, there is a caldron which I think is appropriate for testing your brain muscle building, and that is your life.
I have used four of the brain fitness programs currently available, and I am going to start working on one of them again, the Posit Science Brain Fitness program again, because I am losing words, struggling a bit to find the word I want in my counseling sessions.
Posit Science review really helps with that.
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