Brain Strength can be increased? You can see the changes? fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagery) makes it possible to see changes in brain function (read strength)?
Yes, brain strength can be increased. You can have confidence in that statement.
However, the strengthening may not take quite the direction you expect.
The experts, like Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D. are saying that there are a number of very important aspects to brain strength, like quality sleeping, quality nutrition, stress management, novel challenge, which might include computerized brain fitness programs, physical exercise, which is perhaps the most important brain strengthening tool of all.
But that is not how I first learned to view brain strength.
I know that as a youngster growing up right after the first Sputnik was launched and experiencing the fear in the media and then being catapulted into advanced school classes because "we needed more scientists and engineers", I began to get a sense that brain strength meant a very large IQ, and instant answers to any question, which is the exact opposite of what brain strength really is.
Brain Strength is Really the Ability to Ask the Correct Question
To ask the correct question means that I need to have all the neurons in the question asking circuit firing in close coordination, growing dendrites, and making connections with other dendrites.
It is those timing and connection and communication issues which are elemental to asking the correct questions, so how do we get those circuits strong?
Well, you need the correct nutrition, to begin with.
You are what you eat, and your brain strength is an absolute reflection of what you eat.
The brain is filled with signaling molecules, all of which are manufactured from what you eat.
If you eat food that is manufactured for long shelf life, which is full of msg, high fructose corn syrup, and appetite stimulants, food that has the bran, or the fiber, or the minerals, or the vitamins, or the phytochemicals milled out of it, your brain, which demands a huge amount of energy and blood will soon begin to function weakly.
Those signaling molecules will lack letters or words of their message, so to speak, and communication in the question asking circuits of the brain will be garbled, ever so subtle at first, but more glaringly so as time passes.
Many components of food are neuroactive which means they directly stimulate or inhibit brain cell activity.
And quickly too.
Eat food as grown, hopefully grown near you, and pay attention to supplementation.
I have experienced a very nice impact recently from taking Omega 3 fish oil, just an OTC version. It has really helped my concentration.
Brain Strength and Phsyical Exercise
Ever heard of neurogenesis? Not even neuroscientists had heard of it perhaps a decade ago, and now I see articles in Scientific American about how to save the new neurons we grow every day. (It involves novel challenge and learning).
Neurogenesis is a key piece of the brain strength puzzle, and the one thing that encourages neurogenesis is exercise!
Brain Strengthening Through Physical Exercise Or Activity
Is there a difference? Yes, physical activity is the muscle contractions we ordinarily make in our day to day life, and can do more of without going to the gym to take up physical activity, a more structured kind of training, like an aerobics class.
Start with the physical activity. Park the car away from the door, use the steps instead of the elevator, ect.
Exercise increases neurogenesis and something called BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor.
BDNF appears to help neurogenesis along, and to augment synaptogenesis or synaptic connections.
Synaptic connections are very important in the ability to ask the right questions.
Exercise also increases two other growth factors that impact neurovascular growth, or blood vessels in the brain, which keeps the brain supplied with blood, oxygen and nutrients.
Since the brain is in a constant state of flux, with neurons sending out dendrites for new connections, and since those growth factors help stabilize new connections, keeping the growth factors supplied to your brain through exercise is very important.
Brain Strength from Sleep?
If I were not the boss at my job, I could take a nap and tell the boss that I was working on my neurogenesis and that sooner rather than later, he or she would see the difference in my performance.
Think that would fly?
However, brain strength is truely aided by sleep according to Evans and Burghardt.
They say that enough sleep is important and even imperative to brain strength, and that we as a culture get perhaps 90 minutes less than we used to get, with significant detriment to our cognitive capacity. We miss out on the hormones that the body needs to send out during the normal sleep cycle, which impacts the brain's ability to consolidate (let me repeat that, consolidate) memories and learning from the previous day.
Go to bed at the right time, trust your body to know what is an appropriate amount of sleep.
Brain Strength from Novel Challenge?
There are some very interesting computer based programs which can aid in the brain strengthening process.
New research has provided us novel ways to look at flashing lights, scenes, and novel ways to signal the auditory circuits, which appear to make a difference in processing speed, memory, attention, and something very dear to this old brain, fluid intelligence.
Fluid intelligence is problem solving in new circumstances where your old crystallized intelligence is not as helpful as it might be.
Sounds like parenting.
I have tried four of the currently available brain fitness programs. There are links for three of them below. The Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro program has research about it that is very good. The Lumosity program is easy to use, an online subscription, and the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program has just had excellent research done on its impact with Senior Citizens. Processing speed and attention both improved significantly. I hope you will try them right after you have a good nights sleep, some healthy breakfast, so you will be ready for any stress that comes your way. Don't forget the e-book by Evans and Burghardt, if you want to read up on their ideas prior to utilizing a brain fitness program.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
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.
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