Brain Tips

Brain tips that have value are going to provide you new information in one of four or five areas, sleep, nutrition, stress management, physical exercise, or novel brain challenge.

Why are those areas more important than another?

Take a look at the graphic at the top of the page, which is called a Necker Cube, and just look at it for a minute. You should see two different faces of the cube closer to you, depending on how your eyes are scanning the information.

So if I see Box A for example and you see Box B, which of us is correct?

Turns out we both are, and the ability to recognize that is a key reason why brain tips are so important. What can I do to enhance my ability to handle novel situtations?

Well it turns out that there are two very good resources for brain tips, easily available.

One is called Brainfit for Life which is a book available in either an online version, or a hard cover version.

The book is written by Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D. Their purpose in writting the book is to put all the nuggets from brain fitness tips hidden away in the research in one available place for the lay reader.

As a lay reader, I am very greatful for the style Evans and Burghardt chose. It is written in easy to understand language, and summarizes research very effectively, even weaving in some wry humor and pop culture references.

Brain Tips-Fluid Intelligence

In their book, Evans and Burghardt cite research done by Susan Jaeggie and Martin Buschkall on a particular learning task called the dual n back task.

The dual n back task, according the their research, is an extraordinary tool to increase what is called fluid intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is the kind of intelligence I bring to a new problem, where my old style of problem solving (or crystallized intelligence) will not help.

You can use an online version of the dual n back task to increase your fluid intelligence at the link below.

Progress in the research was measured using IQ tests, and there appears to be no upper limit to what we can do with this test. In other words, the more you practice the higher your IQ gets.

As a brain tip for you, I can recommend two other programs I have tried and enjoy, one is the Lumosity program, and the other is the Posit Science Brain Fitness program, which is the brain fitness program tested in the IMPACT study.

More Brain Tips

Evans and Burghardt offer many more brain tips, on nutritional, sleep, and physical exercise topics, explaining the value that attention to each of those topics has for our brain's performance.

Exercise is the key component for optimal brain performance, and I really appreciate the effort the authors put into describing what is necessary as far as effort and equipment go.

They distinguish between physical activity and physical exercise, and reassure me that I am getting strenuous enough exercise when I am breathing deeply enough that I cannot both breath and talk, or breath and sing.

In other words, I do not have to hire a personal trainer at an expensive gym in order to ensure neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells, I can work out in my utility room doing jumping jacks, burpees, a few trips up and down the steps, some push-ups, perhaps some exercises using a balance ball, for 10 minutes, and I have helped my body send some new neurons to my brain. For a 69 year old brain, new neurons are good.

If you want an exercise program for you and your wife, with some videos modeling their take on high intensity interval training, please check this out, before you proceed on with the novel mental challenge information that Evans and Burghardt supply.

Please check out The Aesthetic Muscle Plan, and book, More Love, Less Fat, by Angie and Scott Tousignant. 

Evans and Burghardt spend some time talking about the value that learning new skills has for our brain. Learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, starting a new career, or perhaps a hobby has tremendous value for our brains, particularly what is known as brain plasticity.

It turns out our brains love to adapt themselves in new patterns, which is what happens when I learn a new skill, and that adaptation involves neurons building new connections through the growth of new dendrites and synapses on neurons. The more dendrites and synapses I have the more routing options my brain has for data processing, and the easier it is for my brain to bypass the plaque associated with alzheimer's disease for example, and I can encourage neuroplasticity by learning a new skill. More of the same does not help, so I do not get to go read another counseling book. 

Got to be information about solar powered cars, for example, to get the best neuroplasticity value.

I do not need to become an expert to get brain benefits, but regular effort will help, regular study, so it looks like according to Burghardt and Evans, I can handle the physical and mental parts of brain fitness at home, using everyday tools, like my computer and my curiosity. 

They report that sleep is a key piece of the brain fitness pie, so get it (sleep), and they talk about how our sleep habits have changed over the years as a culture, to our detriment. 

Lots of important hormonal and information consolidation activities happen in our sleep, and we deprive ourselves of that at our own risk.

Nutrition needs to be of the fruit and vegetable kind, naturally grown and harvested. In the box preparations are not really food and provide very little to our brains. Processed foods are more engineering and chemical marvels than food for our brains anyway, so do not use them. 

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