When you think of brain workouts, what comes to mind? Algebra, calculus, some kind of school work, I imagine. For me, brain workouts have always meant something tedious, repetitive, memorization for example, but these days brain workouts mean something entirely different.
After the decade of the brain, in the 1990's, and with the advent of tools like SPECT scans, and fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, brain workouts actually mean some exercises designed to workout various circuits in the brain.
The research is amazing. Concepts like neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are terms which are routine in internet conversations, and indicates some major upheavals in neuroscientific dogma.
Neurogenesis means that my brain grows new neurons every day, but may not keep them to incorporate into existing circuits without a novel learning challenge. Not very many years ago, neurogenesis was unknown, and the extent of neuroplasticity, or my brains ability (and even desire to) reorganize itself based on novel challenge was not well understood, nor was neuroplasticity coached to us at all.
Now the researchers are honing in on some ideas about 'brain workouts' that I can do for myself, at home.
Most of the brain workouts I am reading about indicate that physical activity or exercise are important components, as are computerized programs which exercise aspects of my neuronal musculature like processing speed and reaction time.
Those things can be improved at any age with some regular work.
The key aspect to increasing neurogenesis is physical exercise and/or activity.
In their excellent book, Brainfit for Life the authors (Evans, Ph.D, and Burghardt, Ph.D) speak to the importance of increasing your level of physical activity by doing more of what you already do, if you are not yet into the gym scene.
Walk more, for example, park your car further from the front door or the shop if you do drive, for example.
That extra exercise is key to neurogenesis in the brain.
If you are looking for guidance in regards to a kind of workout you can do at home, without significant expense or equipment, I recommend the couples workout that Scott and Angie Tousignant have put together, called More Love, Less Fat While they are obviously in excellent shape, they began where you and I might be, and worked up to where they are now.
However, I use their workout concept at home, and it is truely a challenge. I do not go as hard as they do, but I have improved, which is comforting because I am laying the groundwork for increased neurogenesis without the intense workouts.
My workout fits into my life style.
Computerized Brain Workouts
I started seeing mention of computerized brain workouts perhaps a year ago, and began trying them out to see what they would do for my old counselor brain, which has 61 years of use on it, not all of which was of the healthy type of use.
I was really surprised at how they worked, how easy they were to work, and I was comforted by the thought that I was preserving and even enhancing neurogenesis.
For folks my age, the Posit Science program from Michael Merzenich has some very exciting research backing it up.
The Posit Science Brain Fitness Program works the auditory circuit, so I can continue to hear with clarity. The idea is that if I keep all those neurons in that circuit poised to fire together, I perceive conversation accurately, and I also remember just the right word at just the right time.
The Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro program trains what the researchers call fluid intelligence, which is the intelligence that helps me handle myself in a novel situation where my old crystalized intelligence is of little use.
Imagine yourself as a counselor, who suddenly has to do an engine repair on a car. Listening skills do not help with distributors.
The Mind Sparke program trains your fluid intelligence in a fun and challenging way.
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