Human brain power is amazing. It is impossible to describe briefly all that is going on in your brain and body, and your brain and body make it all seem so easy.
Together, mind and body are regulating millions of cell interactions occurring at the same instant, feeding and oxygenating those cells, removing wastes, and in my case trying to briefly encapsulate all of this amazing activity into a communication to you on the a web site page.
So cognitive activities, our self-talk, is an important part of human brain power, along with our ability to form memories and our creative capacities.
Recent research, published late in 2008, describing the results of using the dual n back task, indicates that we can increase our IQ.
In fact, the more you practice the dual n back task, the higher you can go, according to the research.
Just remember, a high IQ does not by itself signal an easy reach for fame and fortune, what it does says is that human brain power is much more malleable than we thought.
Neuroscientific dogma forever has been that the brain can grow up to a certain point in our lives, then it becomes fixed, and then it begins to lose neurons until we get alzheimers disease.
That model has changed, because the brain grows new cells every day, and the connections between those cells change based on what we pay attention to, sometimes within minutes, so if I am reading something challenging, and learning, my neurons are forming new connections, and strengthening old ones, which fends off the declines in human brain power once thought to be inevitable.
The growth of new neurons is called neurogenesis and the constant rewiring and reconnecting is called neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis was unknown not too many years ago, so I am guessing that we will uncover more of the brains secrets as our technology continues to take us deeper into our physiology.
For example, take a look at what Helen Fisher has uncovered about the human experience of love in the brain using fMRI.
If increasing human brain power means becoming some kind of super performer, like a cartoon character, we are not there yet, but we can make enhance neurogenesis and neuroplasticity by making healthy life style choices in four key areas.
Make sure you get enough physical activity, if not exercise.
The other key areas are nutrition, of course, stress management, novel learning experience, and sleep.
While it may seem easy to sleep, it is the length of our sleep that is important. According to Evans and Burghardt, it the brain does not get a full complement of sleep, certain hormonal events that happen only during sleep, and a review by the brain of its newly formed connections do not get completed.
We then are more easily confused, and make poorer life decisions.
So there is some truth to the old adage, 'Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
Physical exercise is the most important of the life style choices we can make in regards to human brain power.
Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are enhanced by increased blood flow to the brain that happens during aerobic exercise, so you must breathe deep.
According to Evans and Burghardt, we can benefit right away by increasing our level of physical activity, doing more of what we already do, so if you walk around the block daily, do it twice, and build up to the kind of workout where you get all sweaty at the gym.
Or you can look at a model for working out at home, with your spouse, if you can talk him or her into it, called More Love, Less Fat created by Angie and Scott Tousignant. Don't be fooled by how they look now, that is not where they started, and the workout is very adaptable to your basement using tools no more sophisticated than an exercise ball or dumbells, if that. The basic goal is to do 30 second intervals of exercises you pick for 10 minutes. It is called HIIT or high intensity interval training.
Please check out The Aesthetic Muscle Plan, and book, More Love, Less Fat, by Angie and Scott Tousignant.
Believe me, you will breathe deep, and sweat. Of course, as you get stronger you can add human physical power to human brain power.
In the nutrition area, you need to quit eating processed foods, and switch to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Your brain weighs in at 2% of your body weight, but it uses 20% of the fuel you use, and that fuel must be high octane if you want to increase human brain power.
By high octane, I mean food full of vitamins, minerals, fibers, phytochemicals, glyconutrients, antioxidants (vital!), and omega 3 fatty acid.
Processed food may be fortified with a couple of vitamins but mostly it is engineered for long shelf life, not your health.
Most processed foods are filled with appetite stimulants designed to make it impossible for you to eat just one, so you eat more than you need, and end up too heavy to exercise easily, reducing human brain power.
Those new neurons you grow every day are mostly composed of omega 3 fatty acids, and those neurons need to replace omega 3 molecules from the diet because the body cannot manufacture it.
The best source of omega 3 fatty acids is fish. Your intake of fish however must be monitored for the risk of mercury poisoning though, so perhaps you will consider a supplement for your omega 3.
The next area where we can make a noticeable impact on our human brain power is in the area of novel learning experience, which challenges the neuroplasticity of our brain.
The more connections between neurons there are the more computing power I can bring to bear on a problem.
In fact, one of the computerized brain fitness programs, Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro has been shown to both increase IQ and fluid intelligence, which is the kind of smarts I use to solve problems where I have no experience or crystallized intelligence to draw on.
The research that describes those results was published in late 2008, which makes it less than a year old. Here is a link for more information
The Mind Sparke program is not the only computerized brain fitness program for us to choose from though, and not the only one with some extraordinary research to back it up.
I use the Lumosity tool as a brain brightener between clients and phone calls to refresh the acetylcholine for better memories.
Dark chocolate, a square or two, helps with that brain chemistry stuff too.
The Posit Science Brain Fitness Program was just evaluated in a study done by folks at UCLA, and the results for folks my age (61) was phenomenal. Memory better, reaction better, and we could all find our glasses. By the way, it is a headache to misplace them. Really destroys your focus.
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