Aerobics for Your Brain?

If researchers and neurologists are correct, doing certain types of mental exercises just might buy you a bit more time with a healthy brain.

Simple things, such as playing memory games on your mobile device or jotting down letters backwards, may help our gray matter maintain concentration, memory and visual and spatial skills over the years. Even tweaking every day routines can help—for example, brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand; or crossing your arms the opposite way you’re used to.  You might even try flipping pictures of your house upside down. The exercise forces your brain out of its familiar grooves because every time you look at the upside down image, your brain has to rotate it. This gets your brain out of its ruts and shakes things up.

The idea of mental workouts marks a dramatic shift in how we understand the brain these days. We used to think that we were stuck with what we were born with, but now we understand that the brain is a lot more plastic and flexible than we thought. Challenging the brain stimulates neural pathways and boosts the brain’s chemistry and connectivity, refueling the entire engine.

Research shows that people who engaged in mentally challenging games do, in fact, show improvement in cognitive functioning. They get faster at speed games and stronger in memory games, for example. What’s less clear is whether this improvement transfers to everyday tasks, like remembering where you parked the car or the name of your child’s teacher.

Like diet and exercise, mental maneuvers may boost brain health in ways science still doesn’t understand. Hopefully a mix of these factors just mix might stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases.

Dr. Jane Stewart specializes in helping people of all ages improve their study, reading and cognitive skills at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.

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