Seniors: Using the Computer Can Keep Your Mind Sharp

February 16, 2017

computer3Studies are finding that the mental stimulation you gain from using a computer might help boost your memory and slow cognitive decline.

Even just a few Internet searches help activate dormant brain cells. Researchers have found that searching online for an hour a day for seven days shows changes in brain activity on an MRI scan. Increased activity appears in the frontal lobes—the part of the brain that controls working memory and helps us solve problems.

A growing field of research suggests that engaging in mentally stimulating activities—including computer use—can lessen our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive impairment. Training your brain on the computer is like training your body in a gym. According to Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and co-author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, “Think about building brain muscle just as you build physical muscle. As you train, the effort goes down and the efficiency goes up.”

In addition, the principle of cross-training applies just as much to training the brain as it does to working out with our bodies. So when training your brain, you should engage in activities that work out different areas of the brain to keep the neurons well-oiled and flexible. Try playing games online, sending emails, surfing the Internet, etc.

Using the computer, especially in ways that are meaningful to you, is also a way to build robust social connections, which can have a positive effect on mental function. Learn how to use Skype and Facebook, for example, to connect with family and friends.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the cognitive skills of students of all ages in the metro Detroit area. Optiminds offers programs specifically tailored to help seniors take brain performance to new levels. Learn more about us by calling us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And visit our website at optiminds.com to learn more about us

Getting Your Mind Ready for College

February 8, 2017

If you are contemplating attending college someday, there are some things you can do along the way to ease the academic rigors you will certainly encounter. According to Kristen Renn, professor of higher education and associate dean of undergraduate studies at Michigan State University, you should focus on critical thinking, quantitative reasoning and approach the world with curiosity.

news3A great way to improve in all of these areas is to read the daily newspaper. Choose a quality newspaper, online or print. News stories test your quantitative literacy by helping you understand statistics and how they apply to the world around you. Developing the habit of looking at the world with a quantitative mind can be helpful regardless of the field you enter.

Reading the paper also helps hone critical thinking. The articles you read will make you ask “Why is that?” “Why was that decided?” “Why would somebody oppose or agree to that?” They prompt you to think more critically than you sometimes have to do in daily life, which prepares you for the higher-level thinking and academic demands of college.

Newspapers cover a wide range of topics: politics, economy, entertainment, sports, business, industry, commerce to name a few. They will broaden your knowledge and improve your English skills and vocabulary.

You might also consider getting involved in extracurricular activities related to the field you want to major in. Volunteering in an organization provides invaluable experiential learning and helps you acquire life skills that add to your career development.

If you are interested in giving your learning skills a boost, be sure to give Optiminds a call at (248) 496-0150.

Our customized brain training programs and professional tutoring services are designed for students of all ages in metro Detroit. Learn more about us by visiting our website at: optimindsct.com.

Making Progress in Alzheimer’s Prevention

January 23, 2017

In 2014, two neurology professors at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital reproduced the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease in a petri dish, something no one had ever done before. Thanks to their work, scientists can now answer questions about how the disease develops and test more drugs more cheaply and quickly.

alz3While work continues toward creating the ultimate weapon—a pill to prevent Alzheimer’s, there are some research-backed steps we can take toward keeping the disease at bay.

Be sure to get enough sleep. Neurological research shows that the brain has higher levels of amyloid—a sticky substance that accumulates in the brain and creates plaques—when we’re awake than when we’re asleep. So being chronically sleep deprived may accelerate the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

Try meditation. Meditating twice a day for 20 minutes at a time decreases the expression of genes connected to amyloid deposits. The act of meditating improves sleep and lowers stress, both of which may have an impact on Alzheimer’s risk.

Exercise regularly. A 2015 analysis by the Alzheimer’s Association examined the evidence for modifiable risk factors and found that regular exercise lowers the odds of cognitive decline. The hippocampus, which helps consolidate long-term memories, is bigger in people who exercise regularly. Walking even a mile a day can make a difference.”

Optiminds is a metro Detroit brain training service that offers personalized programs to help adults and baby boomers increase mental capacity, improve memory skills and process information faster and more efficiently.  Call us today to learn how you can slow down the aging process. Visit our website at optimindsct.com to learn more about us.

Being a “Lefty” May Have Its Advantages

January 16, 2017

lefty3The fact that left-handed humans have comprised roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the general population for many thousands of years suggests that the trait is not an evolutionary weakness as many psychologists of the past believed.

There is almost no evidence to suggest that lefties are at any sort of physical or psychological disadvantage. In fact, some research shows that being a “lefty” may have its advantages.

According to an Australian study published in 2006 in the journal Neuropsychology, left-handed people tend to have faster connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which leads to quicker, more efficient information processing―a cognitive advantage that could benefit them in things like video games and sports. For example, while less than 15 percent of the general population is left-handed, 25 percent of Major League baseball players are lefties. As the study found, it could be because left-handers tend to have faster reaction times.

Another advantage, as some studies suggest, is that left-handed people are more creative thinkers. It’s possible that lefties are better at divergent thinking (the ability to think of many solutions to a single problem), a cognitive hallmark of creativity. Another possibility is that the brains of lefties have a more highly developed right hemisphere, which has been suggested to be more involved in creative thinking.

Interestingly, some psychologists speculate that growing up in the left-handed minority causes some people to develop what is known as an “outsider’s mindset,” or a tendency to have a self-image that’s more individualized rather than group-oriented. Such a mindset can predispose a person to develop qualities like independence and non-conformity, which psychologists have linked to creative thinking and innovation.

If you are looking for ways to increase your brain fitness, a customized Optiminds brain training program is the place to start. Optiminds has earned a reputation in metro Detroit for helping students of all ages improve their cognitive skills. Learn more by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or visiting our website at: optimindsct.com.

 

Are You Ready for 2016-17 SAT Testing?

January 8, 2017

Key dates for the 2016-2017 SAT are coming up fast:

March 11

Register by February 10

SAT scores available beginning on April 13

 

May 6

Register by April 7

SAT scores available beginning on June 8

 

June 3

Register by May 9

SAT scores available beginning on July 12

 

sat1The same habits and choices that lead to success in school will help you get ready for the SAT. The best way to prepare for the test is to:

  • Take challenging courses
  • Do your homework
  • Prepare for tests and quizzes
  • Ask and answer lots of questions

If you are looking for SAT help in Michigan, Optiminds tutors ares ready and waiting to help. We offer a proven, customized program to help you achieve your targeted SAT score. Our program focuses on:

  • Test-taking strategies
  • Math
  • How to find the correct answer
  • Educated guessing
  • Reading comprehension
  • Essay writing
  • Grammar
  • Building stamina
  • Speed reading
  • Vocabulary
  • Developing a manageable plan for target score

Our SAT classes are forming now. So give Optiminds a call at (248) 496-0150 to get started today. Learn more about us by by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

The Importance of Infant Stimulation

December 23, 2016

baby1Research shows that playing with your baby can positively affect virtually every aspect of their intellectual development, from boosting imagination and IQ to improving motor skills and stimulating the senses.

Many pediatricians refer to these playtime activities as infant stimulation—anything that arouses your baby’s sense of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

Infant stimulation can help improve your baby’s attention span, memory, curiosity, and nervous system development. In addition, stimulating your baby’s senses will enable him to reach developmental milestones faster, as well as aid in the development of motor skills

Playtime entices children to use language, nonverbal problem solving, and motor areas during fun activities, which cause nerves to fire together and thus wire together for solidified skill building.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Your baby’s immediate surroundings will have the greatest impact on his or her development.
  • Each and every thing your baby is exposed to is a something to be explored fully with their eyes, ears, mouths, noses, and fingers.
  • Ensure that your child receives the appropriate stimulation during his first year of life, because this is the time when your baby’s brain is growing the fastest it ever will.
  • Interact with your child rather than just observing them at play. Your child will develop his capability for imagination as he takes his cues from you.
  • Choose age-appropriate games. For babies only a few months old, you might consider games such as peekaboo, playing with soft stuffed animals and small blocks, and throwing soft balls into the air so that the baby can follow the object with his eyes. With an 8-month-old, try rolling a ball back and forth to develop visual motor integration, ability to anticipate another person’s actions, balance, and coordination. At around 10 months, your baby may enjoy playing pat-a-cake and other repetitive interactive games.
  • Reading, singing and talking to your baby will help encourage babbling and eventually talking.
  • As your baby grows older, try more structured games. Age- appropriate board games, card games, guessing games, or matching games are all great choices.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping people of all ages improve cognitive skills. Our customized brain fitness programs take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power and concentration. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Maintain Your Well Being as You Get Older

December 16, 2016

As people get older, they often find themselves spending more and more time at home alone. The isolation can lead to depression and is not good for your health.

But emerging research suggests older adults who engage in activities they believe to be meaningful and enjoyable feel happier and healthier. Some studies also find lower rates of dementia among people who stay socially active and connected with others.

While research is ongoing, following are some of the benefits seniors can reap from an active lifestyle

Participating in hobbies and other social and leisure pursuits may lower risk for developing some diseases and health problems, including dementia.

According to one study, older adults who reported taking part in social activities (such as playing games, belonging to social groups, or traveling) or meaningful, productive activities (such as having a paid or unpaid job, or gardening) lived longer than people who did not.

srvol2Older adults who participate in what they believe are meaningful activities, like volunteering in their communities, say they feel happier and healthier, experiencing personal satisfaction from the experiences. They may also enjoy long-term benefits such as lower risk of developing disability, dependency, and dementia in later life.

Studies suggest that volunteering can help with stress and depression from the death of a spouse. Among people who experienced a loss, those who took part in volunteer activities felt more positive about their own abilities.

Another line of research is exploring how participating in creative arts might help people age well. For example, studies have shown that older adults’ memory, comprehension, creativity, and problem-solving abilities improved after an intensive, 8-session acting course. Other studies are providing new information about ways that creative activities like music or dance can help older adults.

You may also want to consider signing up for a customized brain training program from Optiminds. We have a reputation in metro Detroit for helping people of all ages enhance their cognitive skills with exercises and techniques designed to stimulate target areas of the brain. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Teen brains aren’t fully formed

December 8, 2016

teenbrain3It’s not so much what teenagers are thinking—it’s how. Scientists used to think human brain development was mostly complete by age 10. But recent research about teenagers’ brains is helping us understand developmental activities that might explain why teens behave the way they do.

The gray matter of the brain peaks just before puberty, then gets pruned back as a child goes through adolescence. During this time, some of the most dramatic development takes place in the crucial frontal lobes, the seat of judgment and decision-making.

In the teenage brain, the nerve cells that connect the frontal lobes with the rest of the brain are sluggish. The nerves need a fatty coating called myelin, or “white matter,” for nerve signals to flow freely. But teens don’t have as much myelin yet as adults do in the frontal lobe area, resulting in inefficient communication between one part of the brain and another. So in teens, the part of the brain that governs judgment is the last to be fully connected.

Teens may also have a neural excuse for self-centeredness. Research presented at the BA Festival of Science in 2006 indicated that when considering an action that would affect others, teens were less likely than adults to use the medial prefrontal cortex, an area associated with empathy and guilt. Instead, the way that teens actually learn empathy is by practicing socializing.

At Optiminds, we understand that learning is the act of making and strengthening connections between thousands of neurons. Our brain fitness programs help people of all ages achieve new levels of brain performance. We can tailor a cognitive training program to meet your teen’s specific needs so they can improve at school and build a solid foundation for success in life.

Learn more about us by calling Optiminds today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Heading in Soccer May Damage the Brain

November 23, 2016

soccer3Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, with more than 265 million amateur and professional players. It is the only sport in which participants purposely use their head to hit the ball. The practice known as “heading” is considered as an offensive or defensive move in which the player’s unprotected head is used to deliberately impact the ball and direct it during play.

A soccer player can be subjected to an average of 6–12 incidents of heading the ball per competitive game, as well as in practice sessions. Soccer players are prone to traumatic brain injuries, 22 percent of which are concussions. But while there has been a lot of discussion about concussions in contact sports, only recently has the scientific community focused on heading as an additional cause of cumulative brain injury.

Thanks to a  new study from the United Kingdom, sporting bodies and members of the public can see clear evidence of the risks associated with repetitive impact caused by heading a soccer ball. The study is the first to show that routine heading of a soccer ball can cause damage to brain structure and function while being too minor to cause a concussion.

In the study, amateur players, ages 19 to 25 were asked to head machine-projected soccer balls at speeds modeling a typical practice. Each player was asked to perform a rotational header — redirecting the soccer ball — 20 consecutive times during 10-minute sessions.

Researchers observed changes in motor response and memory in the five women and 14 men participating in the study. They found that immediately following these sessions, subjects’ error scores on both short- and long-term memory tests were significantly higher than subjects’ baseline performances. Even after just a single session of heading, memory-test performance was reduced by as much as 67 percent, though the alterations appeared to clear within 24 hours. The researchers caution against taking this temporary disruption as a sign of no long-term damage.

Optiminds offers brain fitness programs for people of all ages. We also specialize in programs for dedicated student athletes to help them get into college, conquer their sport and be a success on the field and in the classroom. For more information about Optiminds’ athletic college prep counseling program, please call (248) 496-0150 and be sure to visit our website at: optiminds.com.

Brain Training May Help Seniors Drive Longer

November 16, 2016

seniordrive2A decade ago, Penn State University researchers tested some 2,000 people ages 65 and older to measure the effects of three different cognitive training programs―reasoning, memory and divided attention―on driving cessation in older adults.

All participants were drivers at the start of the program and were in good health. They were evaluated seven times over the course of 10 years.

Both the reasoning and the memory training used pencil and paper activities, while the divided-attention training used a computer program. The reasoning exercise included brain teasers and taught the participants problem-solving strategies, while the memory training involved categorizing lists of words to help with everyday life, such as a list of errands or a grocery list. A part of the sample did not participate in these exercises.

The divided-attention, or speed of processing, training used perceptual exercises where participants were shown several objects on a screen at once for a very brief period of time. They were then asked questions about what they had seen. This program was adaptive, becoming more difficult after the first five exercises were completed.

When researchers revisited the participants 10 years later, they reported the following:

  • participants who completed either the reasoning or divided-attention training were between 55 and 49 percent more likely to still be drivers 10 years after the study began than those who did not receive training
  • randomly selected participants who received additional divided-attention training were 70 percent more likely to report still driving after 10 years

Studies like this are important because the ability to drive has huge ramifications for seniors, resulting in loss of independence.

If you are looking for ways to keep your brain healthy, Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the cognitive skills and memory of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.


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