by Kimberly Allen, RN
In today’s world of technology and health awareness big business has found numerous ways to tap into it for profit. With TV available 24 hours 7 day a week, when I was growing up all stations went off at midnight, along with the Internet and traditional magazines etc most people are aware that you need to be active to stay active. Most experts agree that includes both your body and your brain. However, the methods used and the degree of benefit received are in dispute.
On of the biggest and most well known brain training providers online is Luminosity. Luminosity claims that by playing it’s games a few minutes everyday your brain will be “smarter, sharper, and brighter”. But is it all it claims to be? According to the company’s head of communications “Luminosity is based on the science of neuroplasticity”. Neuroplasticity refers to the changes that occur in your neural pathways and synapses caused by changes in your behavior, or your environment as well as any physical injury. It is the belief that your brain changes throughout life. However, is there any scientific evidence on which to base this idea? A study done by the psychologist Susanne Jaeggi published in 2008 she claims that memory training “increased intelligence” and she also implied that by doing memory training you could increase your IQ by one point per hour of training. However, other psychologists were unable to replicate her findings. Then in 2010 a neuroscientist by the name of Dr. Adrian Owen conducted a study involving 11,000 adults over a six weeks in a computer based training program. The program was created to improve memory and planning as well as attention and visualspatial skills. At the end he reported there had been improvement in performing the tasks themselves however, there was minimal overall advantage in other areas, This lead Dr. Owen to conclude that people that play brain games on a regular basis got better at the games themselves because they become familiar with them as opposed to showing any significant improvement in fluid intelligence.
While most experts agree that it’s as important for you to maintain your brain health as well as your physical health they don’t all agree on how you should go about doing that. Well, like it or not the old adage “if you don’t use it you lose it” is true for your body and your brain. The most important thing to remember is the number one thing your brain requires to stay healthy is oxygen. This means regular exercise to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy and pumping that oxygenated blood to your brain. Keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy also means eating a healthy well balanced diet to keep you cholesterol and blood sugar levels with in normal limits. In addition to that researchers have found that by engaging in activities like doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and reading as well as socialization are linked with a lower risk of dementia and lessens the decline in your mental function. However, it is also important to differentiate between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to the build up of a particular protein known as amyloid in the brain. While staying mentally active may make your brain more resistant to amyloid it will still build up. So by being mentally active you may be able to function longer without symptoms the damage continues to build which can cause your mental state to decline much faster when your symptoms do manifest.
Whether or not there is conclusive evidence on how to keep your brain active whats important is that you remember to maintain your brain health along with your body health. Dr. Robert Wilson, a leading researcher with Rush University Medical Center states “the bottom line is that you spend less of your lifetime in a cognitively disabled state, which is what we’re all after”.