What if we said that you could boost your brain power? What if we said that you could do it in 20 days, working only 90 minutes each day? Sound like a bad infomercial? It’s not. Our brain is incredibly complex and dynamic organ. Connections between neurons are constantly being strengthened and weakened. This allows us to quickly learn new information but also forget or ignore less relevant information. Scientists refer to this as “neuroplasticity”. Using what scientists know about neuroplasticity, you can strengthen your brain by doing regular mental exercises.
WHAT SCIENTISTS KNOW:
- Benefits of brain training are seen in people of all ages. These benefits are especially apparent in those that engage in new activities regularly. For example, if you are an expert at crossword puzzles, then switch to a new activity like chess (which can be practiced on a computer) or knitting (which cannot be practiced on a computer, yet). Research has shown that the brain’s ability to change and grow new, functional connections continues as long as we live. “I’m too old” is never a legitimate excuse!
- Bilingualism is associated with a 4-5 year delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. The research revealing this effect examined bilingual seniors who have been speaking two languages for much of their lives. That said, it’s never too late to start!
- Training your brain for 90 minutes for 20 days is enough to make a positive impact on your daily life.
- Benefits to the brain’s memory centre (called the hippocampus) are seen even 3 months after you stop training.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
You can take control of your brain health. Here are some tips on how to maximize the benefits of training your brain
Train your brain every day
- Learn a new language and practice it every day
- Play a musical instrument
- Set-up a routine, add a crossword to your morning coffee
Mix it up. Vary your brain training activities regularly
- Once you have mastered a skill, switch to learning a new one
- Practicing something you know well is less beneficial than learning a new skill
Celebrate Brain Awareness Week by taking control of your brain health. It’s never too late to learn another language!
With thanks, great ideas contributed by:
Dr. Fergus Craik, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest
Dr. Ron Ruff, Department of Psychiatry, University of California at San Francisco
Dr. Sylvain Moreno, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest