Five habits that help maintain brain performance

Train your brain, change neural connections

Our brains are surprisingly dynamic and constantly changing. He knows how to adapt, heal, update and change neural connections.

Our daily actions (and inaction) literally change the brain for the better (or worse). But it’s not too late to rejuvenate, remodel and change the brain so as to remain in better shape.

Neuroplasticity experiments (this is the ability of the brain to change in response to the experience gained) have shown that the brain can change – changing its structure, biochemistry, increasing and decreasing in size.

Is it possible to physically change the brain – at any age? Yes, but within certain limits. And you can start with what I’ll talk about now.

Translated to Alconost

1. Juggling improves the performance of gray matter

Yes, that's right: recently, regular juggling has been linked to improved brain function. A recent study showed that juggling training can lead to the growth of certain areas of the brain.

Researchers found that after juggling exercises, the state of white matter improved in two areas of the brain involved in visual and motor activity.

“We demonstrated that as a result of studying a completely new skill, changes appeared in white matter – bundles of nerve fibers that connect different parts of the brain,” explained Dr. Heidi Johansen-Berg, Clinical Neurology Unit, University of Oxford, who led the study. “In fact, we found that the structure of the brain is ready to change, and showed that it can change its own system of connections in order to work more efficiently.”

Four weeks after the study, the white matter that appeared in the juggling volunteers did not disappear anywhere, and the volume of gray matter even increased.

Researchers chose juggling as a difficult skill to learn. You can also improve your gray matter by using juggling or one of many other similar activities.

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2. Every day learn something new, knead the mind – and the brain will thank you

A wise Spanish proverb says: “Do not go to bed without learning anything new,” and this is very good advice.

Juggling is not the only activity that helps develop white matter.

You can learn in many different ways – from something that is not related to your usual activities. The main thing is diversity: make new acquaintances, acquire new skills, learn to dance, go to drawing, design classes, etc.

Every day, do something that makes your brains tense and feel a little uncomfortable.

Norman Dodge in a book “Plasticity of the brain. Stunning facts about how thoughts can change the structure and functions of our brain ” writes: “Not all activities are equivalent in this regard. Those that require a high concentration of attention: learning to play a musical instrument, board games, reading or dancing – reduce the risk of dementia. For example: dance training, which requires learning new movements, provides us not only physical, but also mental stimulation and involves a significant concentration of attention. "

According to the study, when learning a new language, the brain grows due to an increase in gray matter in areas related to speech: "The right hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus turned out to be structurally more pliable in translators who increase their knowledge of a foreign language."

By learning new things every day, you will not only improve brain function, but also learn to focus and not pay attention to unnecessary information.

Do what you did not do before.

3. Poor sleep is associated with a rapid reduction in brain volume

Many do not take sleep quality seriously. And in vain: if the quality of sleep is poor, then the volume of the brain is reduced.

It was this unexpected conclusion that scientists who investigated the relationship between sleep quality and the volume of the hippocampus and cerebral cortex came to.

According to the results of their work, sleep problems and lack of sleep are associated with a rapid reduction in brain volume, which can affect important functional areas responsible for speech, touch, balance, mathematical abilities and decision making.

“Studies have shown that poor quality of sleep can cause a protein to attack the cells that accumulate in the brain. But we have not yet figured out the reasons for this, ”says Neil Maru, a neurologist and sleep specialist at Integrated Sleep Services (Alexandria, Virginia). (Neal is not related to the study mentioned above.)

Sleep helps the brain recover. So, by improving the quality of sleep, you can improve the state of the brain. To stimulate new connections and growth, the brain needs 7-8 hours of quality sleep daily.

4. Any exercise changes the connections in the brain – move more

You already know that an active lifestyle helps maintain good health. However, exercise also improves mental abilities that affect memory, motor skills, and learning.

Even half an hour on a stationary bike can do real miracles: in a study of the effect of physical exercises on the volume of the hippocampus in humans, an increase in its size was found.

“After exercise, the relative volume of the hippocampus increased significantly in patients (12%) and healthy people (16%) and did not change in the group that did not exercise (−1%)."

Physical activity has a complex effect on the brain. Your heart rate rises, which means that the heart pumps more oxygen into the brain. In addition, exercise helps release hormones that provide a breeding ground for brain cells.

Physical activity also indirectly improves mood, sleep quality, reduces stress and anxiety.

In another study, Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, writes: “Even more interesting is that participating in a program of regular exercises of medium intensity for six months or a year turned out to be associated with an increase in the volume of individual areas brain. "

You can start with any aerobic exercise that boosts your heart rate. It is not necessary to attend the gym – for starters, you can include walking in the daily routine. Other moderate-intensity exercises will also be useful: swimming, climbing stairs, tennis, dancing, and so on.

5. The topic of awareness is not in vain becoming more relevant

People have paid particular attention to meditation for millennia. Today, serious scientific research is in favor of this practice, the purpose of which is partly to find new ways to improve mental health.

To improve mental health, try to consciously live every day and be more attentive to the course of life, monitor mental stress, distracted attention – without judging or analyzing. This practice is very effective in dealing with stress.

Studies show that meditation can have a permanent effect on the brain and increase satisfaction with life. “Studies over the past decade have shown the following effects of awareness: reducing stress, increasing concentration, improving memory, reducing the level of obsessive thinking, emotional responsiveness, increasing cognitive flexibility, level of satisfaction with relationships and so on,” writes Christopher Bergland in the journal Psychology Today.

Most of the time our brains are on “autopilot”. So start paying more attention to the world around you. Awaken your senses and turn them to what is around you.

There are many ways to improve brain performance. By developing appropriate habits, you will not only increase the amount of gray matter, but also slow down the deterioration of cognitive functions, improve memory and mental health.

About the translator

The article was translated by Alconost.

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