As a senior citizen, 76 years old as of this writing, I think that the condition of my brain is probably my number one priority. Right there along with the physical condition of my body. Also, regular readers know that I have several cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family on both parents’ sides. So the concept of impaired cognition has my full attention.
I know that most of my contemporaries and younger compatriots are also very sensitive about their mental condition. Everyone experiences ‘senior moments,’ but they are not funny to those of us over 60.
When I attended the ‘Healthy Transitions’ talks at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (for folks over 50), the most well-attended were the lectures on cognitive impairment and dementia. Always a packed house. This is a very hot topic for seniors.For these reasons, I have particular contempt for the snake oil salesmen who try to prey on seniors’ fears of cognitive impairment. These include the drug companies that offer surefire memory boosters and particularly the brain games. I have written a number of posts about the ineffectiveness of these games. You can access them by checking out my Page – Brain games for seniors – What you need to know.
Lots of good information here. Because of my family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, these positive habits rang a bell with me.
To read further on them, you can check my pages:
Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)
How important is a good night’s sleep?
I have written a number of posts on dealing with stress. You can check them out by typing in the word s t r e s s in the search box. I recommend the following one which I wrote in 2010 as one of the most useful:
Some super tools for handling stress
Our Better Health
In a hyper-competitive world overflowing with information, our brains need to be able to keep up and outpace our competitors. Who doesn’t want their brain to process faster, remember more information or be able to come up with elegant solutions to complex problems? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Our brains more or less define our existence and who we are. So how can we get our brains to work better, faster and more efficiently?
HERE ARE SEVEN HABITS THAT WILL HELP IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN FUNCTION:
1. EXERCISE REGULARLY
Exercising promotes blood flow, cardiac health and releases beneficial hormones and proteins into your body. These hormones and proteins protect your neurons, which are the cells that make up most of your brain, and encourage them to multiply and make new connections. Studies have shown that exercise helps you learn faster and remember more information. Further studies have shown…
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Because I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I am extremely sensitive to news about the brain. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to read further.
Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter reports, “Physical activity helps preserve mobility and motor skills as you age—and not just by keeping your muscles in shape. A new study suggests that activity also maintains mobility by protecting your brain. Even in people with signs of brain aging called white matter hyperintensities (WMH) associated with movement issues, being more active seemed to allow the brain to compensate.
“Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, says of the findings, “Although the study cannot determine causality because of its cross-sectional design, their results are consistent with a number of other studies that have shown that increased physical activity protects mobility.”“BRAIN SPOTS AND MOBILITY: The study, published in the journal Neurology, subjected 167 people without dementia, ages 60 to 96, to a battery of tests. They had MRI scans of their brains, wore activity monitors for up to 11 full days, and underwent 11 motor-performance tests, such as grip strength, finger tapping and lower-body function. Continue reading
“As today’s findings show, intense musical training generates new processes within the brain, at different stages of life, and with a range of impacts on creativity, cognition, and learning.”
Cooking with Kathy Man
New findings show that extensive musical training affects the structure and function of different brain regions, how those regions communicate during the creation of music, and how the brain interprets and integrates sensory information. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the
These insights suggest potential new roles for musical training including fostering plasticity in the brain, an alternative tool in education, and treating a range of learning disabilities.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Long-term high level musical training has a broader impact than previously thought. Researchers found that musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight (see source).
- The age at which musical training begins affects brain anatomy as an adult; beginning training before the age of seven has the greatest impact (see source).
- Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance…
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The split between mind and body seems clearest in the realm of exercise. Each is good for us, but is one better?
Professor Sam Wang, Ph.D. Molecular Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, Princeton University covers the subject extensively in Lecture 23 of his course The Neuroscience of Everyday Life which I am currently taking from The Great Courses.
Opinion has been split on the subject.
“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigor.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero – 65 BC.
“Exercise invigorates and enlivens all the faculties of body and mind…. It spreads a gladness and a satisfaction over our minds and qualifies us for every sort of business, and every sort of pleasure.” – John Adams, Second President of the U.S.
On the other hand, that curmudgeon, Mark Twain said, “I take my only exercise acting as pallbearer at the funeral of my friends who exercise regularly.”
This is the illustration from the Neuroscience course booklet
The business of brain-training is a multi-million dollar operation. It includes software and games we can play on our computers, Nintendo, smart phones as well as specialized machines. Also, there are the puzzles, like Sudoku, crosswords and other pattern recognition games.