Mental Exercises Help Improve Cognitive Function

By Lisa Franchi on June 21, 2012

Writing your name backwards, hanging your picture at home in reverse, solving a puzzle, brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or taking trivia quizzes might improve your memory, concentration, and spatial skills for over the years, according to a new study.

Researchers from Beaumont Hospital and Wayne State Institute of Gerontology recruited senior participants from the Waltonwood Senior Living to undergo ‘Brain Neurobics’ – a series of mental exercises that would require them to think more. For instance, in one session, the senior citizens were asked to flip pictures in their home upside-down. It’s bazaar, really. But according to the researchers, doing this exercise will take their cognitive abilities to the next level by going away from the years of mindless habit.

How Brain Neurobics Work

According to Dr. Michael Maddens, chief of Medicine at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich, brain neurobics is about getting us out of those ruts, those pathways, and shaking things up. For instance, every time a person walks past the picture, it will take their attention and necessitate the brain to rotate that image.

Another activity involved determining the colour of the ink that was flashed in front of the participants. However, the trick was that the colours were spelled out using a different colour. For instance, the blue ink was spelled p-i-n-k. In another exercise, seniors were asked to identify various objects of the same colour, making it harder for them to identify an apple from pimiento or pomegranate. Some other mental exercises of similar nature were carried out.

With continued mental exercise, improving the cognitive function is achievable. Moriah Thomason, an assistant professor at the Wayne State University School pointed out that the brain is a lot more flexible and plastic than what people have ever appreciated.

The grey matter refers to the region of the brain consisting of cell bodies, neuronal, and neuropil. This region is responsible for muscle control, hearing, memory, visual perception, emotion, and speech. White matter – a protective covering of the brain cells, which is consists of the neural and glial cells, shrink as we age, though in a slower pace.

But challenging the brain stimulates the neural pathways, and in turn improves brain chemistry and connectivity. Nevertheless, the researchers did not set aside the importance of physical exercises in improving brain function. Proper nutrition is also a thing to consider.

Some Simple Brain Boosters You Can Do Anytime, Anywhere

You need not spend a lot of money buying expensive computer games, jigsaw puzzles, and other brain-boosting materials. There are simple mental exercises you can do at home, in the office, or anywhere you may be:

·       Use your non-dominant hand in moving your computer mouse, writing your name, in lifting the spoon. You can also place your watch in the opposite wrist.

·      When commuting in a bus to your office, close your eyes and follow the route in your mind. Take a peek outside from time to time to see if you’re right.

·         Count how many times your colleague say the word ‘the’ when he or she talks.

·         Read a book upside down.

·    Take a walk while chatting with your friend (discuss about matters that will stimulate your thinking skills).

The researchers also recommend cutting back on alcohol intake and smoking as previous studies have linked these to quicker memory loss. They also suggest playing online games that involve solving problems, speed and accuracy tests, and so on. A power nap for at least 20 minutes also helps.

Do you know of some other brain-boosting challenges that are easy to do? Share it by posting your comments below.

 

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