Managing and Improving the Brain as Your Most Important Asset - Simple Tips from a Neuroscience Expert

By Sharon Moore on July 06, 2012

The human brain is among the most exhausted topics of scientific studies but it remains to be the hardest to explain. Research has shown us that the brain is a ‘use it or lose it’ organ. The more you use it, the more it becomes more functional. Ignore it, and it depletes. There are factors however, that negatively affect cognitive function. These include aging and illness.

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system which includes understanding the human mind, emotion, and behaviour. Neuroscientists make use of various tools ranging from computers to special dyes and formulations to examine how nerve cells, neurons, molecules, and the brain work together. Neuropsychology, an applied form of neuroscience, focuses on the inner workings of the brain and how certain cognitive processes affect one’s behaviour.

According to Dr Charlotte Tomaino, a clinical neuropsychologist with over 30 years of experience, the human brain consists of billions of neurons and trillions of connections that change with every experience. We are in the state of constant change which either happens as a result of a choice or by chance, she said.

In her book ‘Awakening the Brain’, Dr Tomaino, gave some simple, yet powerful tips on how mental health can be improved.

Use it if you don’t want to lose it

As Dr Tomaino puts it – when we stop using a foreign language, we start losing it. So goes with all other skills. In her book, she talked about little Barbara who developed her visual spatial skills and IQ by solving puzzles, drawing, and doing other visual tasks. The brain is like a sponge. It absorbs anything we put to it. What’s more interesting is that these things we learn, we don’t actually lose them. There are hidden somewhere in our brain but we find it hard to retrieve these insights because of disuse. Dr Tomaino explained that in brain function, age doesn’t matter. What matters most is what we do. Using your cognitive functions in a regular basis makes your brain healthier and better. She also suggests engaging new behaviours that promote health such as exercising.

Managing the brain in stressful situations

Just like muscles, the brain gets exhausted when used for a longer period of time, or when confronted with difficult situations. But there are ways to cope with these things and maintain a healthy brain.

·         Focus on the answer, not on the question

For the brain to think properly, it needs a sense of focus or concentration. The human mind is so powerful. It does its best to find answers when it is focused. When confronted with a large problem, divert your thoughts with the solution instead of making things complicated in your mind.

·         Breathe

During stressful situations, our heartbeat tends to rise. This affects the nervous system which shifts your brain’s attention to the problem at hand rather than the solution. Dr Tomaino suggests breathing slowly in and out to relax the muscles and slow down the heart rate. When you do this, you become calmer and able to think clearer.

·         Make sound choices

During the ‘fight or flight response’, your body reacts to keep you safe but sometimes, it gets overwhelmed, which then leads to incorrect choices. But when you’re calm, you’re more likely to make an intelligent decision.

Do you know of some other things that help improve brain function? Feel free to post your comments below. 

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