Train Your Brain On National Dunce Day!

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In honor of National Dunce day we bring you a bit of history about the term “dunce,” and we implore you not to be one.  Dunce day is named for Duns Scotus, a medieval scholar from Scotland, who believed that wearing a cone shaped hat increased one’s learning potential.  The idea was that knowledge would flow from the tip of the hat down into the brain.  Not surprisingly, the idea didn’t really catch on (though it would be pretty great if it actually was this easy to learn new things), and anyone wearing the “dunce cap” was in turn called a “dunce” (and it wasn’t anymore positive then than it is now).

Now, you can choose to either celebrate Dunce day by celebrating stupidity, or you can honor it as a day of improving your brain through brain training.  (We’d offer up a list of stupid things you can do if you choose the former, but we’re afraid that will land us in a heap of trouble so you’re on your own if you go that route.)  

Instead, on this day we want to motivate you to hearken back to the original intentions of Duns Scotus and set aside some time to try and better yourself and train your brain for better health and wellness.  Read a book, train your brain with Fit Brains fun brain games, play some chess, find something that speaks to you today, which can also boost your intellect and your brain health!

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Brain Train Your Way to Better Performance: The FINGER Study

According to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet (March 2015) brain training, exercise, healthy eating and management of risk factors seems to maintain or improve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline.  The Finnish Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) is the first of its’ kind, ground breaking trial to combat some of the key high risk factors for dementia (eg. Heart health, high BMI).

Method

1260 Finns aged 60-77 were randomly divided equally between the control group who were given general health tips and the intervention group.  The latter had regular meetings with healthcare professionals and were given comprehensive guidance on healthy eating, exercise programs, brain training and managing metabolic and vascular risk factors, for example, with regular blood exams.

Findings

After 2 years, the participants’ cognitive performance was assessed with a standard exam, the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB).  The overall scores for the intervention group were higher by 25%.  The remarkable results for certain sections of the exam, processing speed at 150% and executive functioning at 83% were even higher.  Executive function refers to the brain’s capacity to manage, plan and execute thought processes.

“Much previous research has shown that there are links between cognitive decline in older people and factors such as diet, heart health, and fitness. However, our study is the first large randomised controlled trial to show that an intensive program aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia.” Professor Kivipelto, lead Researcher – Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and University of Eastern Finland

Train & Play with Fit Brains

Your brain is like a muscle, it can grow fitter and stronger with exercise. Train and play with Fit Brains. Fit Brains exercises help stimulate and entertain your mind. You can play Fit Brains on any web browser or train or train on-the-go with our IOS, Android or Amazon app!   

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Journal Reference

Tiia Ngandu, Jenni Lehtisalo, Alina Solomon, Esko Levälahti, Satu Ahtiluoto, Riitta Antikainen, Lars Bäckman, Tuomo Hänninen, Antti Jula, Tiina Laatikainen, Jaana Lindström, Francesca Mangialasche, Teemu Paajanen, Satu Pajala, Markku Peltonen, Rainer Rauramaa, Anna Stigsdotter-Neely, Timo Strandberg, Jaakko Tuomilehto, Hilkka Soininen, Miia Kivipelto. A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trialThe Lancet, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5

Obesity and a Happy Brain

Brain HealthAs most of us get into middle age we might take special notice of our body’s ability to keep a few extra pounds around the waist. Most of us understand the importance of eating healthy and the disease risk associated with extra weight around the belly.

Recent research suggests the brain’s ability to sense gratification may be critical to overeating behavior. We may have a gene that assists us with knowing when we are filled after eating. Research now indicates that a brain that does not express satiation will lead to continued eating and increased risk of obesity.

We know that a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important for maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity. However, genetics also plays a role in which an important neurochemical, Dopamine, may play a critical role. Dopamine is the primary neurochemical that regulates our pleasure sensation.

Eating temporarily boosts dopamine levels, but obesity may be associated with fewer Dopamine receptors which lead to less sensation of pleasure with eating. Research now suggests that the brain regions important to Dopamine expression when eating treats such as a milkshake does not get activated in those who are obese.

Interestingly, Dopamine has been studied as a primary mechanism for addiction and impulsive behavior including eating. Attempts are underway to try and understand how Dopamine might be triggered even in obesity to reduce impulsive eating so as to reduce gaining more weight. To read more about Dopamine, click here

Brain Tips For Those Winter Months

snowflakes.jpgIt is important to point out that I am not a fan of the winter season. In fact, I dread it and would rather be on a beach somewhere! However, regardless of my personal stuff, it is important to keep our brains active and engaged in the brain health lifestyle regardless of the season.
For some, the winter season does not represent a change in the options available to follow the brain health lifestyle. If you live in a part of the world where the sun continues to shine throughout the year keep your brain health lifestyle active over the 12 months. For those of us who actually see snow our options to venture outside may be limited at times.
Winter can be a time of increased stress and simultaneously a time for creativity and increased family time. Consider the following ideas for brain health this winter:

  1. Save your pennies and get a family membership to a gym or exercise club. Set up the family schedule for exercising together and use the gym as the snow may keep you inside at times.
  2. Break out the skis and get some exercise from this sport. Cross country skiing is also a great physical exercise.
  3. Try to walk in the snow if it is not dangerous.
  4. Break out the board games and have a family game night. This includes some family fun with Fit Brains brain games.
  5. Try to have winter as a time for getting your brain health diet started. Have a family member pick a night to help cook a brain health dinner.
  6. Have some friends and family over once a week.
  7. Start a family book club in which each family member will read one or two books during the three months of winter.
  8. Try to reduce driving in dangerous conditions during the winter as this will reduce your stress.
  9. When the sun does surface, get outside as you will benefit from the Vitamin D.
  10. Take a day or two and get the family together to make a snowman or go sled riding (wear a helmet).

While the winter can limit our opportunities for brain health, it also offers us a time to be creative and to increase family experiences.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Economic Anxiety and our Health

economy.jpgThe world economic situation is fertile ground for anxiety, some realistic and other perpetuated from misinformation and personal agendas. It is important to take some time to consider the following as methods for coping with these uncertain times:

  • 1. Information and knowledge will help to reduce anxiety, even when the information is not positive. Most of us experience anxiety or unease when we are confronted with uncertainty. As such, it is a good idea to spend some time researching the economic issues (stock market, credit, employment, etc) from a variety of viewpoints. You may have noticed that reading and predicting the economy is not a science, but for those in the stock market, there are predictable patterns based on many years of past behavior. This should provide some certainty even though the present represents a turbulent time.
  • 2. Meet with your financial planner to review all investments and liabilities. He or she will help you reduce your risk and loss while planning appropriately for the near and long term future.
  • 3. Have a family meeting to discuss the issues and to provide a forum to express fears and hopes. Make a family plan that adapts spending and saving to the current market demands.
  • 4. Place a focus on your emotional condition and make an extra effort to exercise and eat healthy. This will enable your body to handle the stress better.
  • 5. This is a great time to use relaxation procedures such as breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Meditation is also a good daily activity.
  • 6. Have faith in our human innovative and adaptive nature and believe that we will survive this period of uncertainty.
  • 7. Reach out to others who may be in a particularly difficult situation and offer them your time and friendship.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.