Tag Archives: improve your memory

Brain Better than Calculator

books.jpgI have the wonderful opportunity of traveling the nation and internationally to speak about the wonderful miracle of the human brain. During my public presentations I always describe the brain as the most complicated, integrated, and miraculous system ever designed in the history of the Universe! I then scream from the mountaintops that we need to understand that our greatest moments of innovation, creativity, cures for illness, and ability to communicate in ways we only dream about now will be accomplished by learning how to tap into the greatness of our brain!

It is from this context that I read my local newspaper to find the following headline “Brains beat buttons for learning mathematics.” New research finds that third graders learn multiplication better when they use their brains before they use a calculator. The results of this study can be found in the next issue of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and the article is published in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Sept 4, 2008).

We have known for some time that learning is enhanced when the person doing the learning “does it on his or her own.” This is another way of saying “uses his or her brain.” We also know that the more one is exposed to a particular stimulus the more deeply they will remember or encode it. This again reflects the ability and efficiency of the human brain. The calculator is an external device that appears to have a secondary and reinforcing purpose to what the brain has already learned.

From a brain health perspective, we as a society will be better off when we use our brains first and rely on technological devices (invented by the human brain) in secondary roles. The former involves stimulation of the cortex that will develop brain reserve. A reliance on technologies such as a calculator will cause the brain to use the subcortex which is more rote, passive and procedural in its processing.

By using our cortex in complex pursuits we will always be on a path to brain health (brain fitness, brain games). Reliance on passive behaviors such as using a calculator will put us on a path to rote processing with less health benefit.

So… tonight I will remind my sons to use their brain first to solve the math homework as I have a personal interest in their learning and in their brain health!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Activity and Breast Cancer Survival

pinkribbon.jpgWhile it might seem odd to write about breast cancer on a site dedicated to brain health, there are two compelling reasons to do so: First, many of us have a loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and second, activity is one of the major components of the brain health lifestyle.
A recent study conducted at the Yale School of Medicine indicates women who stay active after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a better chance of surviving the disease. This includes those who take up exercise for the first time after diagnosis and even if the women just do a little exercise. This study reinforces many other studies that link exercise to reduction in risk of breast cancer.
Women who got the equivalent of two to three hours of brisk walking each week in the year before they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 31 percent less likely to die of the disease than women who were sedentary before the diagnosis. Further, two years after diagnosis, women who did any recreational activities at all had nearly 65% lower risk of dying then women who were inactive at that point. Women who got at least two hours of brisk walking in weekly reduced their risk of death by 67%. Perhaps most glaring is the study’s finding that women who decreased their physical activity after diagnosis were actually four times more likely to die of breast cancer than those who remained sedentary.

In all, exercise is an important lifestyle behavior for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Tips for the Summer Months

summer.jpgThe summer months provide a great opportunity to review the health of your brain and to get started following some of the simple steps articulated in Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain Health Lifestyle. You will soon be on your way to building brain reserve, promoting your own brain health, and enhancing your brain’s ability to delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease.

1. Get Moving!

Research indicates that daily walking, aerobic exercise several times a week, dance, gardening, and knitting all have a positive effect on the brain. It is important to note that 25% of the blood and nutrients from each heartbeat goes directly to your brain. In contrast, passivity in midlife increases the risk of dementia later in life. Get your pedometer and start moving, shaking, and planting!

2. Improve Those Eating Habits

Summer finds us on the go between events and the many activities of our children. We develop routines of eating more and more fast food and less time sitting down to eat with the family. It is important to try and promote the following:

A. Consume more water on a daily basis
B. Push the fruit and veggies
C. Minimize the fast food and processed foods
D. Try to consume more fish
E. Eat with utensils and not your fingers and you will eat less and healthier
F. Try to eat seated meal with the family per day

3. Develop a New Hobby or Two

Mental stimulation (e.g. brain fitness, brain games) remains important in the summer months. Get started on that project or activity/hobby you have been resisting. Challenge your brain to develop a new talent or skill this summer. Your brain will thank you!

4. Take Time to Slow Down

Summer can be a time of too much activity. This is not good for the brain as stress can be health demoting. Give yourself 30 minutes every day to do nothing. Learn to turn inward through meditation, prayer, being in nature, or simply taking a walk. Having time to just exist can be very rewarding and a great opportunity for creativity.

5. Have Fun with Others

Socialization is a great thing for the brain as it provides interpersonal chemistry, sharing of ideas, laughter, and learning. Recreation and family functions or adult play can be important to reduce stress and promote happiness.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Exercise May Slow Brain Disease

hiking.jpgAnother study has been published that supports a relationship between physical fitness and brain volume. This study explored the rate of brain shrinkage or cell loss in persons with mild Alzheimer’s disease. Subjects had their peak oxygen demand measured while running on a treadmill and this was related to their brain shrinkage as estimated by MRI scan.

Results indicate that those persons suffering AD who were more physically fit had less brain shrinkage than less-fit participants. Curiously, these same persons did not do significantly better on tests for mental performance. The authors suggested that there were not enough participants to see the difference in cognitive performance and that the study used only one measurement point which prohibited demonstration of a conclusion.

However, this study together with other research further underscores an important relationship between blood flow, cardiac health, and brain health (e.g. brain fitness).

Get your tennis shoes on and get moving!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Sunshine on the Brain

beach1.jpgThe summer months bring warm weather, blue sky, and plenty of sunshine. For some, if not most, we may notice our mood becomes a bit happier. Is there a relationship between the sunshine and our mood? Probably, but why?

Some studies have reported a relationship between Vitamin D that is derived from sunshine and different physiological measures in the human body. Sunlight has also been related to mood with a disorder known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” in which those not exposed to enough sunlight can become depressed. Indeed, special lights have been prescribed for those with seasonal affective disorder to help their brains gain more ultraviolet exposure to lift their mood.

Sunshine also tends to come with blue sky, relates to an increased ability to get outside and move about in nature, and to recreate more. Each of these factors is important and is related indirectly to mood enhancement.

It is important to pay attention to your own mood and determine what environmental factors may help you feel happier. If sunshine and blue sky lift your spirits try to prescribe yourself increased time outside. You may feel more energy, higher sense of self and increased productivity.

Take the suntan lotion with you!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.