Brain Fitness & Brain Training
Welcome to Fit Brains. I'm Dr. Paul Nussbaum, Chief Science Officer of Fit Brains and a Clinical Neuropsychologist specializing in brain health
across the lifespan. I have published many peer reviewed articles, chapters and books within the scientific community in order to help educate
people on the basics of the human brain and how to keep it healthy over the entire lifespan.
The Value of Brain Fitness
The human brain starts slowing down as early as age 25. Fortunately, you can keep it running at peak performance and even make improvements at
any age. Just like your body, you can "use it or lose it".
One of the essential concepts of Brain Fitness is the building of "Brain Reserve", which is also related to Brain Plasticity, or the brain's ability
to reorganize itself and build new connections. At nearly any point in your life, you can strengthen your Brain Reserve by doing tasks that are Novel
and Complex, and stimulate a balanced variety of areas within the brain.
Building a Stronger Brain
Mental activity is an important way to develop a stronger, healthier brain through the building of Brain Reserve. Brain Reserve relates to the
brain's ability to physically reorganize itself in response to the demands placed upon it. A brain with a strong Reserve is one that has formed many
cellular connections and is rich in brain cell density. A strong reserve is generally believed to have the ability to delay the onset of mental
deterioration, such as Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Simply put, neurodegenerative diseases must work longer and harder to manifest in a brain that
has built up strong reserve.
A healthy brain should look like a lush, vibrant jungle (as opposed to an island with a single palm tree), because it is full of dense cellular
connections. You might think of a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's as a weed-whacker which invades the brain and begins to do its damage
by destroying brain cells. However, it takes AD a much longer time to show any impact if it has to destroy a jungle's worth of brain cell connections.
In contrast, AD can manifest itself fairly quickly after infiltrating a brain with only a relatively few cellular connections. At any point in your
life, you can build these connections with a regular, balanced routine of mental stimulation.
In addition to these categories, each area is further subdivided into additional sub-measures that are reflected within the brain game
activities and progression metrics. These areas are not distinctly separate; they work together in conjunction, like different
instruments in an orchestra, and when blended with one another are able to achieve a greater measure of brain stimulation. Each
of these areas are stimulated using techniques derived from the related fields of Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience.
An important factor in an effective brain fitness program is a balanced approached. For optimal health, all 5 areas of brain
function need regular exercise. For maximum mental stimulation, these exercise activities need to provide:
Fit Brains brain games offer a variety of well-rounded, scientifically-based brain stimulation activities wrapped within a fun and engaging
experience that is accessible even to first-time users. By providing diverse stimulation across the spectrum of the brain, and ramping
the difficulty in ways that increase the complexity of the tasks over time, our brain games and tools can offer you an effective means
of brain exercise.
Brain Plasticity & Cognitive Reserve
The miracle is that your brain is dynamic and continues to be shaped and to develop. It has plasticity. As such, there is no finite
capacity or limitation. In this way your brain is very distinct and actually much superior to the fanciest of all computers because
computers will always have built in limitations and finite capacity.
Research has found that keeping the brain active helps to build brain or cognitive reserves. This is the brain's ability to create
new neural pathways and connections that can be used as a sort of 'brain savings account', allowing you to draw on this account at a
later date. Studies show that many people continue to operate at a high level of functioning throughout their lives by building these
Your dynamic brain is shaped by environmental input across your lifespan, beginning in the womb. There really is no critical period
of brain development unless one considers life itself to be the measure. The variety, diversity and complexity of stimulation that your
brain receives can make a significant difference regarding its health. You do have some control and this is great news!
The 5 Major Brain Areas
At Fit Brains, our brain games are scientifically-designed to target each of the five major brain categories;
- Concentration & Attention
- Language Skills
- Visual & Spatial
- Executive Functions (Problem Solving, Logic & Reasoning)
Memory and new learning is a necessary and important function of the human brain. Our ability to live independently and to function normally is a direct result
of a normal memory system. Our life story is built by encoding and retaining our daily experiences. Our personal identity is framed by our memory and ability to learn
from these memories.
Memory and new learning begins with the Hippocampus, a critical structure in the middle temporal lobes of both hemispheres of the brain. This is the structure
that enables learning and transition of new learning into a permanent storage site in the Cortex. The Hippocampus has the ability to generate new brain cells with
stimulating environments, can be damaged with chronic stress, and is hit early by Alzheimer's disease. Damage to the Hippocampus results in memory deficits.
Fit Brains offers memory games designed to exerise your memory.
Attention & Concentration
Attention is the most basic and necessary function of the brain. The brain can attend to information from five sensory pathways. While a deeper level of
processing is not necessary for attention to occur, it is also true that a deeper level of information processing cannot occur without normal attention. The brain stem
and frontal lobe are thought to be important for basic attentional processing. The entire Cortex is likely involved to a degree with basic attention.
Fit Brains offers concentration games designed to exerise your attention.
Perhaps the most fundamental and critical behavior of your brain is language. The ability to communicate is necessary to our species and survival. Language is
predominantly a left-hemisphere and verbal function. However, language also entails prosody or pitch and tone without words, letters, or numbers. Language involves
spontaneity, content, tempo, volume, and comprehension. Language is symbolic, spoken, written, perceived and comprehended.
Fit Brains offers word games designed to exerise your language.
Visual & Spatial
Your brain has the ability to appreciate and interpret space in multi-dimensions. You understand where you are in your environmental space and you know how your
environment is positioned around you. This skill is necessary for behaviors such as driving, orientation in the world, depth perception, and directional ability. It is
believed that the non-dominant parietal lobe is one important region of the brain for visual spatial skill.
Fit Brains offers brain teasers designed to exerise your visual skills.
Executive Functions (Problem Solving, Logic & Reasoning)
Executive functions refer to those behaviors that are primarily related to the frontal lobes. The largest and youngest region of our Cortex, the frontal lobes
help us with a wide variety of complex behaviors including logic, organization, scheduling, impulse control and more.
Fit Brains offers problem solving games designed to exerise your logic skills.
In 2006, the ACTIVE Study, funded by National Institute of Health, demonstrated that older adults could
improve their brain abilities with the correct training. Certain mental exercises can partially offset the expected decline in older
adults' thinking skills and show promise for maintaining cognitive abilities needed to do everyday tasks. Some of the gains from
training were seen to be beneficial 5 years later.
The Bronx Aging Study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed almost 500 people for
more than 20 years. The research found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities, such as interactive games and
other leisure activities multiple times a week had a 65-75% better probability of remaining sharp than those who did not participate
in these activities.
Another well-known study is the Nun Study. Scientists followed 700 nuns for more than 20 years. An
interesting finding was that certain types of intellectual activity and stimulation could protect against many types of cognitive decline.
A study from Columbia University supports the concept of brain reserve and that education, occupation
and stimulating leisure activities all reduce the potential risk of developing brain disease.