As a health journalist, all forms of prevention, healing and benefit or empowerment of the body as a whole have a place in my research and study to share with every person who is aware that their health is at the basis of their performance in all activities of their life.
Today I show you how to make some adjustments to your life habits and use certain techniques that can strengthen specific connections in your brain. According to researchers in the field, the components of maintaining your brain's plasticity or neuro-plasticity, i.e. the brain's ability to adapt and evolve over time in structure and function, would be challenge, novelty and focused attention. It seems that one of the best techniques to achieve focused attention would be Mindfulness.
As Melissa Hogenboom explains in her article "How I Rewired My Brain in Six Weeks",
"Our brains have an incredible capacity to adapt, learn and grow because, by its nature, it changes.... Once thought to be limited to youth, we now know that it is a constant force in shaping who we are. Every time we learn a new skill, our brain adapts."
What is exciting about this approach is that a growing number of studies indicate that by stimulating your brain, you would be helping to delay or prevent degenerative brain diseases.
The technique Ms. Hogenboom opted for in her publication is Mindfulness and the results were very interesting. Mindfulness can improve attention, relieve pain and reduce stress. Experiments show that after a few months of mindfulness training, certain symptoms of depression and anxiety can be alleviated (of course it depends on the individual case).
If cortisol, the stress hormone, is activated and remains elevated for a long time, it can be toxic for the brain and this would directly inhibit neuro-plasticity. In this sense, Mindfulness can help to cope with stress, allowing the brain to remain more plastic or flexible.
The instructions themselves are not difficult, because it is about being aware of the present moment and paying attention to things that are normally ignored; as well as helping yourself by asking where your thoughts are going and what occupies your mind moment to moment. The complex thing is to be attentive in order to do these follow-ups.
In addition to Mindfulness there are other techniques that can help you maintain neural plasticity.
Exercise and Meditation In Combination Can Trigger and Enhance Brain Neuroplasticity
Physical activity facilitates the plasticity process, I recommend my article and video on physical exercises that strengthen neural plasticity , and all the better if combined with cognitive tasks to improve skills you are interested in, which is likely to enhance them.
Physical health is linked to cognitive health from birth and babies are now being studied in order to detect in the new-born’s brain any propensity for brain failure.
The same concept seems to apply when patients are recovering from severe brain injuries. Hogenboon notes in her publication that scientists in Italy have found that even in the worst conditions, the brain helps to repair itself in some way. With neurorehabilitation being applied, recovery would be accelerated using methods such as robotics, virtual reality and the application of electrical currents to the brain to achieve a double effect.
In this sense, physical exercise as such forces you to increase blood flow to the brain and regeneration, which would mould and even restructure the brain by activating neuroplasticity.
Motor coordination and continuous stimulation of brain synapses as a consequence of exercise is your best old age insurance as it provides a protective barrier against cognitive decline and age-related diseases.
Sorry, but it seems that crosswords and Sudoku are not challenging enough, unless you are NOT a numbers person. It turns out that neuroplasticity in the brain requires activities that require a lot of attention, such as learning a new language or a challenging musical instrument.
Learning a New Language
This gives your brain the opportunity to create new neural connections. According to an example given in the magazine article www.yourheights.com with the word "apple" the brain creates a new neural pathway between the image of an apple, the word in the mother tongue, the sound of the word in the new language and its spelling, and stores it all in a memory that can be accessed whenever you need to say "apple" in the new language.
According to the same publication, in a study of exchange students, five months of intensive language learning led to an increase in the density of grey matter in the brain. Grey matter is where the regions of the brain associated with language, attention, memory, emotions and motor skills are housed. Increasing the density of this region of the brain may therefore help protect the functioning of these areas as we age.
Learning How to Play a Musical Instrument
Corroborated by Scientific American magazine, "musicians (both professional and amateur) have a unique advantage because they not only have the opportunity to communicate to the depths of the soul emotions and themes with the universal language of music, but also to improve their brain health in important ways such as activating neuroplasticity in all areas of the brain."
"You use the occipital lobe to read and interpret pitches and rhythm; the temporal lobe, to process sound; the frontal lobe, to pay attention to the music, inhibit irrelevant distractions and remember what you just played; and the parietal lobe, to integrate all incoming sensory information."
Studies show that musical training improves cognitive abilities (working memory, attention, inhibition, etc.) throughout our lives. This has been demonstrated with both short-term and long-term musical training and that a number of neural connections are strengthened.
Musicians have the advantage of maintaining their cognitive abilities as they age, being able to concentrate better and filter out irrelevant stimuli. They can also hear more clearly in noisy environments. In this way, music benefits mental abilities throughout life.
Making music in a group can have physical and mental health benefits. For example, playing musical instruments has been linked to a lower risk of dementia.
A 2013 study found that recreational music can change the way our genes respond to stress. This indicates that listening to music may be more effective than reading in reducing stress, this is in the therapeutic field.
For a starters, the opportunity to see a new place opens your mind to new ideas and ways of life that you can apply to your everyday life. It allows you to establish new bonds with different people and makes you open to new cultures and to put aside domestic issues or routine work.
In terms of your physical health, you are in "exploration" mode, which forces you to spend more time outdoors and to venture into another language, other foods, i.e. out of your comfort zone and this is considered synaptic gymnastics for brain neuro-plasticity.
Exercising With The NON-dominant side of The Body
An almost automatic way in which I, personally, have learned to use the non-dominant side of the body is by performing exercises with dumbbells and free weights alternating both sides of both arms and legs. Also, if you try brushing your teeth or hair with your non-dominant hand, you stimulate and strengthen neural pathways requiring deliberate concentration from your brain.
Foods I Suggest to Promote your Brain Health and Neuro-plasticity
Fatty fish has a substance called DHA, which is important for the brain. It also contains vitamin B12, selenium and phospholipids. DHA makes up 90% of the brain's omega-3 fats. If the brain does not get enough DHA, it cannot function as well. DHA is found in the main part of the brain, especially in the frontal lobes. That's why eating foods with lots of DHA helps improve memory and information processing.
Eggs are a complete food as they contain the ideal proportions of the macronutrients protein, fat and carbohydrates. In addition, their vitamin D content helps protect the brain from the build-up of deposits that interfere with cognitive function.
Because it helps fight free radical damage and reduce toxic deposits in the brain, which promotes efficient and smooth cognitive function.
Because it is high in flavonols and antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the brain, among other things.
Sulforaphane Rich Foods
Sulforaphane, an active extract from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale, up-regulates genes that suppress oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA damage.
Sulforaphane also improves mitochondrial function, promotes glutathione (GSH) synthesis and crosses the blood-brain barrier to reduce nerve inflammation.
Several studies also show that sulforaphane increases GSH levels in the whole brain and periphery to attenuate oxidative stress, which also supports its potential application in cognitive enhancement.
Primarily, cranberries contain anthocyanins which are powerful weapons against free radicals (unstable molecules that damage cells).
Other berries that have good effects on brain cell health include raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, which are a source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects the brain.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and different types of lettuce, are often rich in vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein and beta-carotene. Research has suggested that some or all of these nutrients may play a role in protecting the brain against inflammation and neuronal damage, as well as preventing the build-up of toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid peptide plaque.
Our brain has the capacity to change over the course of a lifetime. The brain itself strives to restore itself to health, although it has its limitations. But we can stimulate its efficiency by challenging ourselves, by respecting our sleep, by being physically active and by nourishing it with healthy food and positive thoughts. Give yourself a chance!