The Midlife Brain

By midlife, many people want to try new ways to hang on to their existing mental capacities. Losing your brain’s capabilities is a horrible thought.  Studies have found that greater cognitive capacity comes from having more neurons or synapses so activities that  create new neurons (especially in the hippocampus) are very desirable and become a goal of mobs of midlifers (that’s an image which could keep you up at night!).

Increased numbers of neurons means better memory, reasoning and creativity. And, the good news is that our ability to increase the numbers of neurons does not disappear with aging. The brain has greater plasticity than scientists previously thought – meaning that the brain changes its structure and function in response to input. So, whatever we put into our brains matters!!!

 Here are ways to increase the numbers of brain neurons or synapses:

  1. Take up an activity that demands attention; cognitive attention. There is evidence (as reported frequently and most recently in Newsweek magazine Jan. 2011) that certain video games such as Space Fortress and Rise of Nations can be one type of demanding cognitive activity.  Message: go for challenging activities that require your full attention.
  2. Do some physical exercise because it increases dopamine.  Dopamine is the brain juice that produces motivation and makes you feel good.
  3. Meditate.

These suggestions all go for the same result – to make more neurons or synapses or increase the chemical compounds that produce more neurons.  Bottom line is: Use it or lose it!!

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