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Exercise Your Brain With Neurobics

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By Lawrence Katz, PhD, James B. Duke Professor of Neurobiology and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Millions of people pursue exercise regimens to help them stay physically fit as they age. But what can you do to help your mind stay resilient and youthful as you grow older?

The good news is, quite a lot. Just as you can exercise your body to fight off the effects of physical aging, you can keep your brain stronger longer with special mental exercises. These exercises, which I call “Neurobics,” are based on the latest findings from leading neurobiology labs at Duke and around the world.

Brain cells learn by literally making new connections with one another. For a long time, it was assumed that these connections could only be established during youth. But new scientific evidence shows the opposite: Even quite late in life, the brain has quite a lot of residual capacity to reorganize and “rewire” itself.

Because a huge area of our brain is devoted to processing sensory inputs, Neurobics uses the full range of senses (often marginalized by modern conveniences and daily routines) to help forge new connections among the different sensory structures of the brain. The exercises are easy, fun, and simple. Yet, if done on a regular basis, they will help keep your mind fit to meet any challenge–whether it’s remembering a name, mastering a new computer program, or staying creative in your work.

To be a Neurobic exercise, an activity must involve one or more senses in a novel way, engage your attention, and add an unexpected element to a routine activity. Try some of the following, and discover the value of “cross-training your brain.”

• Wake up and smell the vanilla. Instead of waking to the usual smell of freshly brewed coffee, try smelling something different–such as vanilla, peppermint, or rosemary. Linking this new aroma with your morning routine will activate new neural pathways.

• Go through your morning rituals–such as combing your hair, brushing your teeth, styling your hair, applying makeup, getting dressed, eating your breakfast, and so on, using your nondominant hand.

• Shower with your eyes closed. Locate the taps, soap, and so on, adjust water temperature and flow, and wash yourself using just your tactile senses. Also try closing your eyes as you get into your car, find your keys, and start the car–and when finding your keys and opening the door when you return home.

• Make a “sensory canister” containing such aromatic substances as sage, thyme, or cloves and take a whiff when you dial a certain phone number. See if it helps you remember the number.

• Learn the Braille numbers for the various floors in the elevator of your office building.

• Turn the pictures on your desktop or shelf upside down.

• Go to new markets, such as an ethnic market, farmers’ market, or bakery, to experience new sights and aromas.

• When traveling abroad, don’t get around in a tour bus, sleep in an American-style hotel and eat at McDonald’s. Instead, rent a car, figure out the roads and drive to a small town where you don’t speak the language, stay in a local bed-and-breakfast, and try unfamiliar foods.

For more information about Neurobics, see “Keep Your Brain Alive,” by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin, published by Workman Publishing Co. For information about health care at Duke, call 1-888-ASK-DUKE or visit dukehealth.org.

PLEASE NOTE: This message is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Implementation of any health-related advice should be undertaken in consultation with your physician, particularly if you have an existing condition, are currently receiving medical treatment, or are taking medications of any type.

Source: Duke University Medical Center

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (832 votes, average: 3.30 out of 5)
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2 thoughts on “Exercise Your Brain With Neurobics”

  1. rajatbhadauria says:

    Hi there…. This is really very useful information. The ways which you have mentioned to improve our brain’s performance and keep it alive are really interesting. All of are bothered about our physical health but very few of us think about the mental fitness as well and it is very important to keep all the parts of our brain active and healthy. In addition to the methods mentioned here for brain development is software available which can be used for mental fitness.

    I use a software called “Mind Sparke Brain fitness Pro”. I found it very interesting and effective. I started using the software around 20 days back and I have noticed a considerable change in my mental capabilities. It has helped me to increase my memorizing and thinking power. The software is easy to use. We have to take training for 30-40 minutes daily and that’s one of the reasons why I like it more, I can easily fit it into my daily schedule.

    I hope the information proves useful for all of you. Thanks…

  2. Kathryn52276 says:

    After studing the book Keeping Your Brain Alive, a few years ago, I implimented a variety of brain exercises. Mainly to counter toxic stress, emotional distress, and ongoing traumatic stress, implimentations of holistic health pathways along with neurobics, has immensely improved my brain functioning. Suduko, reading from bottem right to top left, independant studies, etc… neuropathways development is possible and an actuality. If it were not for this book, I would not have been able to reteach myself to read.

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