Keys for Unlocking the Door to Elevated Cognitive Powers

,Principle #1: Your Brain Is “Flesh and Blood.”

Every piece of knowledge you possess, every memory you have ever had, exists as a physical entity. And, as “flesh and blood” biochemical structures your thoughts and memories are vulnerable to physical abuse. Stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise-both physical and mental-and host of toxins can cause severe, long-lasting damage. You can, however, protect and repair your brain with a wide variety of physical approaches. From a low-fat, nutrient-rich diet to daily meditation, you can take positive action to nurture and improve your cognitive functions.

Principle #2: The Powers of Your Brain Are Virtually Limitless.

Your brain is the most complex entity in the universe-and far more adept at fact storage and random information access than the world’s most sophisticated computer. By adopting brain longevity habits, you can dramatically increase your brain’s efficiency-developing the ability to think faster, absorb and retain more, and perform almost supernatural feats of recall. People who pamper their brain also experience enhanced perceptual abilities-enjoying and remembering the full range of the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of their daily experiences.

Principle #3: Your Brain Is Capable of Infinite Joy and Pleasure.

More than a precision machine, your brain possesses a “pleasure pathway,” bustling with neurotransmitters to help you to maintain a happy mood. Stress can take a biological toll on your brain, damaging the structures and functions contributing to feelings of well-being and excitement. When you endure stress on an ongoing basis, you over-secrete cortisol, an adrenal hormone that can interfere with neurotransmitters, destroy brain cells, and deteriorate cognitive functions. By ridding you life of stressors, you will activate a regenerative cycle.

Principle #4: Your Brain Has “Plasticity” and Can Renew Itself.

Regardless of any damage you might inflict, your brain can get more “thinking power” out of its existing cells-and even grow new ones. All brain cells have branches, or dendrites, that connect with one another, providing paths for thoughts to travel. Dendrites, however, are susceptible to damage-from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and chronic abuse. Yet research has shown that brain cells can grow new dendrites; when a connection dies, it can readily be replaced by another. And the more connections in place, the better your brain works. To encourage the creation of new connections, give your brain a workout: think!

Principle #5: Much About the Brain Remains a Mystery.

It’s a fact: some of the most basic elements of cognition are matters of theory. In the presence of the human brain, awe and reverence are the only appropriate attitudes. Treat your brain with care. It’s formidable, it’s fragile, it’s one-of-a-kind, and it’s the only one you’ve got.

From “Brain Longevity: The Breakthrough Medical Program that Improves Your Mind and Memory,” by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. (Warner Books Hardcover; May 16, 1997; $25.00).

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