by Josh Taylor
Our brain has the amazing ability to compensate for times when it is under stress or deteriorating. There is a book entitled “Spark” by Dr. John J. Ratey that talks about this very thing. In the book, Dr. Ratey tells the story of a nun who had severe Alzheimer’s that deteriorated much of her brain. Because she continued learning and teaching, her brain was able to compensate for the areas that had begun to atrophy.
Growing New Brain Cells
When you exercise your brain, it will continue to develop and grow new brain cells. This is done through a process called neurogenesis. This can be done through physical exercise, continued education, reading, puzzles, riddles and the like. Any activity that causes you to think critically and be physically active will stimulate neurogenesis.
When you engage in physical exercise, your blood flow increases, especially blood flow to the brain. When this happens it activates a process in the brain called neuroplasticity. Research shows that the intensity of the exercise performed affects the degree of benefit realized, so the harder you work, the more benefit you will get. It will vary depending on your level of fitness, but even a walk around the neighborhood for as little as 30 minutes can provide a benefit.
The bulk of neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus of the brain. This is the area that is most concerned with learning, our emotions and memory.
Neuroplasticity is the process the brain uses to rewire itself. The brain can anticipate, compensate and alleviate issues that impact the effectiveness of brain function. The brain has quadrillions of synaptic connections that fire every second of every day. In order for the brain to be stimulated, it takes “stress” outside of its normal influence. When this stress occurs, it activates the brain to form new connections, even connections that have never been previously formed.
A research study done at Harvard Medical School on neuroplasticity examined the effectiveness of playing a piano versus thinking about playing the music without actually playing it. In the study, a group of students physically played a piano, and in their brains the portion of the brain that controlled their fingers expanded. Interestingly, the exact same portion of the brain expanded in another group of students who only imagined playing the instrument. Interestingly, the exact same portion of the brain expanded in another group of students who only imagined playing the instrument.
Daydreaming may seem like a pointless, unproductive task, but daydreaming has been shown to greatly improve working memory. Have you ever been reading a book and thinking about something else at the same time? Research shows that this is a sign of low working memory. My grandfather use to tell me that multitasking is a good way to mess up two things at once, however practice makes perfect, and the more daydreaming you do the better you could become at multitasking. Multitasking causes your brain to juggle and contemplate multiple ideas or tasks at the same time. When this happens your brain begins firing and forming new synaptic connections.
Preventive Care for Your Brain
The best time to start exercising your brain is right now. The more you stimulate your brain by reading, exercising, etc., the more your brain will grow and develop. A slow bike ride, swimming, gardening, anything that you do to be active will also help build your brain. So go outside, get some sun, enjoy some exercise and do a little critical thinking. It’s all great preventive care for your brain.
Josh “Superfood” Taylor is co-founder of Juicer Heroes, located at 14337 San Pedro in San Antonio. Visit www.juicerheroes.com or call 210-233-9958 to learn more.