“As we grow older, our brain cells die.” This popular myth was discarded in 1998, when a team of American and Swedish scientists demonstrated for the first time that new brain cells are generated even in adult humans. There were also other experiments which demonstrated that neural circuits in adult brains have the capacity to undergo dramatic changes, an ability scientists thought was lost after childhood. The aging brain, however, continues to have a remarkable ability to grow, adapt, and change patterns of connections.
Not only the adults, even the teenagers today feel as if they are losing something continuously- with the usual forgetfulness, the lack of concentration and the degrading memory. Being one of the major issues in this 21st century, this problem needs to be curbed.
And for that, let us welcome the new science of Brain Exercise, Neurobics which aims to help you maintain a continuing level of mental fitness, strength, and flexibility as you age.
The word ‘Neurobics’ is a deliberate allusion to physical exercise. Just as the ideal forms of physical exercise emphasize using many different muscle groups to enhance coordination and flexibility, the ideal brain exercises involve activating many different brain areas in novel ways to increase the range of mental motion.
WHAT MAKES AN EXERCISE NEUROBIC?
We do a lot of exercises and involve our brain in millions of things every day, but not everything is enough to engage the circuitry required to really give your brain a workout. Here are some of the Neurobic exercises:
1. Involving one or more of our senses in a novel context.
Our five senses are the portals, or gateways, through which the brain gets its entire contact with the outside world. We rely primarily on our senses of vision and hearing because they quickly tell us a lot about our environment. Our other senses’ smell, taste, and touch are less frequently and obviously called upon. In worlds increasingly dominated by shrink wrapped, plastic-packaged, and deodorized items, the efforts demanded of our other senses, such as touch and smell, are diminished far more than we’re consciously aware of.
By blunting the sense we normally use and forcing our self to rely on other senses to do an ordinary task, one can set the brain in action.
-Getting dressed for work with our eyes closed.
-Eating a meal with our family in silence.
-Or combine two or more senses in unexpected ways: Listening to a specific piece of music while smelling a particular aroma.
2. Breaking a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way.
Because routine behaviours are almost subconscious, they are carried out using a minimum of brain energy and provide little brain exercise. So one becomes very efficient at getting from point A to point B everyday, but at a cost to the brain. We lose out on opportunities for novelty and the kind of diverse, multi-sensory associations that give the brain a good workout. Thus, trying to bring novelty in our everyday routine often works.
-Taking a completely new route to work/college.
-Shopping at a market instead of a mall.
-Using your left hand to write if you normally use a right hand.
3. Engaging our attention.
To stand out from the background of everyday events and make our brain go into alert mode, an activity has to be unusual, fun, surprising, engage your emotions, or have meaning for us.
-Turning the pictures on our desktop upside down.
-Changing the place/position of a thing we use daily.
-Setting things in a new light by placing different color gelatin filters over our desktop lamp.
Like the body, the brain also needs a balance of activities. Fortunately, the ordinary routines present hundreds of opportunities to activate our senses in extraordinary ways. All we need is to incorporate some surprises in our daily routine and liven up our brains!