Brain Health

by MichelleR on May 5, 2013

As people start to reach middle age, they may start to notice that their memory and mental clarity are not what they used to be.  We suddenly can’t remember where we put the keys just a moment ago, or an old acquaintance’s name, or the name of an old band we used to love.  We endearingly refer to these occurrences as “senior moments.”

It happens to most of us, but is it inevitable? 

Neuroscientists are saying that there’s a lot that can be done to slow cognitive decline down.  Remember, the brain is a muscle and needs exercise in much the same way our other muscles do.  Mental workouts can significantly improve our basic cognitive functions.  Some basic cognitive functions are reasoning, making rational decisions, remembering experiences, and being able to be objective in evaluating or dealing with any given situation- basically THINKING.  Thinking is essentially a process of making neural connections in the brain.  Because these connections are made through effort and practice, scientists believe that intelligence can expand and fluctuate according to mental effort.  Do you recall that old saying, “If you don’t use it, you loose it!” ? This is exactly what scientists are trying to emphasize.  In order to sustain memory and mental clarity, you must continue to USE your brain!

Now, a new San Francisco Web-based company has developed the first “brain training program” designed to help people improve and regain their mental sharpness.  It is called Lumosity, it was designed by some of the leading experts in neuroscience and cognitive psychology from Stanford University.  You can exercise your mental skills and it allows you to systematically improve your memory and attention skills.  The program keeps track of your progress and provides detailed feedback on your performance and improvement.  Most importantly, it constantly modifies and enhances the games you play to build on the strengths you are developing–much like an effective exercise routine requires you to increase resistance and vary your muscle use.  Lumosity was shown to significantly improve basic cognitive functions. One study showed students improved their scores on math tests by 34 percent after using Lumosity for six weeks.  The company says its users have reported clearer and quicker thinking, improved memory for names, numbers, directions, increased alertness and awareness, elevated mood, and better concentration at work or while driving.

(summarized article: Explanation: How Brain Training Can Make You Significantly Smarter)

This sounds like a program that would work wonders for people of all ages.  While some seniors may not be comfortable with using a computer or other forms of technology, research does show that in general, exercising your mental skills can improve memory and/or slow down memory loss.  Caregivers or family members can encourage their clients and loved ones to play games or participate in other activities that will work out their mental muscles.  If maintaining mental clarity is achieved, it can only benefit the individual.  It will allow the individual to keep an active social life and to have a sense of personal well-being.

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