NeuroplasticityBy Bryan Cohen
Last year, I came very close to putting all my resources and time into a book about the brain. While I’ve put that project on the shelf for now, my preliminary research turned up a lot of interesting data that is worth sharing. As more and more stories about Alzheimer’s disease and mental deterioration spread around, it’s important to realize that there are things we can do now to keep our brains more fit as we get older.Neuroscientists used to believe that once you had your adult brain, you were pretty much stuck with it. New research, however, has shown that not only can the brain change, but it can change drastically. This ability of the brain to change over time is called neuroplasticity. The way to change the brain for the better is to stimulate neurotrophins, chemicals that help your brain to create pathways to new information and skills. To be an old dog that can learn new tricks, you have to stimulate the neurotrophins.To do this, the brain requires new types of stimulation to keep running in top shape and to create these valuable neurotrophins. This means that if you do the same job day in and day out for thirty years, your brain gets bored and starts shutting down the parts you don’t use. Couple this with the fact that focus on a new idea or task is the best way to remember it and we live in the age of multitasking and you’ve got a problem. How do you keep your brain fit and active with a repetitive job and a focus-challenged society?The old adage of doing crosswords and Sudoku puzzles is partly true. If you do decide to supplement your life with puzzles, try switching up the types of puzzle every month. Do crosswords one month, word scrambles the next, Sudoku puzzles the next, and so on. Learning new body positions like those in karate, tai chi, and even tennis lessons can give your brain something new to chew on as well. Exercise in general is also helpful for getting oxygen to your brain, providing additional mental stimulation.Practicing your handwriting, especially cursive script, may improve connections between your brain and hands and your brain and your mouth. In short, handwriting practice may indirectly improve your writing and speaking. In addition, try writing with your opposite hand to truly give your brain a novel experience.Combine your senses and instincts in novel ways to create some new mental pathways. Take a shower with your eyes closed, light a different scented candle in your bedroom every day at the same time, and brush your teeth with the opposite hand. Another method to stimulate neurotrophins includes going on a drive with no destination in particular, getting lost, and finding your way back.These are just a few of the many ideas and exercises that I believe will become commonplace in a decade or so. I have used these methods to stimulate my brain to write more effectively and to learn new materials. If you are feeling low on brain juice, test a few of these ideas and after a week or two, you may feel more alert and intelligent. If regular motivational books and audio tracks haven’t helped you, try to target the source: your sluggish but improvable brain.----------------------------Author BioBryan Cohen is a writer, actor and comedian from Dresher, Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he has written four books (1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, 500 Writing Prompts for Kids: First Grade through Fifth Grade, Sharpening the Pencil: Essays on Writing, Motivation, and Enjoying your Life, and Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job), several plays (Something from Nothing and Chekhov Kegstand: A Dorm Room Dramedy in Two Acts) and he was the head writer for an un-produced Web series (Covenant Coffee). His writing and motivation website Build Creative Writing Ideas has had over 100,000 visitors since it was founded in December 2008. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.Follow Bryan on Twitter @buildcwideas.
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