Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fun tips to keep your thinking sharpened - Azara Feroz Sayed

Tips I came accross at|1012555764

1. Catch some ZZZs
The task: Get a good night’s sleep. If having trouble falling asleep, make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark, learn some deep relaxation techniques, and avoid alcohol and caffeine after noon.
The reason: Scientists believe that our brains consolidate learning and memories during sleep. Studies have shown that people who don’t sleep enough have more trouble learning new information — while sleeping well after learning something new helps the brain effectively put that information into long-term memory.

2. Do a jigsaw puzzle
The task: Put together a jigsaw puzzle that will be challenging for you — no fewer than 500 pieces.
The reason: Mundane as they may seem, jigsaw puzzles can provide real help for your brain. Completing one requires fine visual judgments about where pieces belong. It entails mentally “rotating” the pieces, manipulating them in your hands and shifting your attention from the small piece to the “big picture.” To top it off, it’s rewarding to find the right pieces.

3. Eat Fish
The task: Add fish -- especially fatty fish like salmon -- to your diet.
The reason: Studies suggest that a diet rich in fish is associated with better cognitive function. Some scientists believe that the benefit comes from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, which can reduce inflammation. Salmon, sardines, anchovies, lake trout, herring and mackerel are all relatively high in omega-3 fatty acids

4. Exercise your peripheral vision
The task: Sit in a place outside your house, such as on a park bench or in a cafĂ©. Stare straight ahead and don’t move your eyes. Concentrate on everything you can see without moving your eyes, including in your peripheral vision. When you have finished, write a list of everything you saw. Then try again and see if you can add to your list.
The reason: Scientists have shown that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is crucial to focus and memory, falls off with memory loss and is almost absent in Alzheimer’s patients. This activity should help you reinvigorate the controlled release of acetylcholine in your brain through a useful visual memory task

5. Get Exercise
The task: Brain health is another reason to get on your bicycle, to the swimming pool or to wherever else you like to exercise your body.
The reason: New research indicates that exercise has positive benefits for the hippocampus, a brain structure that's important for learning and memory. Some studies even suggest that regular exercise is related to a delay in the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

6. Learn to play a new instrument
The task: If you’ve ever thought about learning to play an instrument or take up an old one, now is a great time!
The reason: Playing an instrument helps you exercise many interrelated dimensions of brain function, including listening, control of refined movements and translation of written notes (sight) to music (movement and sound).

7. Learn to user your "other" hand
The task: If you're right-handed, use your left hand for daily activities (or vice versa). Start with brushing your teeth left-handed, and practice until you have perfected it. Then try to build your way up to more complex tasks such as eating.
The reason: This is an exercise in which you know what you're supposed to achieve but must do it in a new and demanding learning context. Doing such an activity can drive your brain to make positive changes. Think of millions of neurons learning new tricks as you finally establish better control of that other hand!

8. Memorize a song
The task: Choose a song with lyrics you enjoy but don’t have memorized. Listen to the song as many times as necessary to write down all the lyrics. Then learn to sing along. Once you’ve mastered one song, move on to another!
The reason: Developing better habits of careful listening will help you in your understanding, thinking and remembering. Reconstructing the song requires close attentional focus and an active memory. When you focus, you release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a brain chemical that enables plasticity and vivifies memory.

9. Reacquaint yourself with the ball
The task: Practice throwing and catching a ball up in the air. If you're good at it, take up juggling.
The reason: People who master these kinds of sensory-guided movement activities can hone their brains' visual, tactile and hand-eye coordination responses -- which leads to widespread positive impacts for the brain

10. Step it up a notch
The task: Find an activity you like to do by yourself — such as completing a crossword puzzle or knitting — and take it to the next level. By concentrating and giving more effort to the activity, see if you can succeed better or more quickly.
The reason: There is limited value in working at a game or exercise that you can perform without paying close attention. It is important to always strive to take it up a notch to a higher and more demanding level in which you re-engage the brain’s learning machinery

11. The Crossword Myth
Many people believe that doing crossword puzzles can keep the brain sharp and even prevent Alzheimer's disease. But the evidence doesn't support them.
Crosswords may help with a brain function called fluency, or word finding. Fluency is a type of process based in the speech and language centers of the brain. Although fluency is an important brain function and many people with cognitive impairment complain about problems with word finding, it's just one of many. It seems unlikely that the skills learned in mastering crossword puzzles "generalize" to improve brain function overall.
So, while there's no reason to give up on crosswords, don't rely on them for too much, either

12. Turn down your television volume
The task: Set your TV volume down a little from where you normally have it set. Concentrate and see if you can follow along just as successfully as when the volume was higher. As soon as that setting gets easy, turn it down another notch!
The reason: Think of this: You can’t get rid of radio static by turning up the volume. Many people raise the volume because their listening has become ‘detuned’ — a little fuzzy. Matching TV volume to a conversational level can help you catch every word when talking with others

13. Visit a Museum
The task: Go on a guided tour of a museum or another site of interest. Pay careful attention to what the guide says. When you get home, try to reconstruct the tour by writing an outline that includes everything you remember.
The reason: Research into brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to change at any age) indicates that memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation — receiving, remembering and thinking — help to improve the function (and hinder the rate of decline) of the brain


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