These days, we all live under considerable stress — economic challenges, job demands, family tensions, always-on technology and the 24-hour news cycle all contribute to ceaseless worry. Modern life places extraordinary demands on our brains. Not only do we live longer than ever before, but we must constantly adapt to complex and rapidly evolving personal and professional realities.
Yet, we often ignore our most precious resource to do so: our brain.
Let’s cuts through the clutter of misconceptions, superficial and conflicting media coverage, and aggressive marketing claims, to discover what really works, and what doesn’t, to improve brain health and performance at any age, to delay or prevent cognitive decline, and become smarter consumers of both media coverage and scientific research in the process.
Our goal is to clear up some common misconceptions about how the brain works, and how to improve brain health and performance at any age.
Myth: Genes determine the fate of our brains.
Fact: Lifelong neuroplasticity allows our lifestyles and actions to play meaningful roles in how our brains physically evolve, especially given longer life expectancy.
Myth: Aging means automatic decline.
Fact: There is nothing inherently fixed in the precise trajectory of how brain functions evolve as we age.
Myth: Medication is the main hope for cognitive advancement.
Fact: Noninvasive interventions can have comparable and more durable effects, free of side-effects.
Myth: We will soon have a magic pill or general solution to solve all of our cognitive problems.
Fact: A multipronged approach is recommended, centered around nutrition, stress management, and both physical and mental exercise.
Myth: There is only one “it” in “use it or lose it.”
Fact: The brain is composed of a number of specialized units. Our life and productivity depend on a variety of brain functions, not just one.
Myth: All brain activities or exercises are equal.
Fact: Varied and targeted exercises are the necessary ingredients in brain training, so that a wide range of brain functions can be stimulated.
Myth: There is only one way to train your brain.
Fact: Brain functions can be impacted in a number of ways — through meditation, cognitive therapy, or cognitive training.
Myth: We all have something called “brain age.”
Fact: Brain age is a fiction. No two individuals have the same brain or expression of brain functions.
Myth: Brain age can be reversed by 10, 20, or 30 years.
Fact: Brain training can improve specific brain functions, but with research available today, it cannot be said to roll back one’s brain age by a number of years.
Myth: All human beings need the same brain training.
Fact: As in physical fitness, people must ask themselves: What functions do I need to improve on? In what time frame? What is my budget?
Whether your goal is to become more resilient, enhance memory, ward off Alzheimer’s disease, or simply improve mental focus to perform better at work, anything you do involving novelty, variety, and challenge stimulates the brain and can contribute to building capacity and brain reserve.
This list is excerpted from “The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age.”