Monday, November 15, 2010

How Do You Keep Your Brain Alive?

by Julia Buckley
I've read several things lately about the notion of exercising one's brain to keep it flexible--not only in terms of memory but in terms of the quality of thought. I play Lexulous every day as a way of keeping my mind limber (my friend Sheila does the New York Times Crossword every morning, without fail).

But there are various ways that the brain must be stretched, just as the body can be exercised in a variety of ways. This blog lists the scientifically proven methods of increasing brain power. They all make sense, of course, and some are even good news: take naps, drink red wine, and eat blueberries--thank you, I will!

But the one that makes the most sense to me in a physical and a philosophical way is Number Two: Lifelong Learning. The "use it or lose it" idea has been propounded before, but it makes sense to realize that the brain is made to think. When we're in school or learning new jobs, we are thinking hard. But if we settle into a job or a lifestyle, do we continue to challenge our brains?

I went in quest of some brain-challenging games and came up with one that really duels with the gray cells: It's called the 60 second brain game. I scored a 3 out of 5, but to my relief, my smart, fast-thinking son scored a 2, so it might be a game that takes some adapting.

I read an article once about an Alzheimer's study that was done on a group of nuns. One of the things that the researchers noticed about the nuns who developed Alzheimer's was that they had less complexity of thought (as revealed in their writings) than did the nuns who did not develop the disease in their old age. This research seems to jibe with idea number two on the list: to keep our brains, we have to THINK.

So here's another brain challenge: can you answer eight SAT logic questions? Here they are. How did you do?

If we look, there are all sorts of ways we can challenge our brains that don't necessarily involve going back to school (I just did that, so I'm seeking new challenges!)

How do you like to exercise your brain?

Image link here.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Julia, writing novels and short stories, promoting my work, and keeping up with enough of the new technology to function in the 21st century is plenty of activity to keep my brain limber, along with the incredibly complex maintenance tasks of urban life today. And sorry to disappoint you about red wine, but there's a catch. I take the brain-stoking ingredient, resveratrol, as a supplement from a trusted provider of clinical grade health products. They say one teaspoon a day, the therapeutic dose, is the equivalent of THREE THOUSAND glasses of red wine per month, a lot more than even the most determined alcoholic can handle.

Barb Goffman said...

Hi, Julia. I was interested in these games. Love games. But was disappointed at the end of the SAT game that I could only get my score by providing my email address, which I didn't do. The Brain Game also required me to give up my personal information to play. I don't pay to play.

Julia Buckley said...

Interesting point, Liz!

Barb, I did give my e-mail address, but if it results in any unwanted e-mails I'll simply unsubscribe--I don't think that they've sent me anything.

Sandra Parshall said...

The best way to keep your brain alive is to use it for meaningful work. Writers should never retire. As long as we keep writing, our brains will be okay. :-)