Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brain Fitness Training Is The New Resolution

By Martin G Walker

If historians are correct, the ancient Babylonians, one of
the earliest civilized societies, practiced the art of the
New Year's resolution. To this day, cultures around the
world use the turning of the year as a time to reflect on
what's past while looking to the future. This New Year more
people than ever before will be making brain fitness
training their top resolution.

Many of the traditional favorites - losing weight,
exercising, quitting smoking, to name a few - already move
us in the direction of better brain health. Brain training
takes us a big step further by fostering brain plasticity, a
state that we can use to improve our memory, concentration,
and mental acuity while helping to stave off the onset of
Alzheimer's symptoms and early dementia.

Although scientists had long since dismissed the idea that
the adult brain could grow and change, research from the
last few years overturns that theory with studies proving
quite the opposite. The right conditions can cause the
production of new neural nerve cells and the brain, in fact
proves to be remarkably adept at rewiring connections work
more effectively with the right training. (The concept of
brain plasticity is even being applied in new therapies for
stroke victims, restoring motor capabilities that
traditional therapies could not.)

Brain Training Benefits

Academics: Good brain training software may be one of the
most effective and affordable test prep programs you can
buy. Test prep typically helps you increase your test scores
but won't help you do better in school, whereas brain
training can boost your attention and general
problem-solving ability. And if you have a diagnosed
learning dysfunction, it's possible that a targeted brain
exercise will help. Where possible, many learning
specialists have begun to use brain training in preference
to accommodations as a way to address a deficit directly
rather than working around it.

Career Improvement: If your career involves creative
problem-solving and focused mental activity brain training
provides a way to stay sharp. Modern workplace demands tend
to disrupt the brain's ability to form memories and
stimulate new cell growth. Brain training can significantly
increase effectiveness and success in the workplace.

Long-Term Mental Health And Well-Being: Unless we do
something to stop it, by age 40 our brains have begun to
decline. With regular mental exercise, however, we can
reduce or eliminate memory loss, and lower our risk of
developing Alzheimer's symptoms and dementia. Researchers
have even found that depression responds to the kind of
stimulated neural growth that brain training can induce.

Self-Growth: The recent upsurge in brain training
technologies has revealed that brain exercise can lead to
improvements in seemingly unrelated areas - such as musical
ability and self-esteem. When we reflect on the brain's
central role in any and all aspects of thinking (including
feeling) this begins to make perfect sense. If we're already
engaged in activities such as physical exercise, yoga,
reading, therapy, and mindfulness meditation, a program of
mental exercise fits right in.

Making The Resolution Stick

Studies have shown that we tend not to keep our New Year's
resolutions. Women will do better at them if they share them
with their friends. And men succeed more often if the goals
are broken down into manageable milestones. Brain training
has the built-in advantage of challenge and reward. If we
find a training program that works for us, it will become an
activity we look forward to. Many programs also provide the
option to share our achievements in some form of on-line
community, and to track our detailed progress through our
training scores.

The brain training marketplace can be a little confusing at
first. There are many products out there and it's not always
clear which ones work. Some training programs provide don't
require much focus and attention and won't stimulate brain
plasticity. Others might work extremely well but cost
several hundred dollars and demand a significant time
commitment.

It's important to verify a program's scientific basis. The
vendor should state clearly what improvements the program
will bring about and in what time period. And the product
should come with a training schedule that will help you
judge whether it is right for you.

Brain training could be the best New Year's resolution
you'll ever make. With the right level of commitment it can
bring about a big jump in mental ability and set us on the
road to long-term brain health.

Oxford-trained scientist, author, and technologist, Martin
G. Walker is a member of The British Neuroscience
Association, Learning and The Brain, and MENSA. His company
(http://mindevolvesoftware.com) Mind Evolve Software
publishes free information on the field of neuroscience and
brain training as well as effective and affordable
(http://mindsparkebrainfitnesspro.com) brain training
software under the brand name Mind Sparke.

3 comments:

Martin Walker said...

Hi, Maxx.

I wrote this article, but my authorship, bio, and reference material have been removed. Please restore my credit and bio or remove the article.

Best wishes,
Martin Walker
www.mindsparke.com

Martin Walker said...

Thanks, Maxx.

Martin

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