Mental Health

Train Your Brain

A Latin American woman.
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Scientists have made an amazing discovery: the adult brain can grow in response to regular demands placed on it. This was once thought impossible. The exercise of the brain is much like the exercise of the body. It helps keep us mentally fit and increases our mental ability.

In fact, mental activity can change the physical structure of our brain. One study used structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to measure the hippocampal volume (an area of the brain involved in memory) of London taxi drivers. The results showed that persons with intensive spatial training (e.g. taxi drivers) had significantly more hippocampal gray matter than usual. In other words, this area of the brain, was enlarged in the taxi drivers who used this part of their brain extensively and daily. This has also been proven in other species, in particular with birds and their ability to return to sites where they had found or stored food. So, just as the heart, muscles and cardio-respiratory system respond to physical activity that increases their efficiency, power and size, the brain can, too.

The fact is – if we fail to use brain cells, they die! A twenty-eight year study of four thousand people in the state of Washington revealed there was truth to the principle “Use it or lose it!” Indeed, it is important to regularly exercise our brain. It is also important to be careful regarding how we exercise it. When choosing activities for your brain, be careful to avoid those that require activity with no real meaningful application or usefulness. Activities that increase brain fitness will include information and/or exercises that improve your performance in other meaningful endeavors.

Some examples might include things such as reading a book that interests you or challenges you and has substantive, edifying information. Books such as the classics or the Bible are excellent choices. Other activities that exercise your brain include memorizing poems or Bible verses, doing jigsaw puzzles, learning a new language, increasing your vocabulary, and practicing a task with your non-dominant hand.

Whichever activity you decide on, be sure to regularly exercise your brain just as you would the rest of your body. You are never too old or young to give your brain the consistent workout it deserves!

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