Our recent appreciation that the human brain can be shaped and is affected by environmental input is important. We refer to this shaping or sculpting of the brain as “neural plasticity.” This is not a new concept, however, and many such as Dr. Donald Hebb, a Canadian psychologist, served as a pioneer in this area of study many years ago.
Our understanding that the human brain can be shaped by environmental input provides an entire new way of appreciating our control, to some degree, over the structure and function of our brain. My work is dedicated to brain health and I try to teach all about the miracle of the human brain and how lifestyle is important to the health of the brain.
The renewed excitement surrounding neural plasticity has literally placed the human brain on the radar screen of the American psyche. Society is now interested in the brain, how it works, and what we can do to nurture our brain. Indeed, there is recognition at the highest levels of academic inquiry about the importance of studying what input and what activities can potentially promote the health and even prevent disease of the brain. The media and typical avenues of information dissemination to the general public are now filled with stories on the brain and brain health. I remain quite busy delivering keynote presentations across the world on my Brain Health Lifestyle ® and in helping companies, schools, and organizations develop their own brain health culture. In short, brain health is now the most popular topic in all of health care!
While nutrition, physical activity and exercise, and spirituality have emerged as “hot” areas of interest within brain health, mental stimulation continues to be an important and critical part of the brain health story. Business enterprises have now emerged to try and apply products or services that put into practice the power of neural plasticity. One example of such a business enterprise is “brain fitness” that tends to be delivered on a virtual or online platform. Some estimates are that this is a multi-million dollar business that is only growing.
How does Mental Stimulation Work?
Brain fitness is one form of mental stimulation, one of the five critical factors in my brain health lifestyle ®. There are certainly many forms of non-virtual mental stimulation that can occur such as travel, gardening, reading, writing, and learning a language. Regardless, if an activity is “novel and complex” your cortex, the conscious information processing part of your brain, will be engaged. The cortex is where brain health occurs. Brain cells react to novel and complex stimuli by generating new branches of the cell known as dendrites. The more dendrites and cellular connections developed over a lifespan the more “brain resilience” you develop.
Brain resilience is a type of natural defense that can delay onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It does not prevent and it certainly does not cure. Brain fitness can be a type of novel and complex stimuli to help the brain build brain resilience. It is not a clinical intervention; it is a brain health promoting exercise.
Fitbrains and Brain Health
I have consulted with several companies in the brain fitness space and I served on a panel for the Wall Street Journal that reviewed the major businesses in this space. The panel decided we need to continue to conduct research on the effects of engaging in online brain fitness, help the public understand the role of brain fitness, and encourage continued development of brain fitness programs that are practical, relevant to daily life, and fun.
Brain fitness typically involves online cognitive exercises in areas of memory, attention, visual-spatial, executive, and language domains. The exercises are often presented in the form of brain games. I serve as the Chief Scientific Officer for Fitbrains, Inc. a leader in the brain fitness space. Fitbrains, Inc. provides mental exercises in the form of practical and fun games that help the consumer train the cognitive domains mentioned earlier. Apple recently released a new App, Fitbrains Trainer, and many people across the world are using it.
I would encourage everyone to take some time and try the Fitbrains trainer APP on your iPhone or iPad and determine how you feel after a brain fitness exercise. It is important to recognize that such effort facilitates brain health, as you will be engaged in novel and complex mental activity. It is not disease preventing. This can be a fun and worthwhile part of your daily brain health lifestyle ®.
Good Luck and build brain resilience today!