have to keep challenging your brain to keep it sharp. The
trick is to use your brain every day — ideally for
things that are at least a little different from anything
you’ve done before — rather than just once in a while. The
only way that will happen is if the things that keep your
brain sharp are also things you enjoy doing. The good news
is that your brain has reward systems built into it that
encourage you to do what keeps it alive and healthy. You
just have to give it the material it needs to do that.
The central player in your brain’s
reward system is dopamine, a natural brain chemical that
feels good. Your brain’s dopamine levels rise when it encounters
something new, and dopamine levels remain high at least
until the novelty wears off.
probably also plays a role in neurogenesis, the brain’s
process of regenerating its own neurons. With age, both neurogenesis
and the brain’s natural dopamine levels tend to drop.
Many of the unwanted cognitive changes that come with aging
might be avoided by regularly engaging in activities that
raise dopamine levels. Many of those activities also use
mental skills that need to be actively maintained in order
to avoid losing them
What do you
see in this
to Calculate Your Mental Activity Score
your activity-days per week:
- Playing board games or cards
- Playing a musical instrument
- Reading for pleasure
- Writing for pleasure
- Doing crossword puzzles
- Participating in organized group discussions
For each activity, give yourself 1 point for each
day per week that you do it. For example, if you
do crossword puzzles every day, give yourself 7 points
for that. If you play mah-jongg once a week, give
yourself 1 point for that. Then, add up all your
points for your total score. Among the 75-plus-year-old
participants in the study that used this scale, those
who got dementia had an average score of 7.5; those
who avoided dementia had an average score of 10.6.
Subjects who scored in the highest third (over 11
activity-days per week) had a 63% lower dementia
risk that those who scored in the lowest third.
have to do just these activities, of course. Use common
sense to decide whether to count an activity or not.
A mentally stimulating hobby that also gives you social
interaction is excellent; if it gives you physical
exercise as well, even better. Here are some examples:
writing, solving puzzles
plus social: playing board games,
joining discussion groups
plus social plus physical: doing
group yoga, taichi, or martial arts; conducting
music; taking Preservation Society tours of historic
homes in your area; sailing; playing charades;
acting in amateur drama productions; singing in
a choir; touring botanical gardens and learning
the names of plants with a friend; taking classes
in anything interesting (a language, paper making,
furniture restoration, calligraphy) at a local
community center or college.
this as your goal: Whatever your
score, raise it by one point every week for 2 months.
To get a point, all you have to do is do one more
activity one day per week.
If you try to remember a number series just long enough to
repeat it back, you’ll be limited by a “mind’s ear” short-term
memory store known as the phonological loop. Your limit will
probably be about 7 numbers. Try it:
1-5-3-5-6-1 (now look away and repeat the number)
Have you reached your limit yet? You can
memorize more numbers if you organize them into larger units,
a procedure called chunking:
The way to memorize much larger sequences
of data is to analyze them on a level that runs deeper than
15 (the age of your cat)
356 (the date Alexander the Great was born (BC))
1925 (the year your mother was born)
1129 (your sister-in-law’s birthday (November 29th)
In each row, which
of the designs in the right two columns contains
the figure to the left? Men tend to perform
a little better on this visualization task
than women. Interestingly, people with autism
(over 80% of whom are male) perform better,
on average, than non-autistics.
anyone, it can be difficult to
pay attention to more than one
thing at once. That’s especially
true if the two things are similar.
Try this. Here’s a sequence of
3 - 17 - 6 - 11- 8. What I
want you to do is keep that
series of numbers in your head
while you perform the multiplication
problem below. (First cover
up the number sequence you’re
trying to remember!) 34 x 47
= ___ All done? Now, what were
those numbers? If you succeeded
in remembering them, you have
an unusually good ability to
do two things at the same time.
If you didn’t, don’t worry.
Just take it as a lesson about
the importance of selective
attention when you want to
brain system that gives us our
ability to recognize a face is
located in the right hemisphere.
That system sees the face as a
holistic pattern, not a collection
of individual parts. But when a
face is turned upside-down, our
face recognition faculty doesn’t
work very well. We fall back on
a strategy of checking individual
features, and may not notice that
their arrangement is bizarre. Do
both these faces look normal? Are
the faces right-side up
Over 230,000 copies sold
in the USA alone,
plus translations into 14 languages worldwide.
It handles the details, like language skills. Every-day tips to use what you learn. Mental exercises that, when done, release serotonin, a feel-good hormone.
Three guides in one: How skills develop and are maintained through life:
1. Womb to adolescence; 2. Professional Years; 3. Slowing down the slowing down
With Words & Numbers
Skill-graded challenges: easy to hard, logic, numbers, crypto-visual plus tricks
to maximize performance in every one (176 of them). Another top seller.
It or Lose It!
As the mind matures it begins to lose essential abilities unless....
it is forced to work. Then it builds connections again into old age.
A breast-pocket full of visual mental-teasers to work out in spare moments.
Now in 13 languages. Especially good for designers and creative thinkers.
How many of these photos of 60 old-time, household artifacts can you figure out how they worked and what they were used for? This taps the visual-spatial skills in your right brain. (Men are surprisingly good at this). See an interesting, detailed description when you turn the page after each photo.
A fun Valentine gift , especially for elderly antique collectors and flea-market addicts.