Neurogenesis: A New Word for Your Brain Fitness
A recent article in Scientific American asked “What do New Neurons Do?” “New neurons? Most of us thought, and most still do, that the brain cells we’re born with are with are the ones we die with. I was taught this as a graduate student in the Sixties.
Remarkably, science has shown that new neurons are created as a natural process –– a process called neurogenesis. Scientists then began asking a bigger question: “Can these new brain cells wire themselves into the circuits of our brain?” Again, the answer is “yes.”
R. Douglas Fields, the author of the Scientific American article, reviews research that shows how new neurons can come together and form networks that play a part in making new memories. Although most neurons in our brains do not divide, at least 1% of the neurons are new.
What, if anything, does this have to do with us? Well, we have known for a while about neuroplasticity, the fact that the brain is a wonderfully active, dynamic, flexible and constantly reorganizing system. Now we know that the brain is capable of creating new neurons.
How can you use Neurogenesis to maximize your brain fitness?
1) Seek out new, engaging and challenging things to do. For example, adults and seniors at Sparks of Genius do things like playing computers games to improve memory thinking and attention skills, learning a new language, re-learning an old language, traveling to new places, eating healthier, drawing, dancing, juggling, starting to meditate, increase their spirituality, and find new meaning in their work.
2) Make a conscious effort to do your best in what you choose to do. When to take on a challenging task that you enjoy, it’s not always easy. But when you make the effort, gradually improve, and persist to higher levels of accomplishment and enjoying, you are really exercising your brain and improving your brain fitness.
3) Realize there are many ways to be smart and that you have the ability and the responsibility to unlock your hidden potential. When you went to school two intelligences were probably emphasized – verbal and analytical. If you could read, understand and communicate what you read (mostly through writing), think logically and mathematically, you probably did OK is school.
But there are seven other intelligences (nine altogether):
- Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in pictures, images and three dimensions.
- Musical intelligence is the ability to think in sounds, rhythms and melodies.
- Kinesthetic intelligence is the ability to use your body in skillful ways.
- Interpersonal intelligence is your ability to understand other people, to have empathy, to give and to share.
- Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to be conscious of yourself and continually improve and refine all your thoughts, words and actions.
- Naturalist intelligence is to understand and care about the natural world of plants, animals and the environment.
- Spiritual intelligence is the ability to seek truth, prayer, and care and do something about justice about the suffering of others.
Since there are so many ways to be smart, give yourself a whole brain work out and work our regularly. Here are a few ideas for starters: hum, sing, drum, juggle, dance, tell or write stories, doodle, take and edit photos, volunteer, play a new sport or game.
Activating your different intelligences stimulates different parts of your brain.
What does this have to do with your brain? Activating your different intelligences stimulates different parts of your brain. Try this little experiment: think of a word. Now say the word, write the word, sing the word, listen to the word, and write the word now with your other hand. Congratulations, you have just exercised many different parts of your brain!
Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis also apply to children, so make sure your children and grandchildren are given opportunities to experience many rich, new, complex learning environments.
Recently on this blog, Allen Dobkin noted that “Praising children for being smart, as opposed to working hard and being persistent, stunts their growth. Praising children for making an effort, trying hard and not giving up can improve their performance in school and in life.”
It’s the same with adults. Too many of us avoid things that are hard for us.
When you exercise your brain, it gets stronger–like a muscle.
A father recently asked his son what happens to his brain when he gets to think about or do something hard. “It gets bigger, like a muscle,” he responded.
Take advantage of your new word for today- neurogenesis. Do new something new, rich, complex, challenging and fun.
By the way, the Scientific American article noted that the latest news shows a burst of new neurons increases after physical exercise!”
“A sound mind in a sound body.” I’ve heard that one before.