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Interesting Ways to Boost your Brain

Improve IQ, Memory, Concentration and General Brainpower

By Ariel Lehrer, Edited by Blifaloo - Last update: July 31st, 2012

Want a Bigger Brain? 

You won’t get it by watching television; a passive activity. While you may pick up a few interesting facts if you watch the educational channels, it won’t increase your brain capacity any more than watching weightlifting will make you stronger. It has been said many times. While the brain is not technically a muscle, it functions like one. If you don’t use it, it will become weaker.  

Standard thinking for years has been that after a person reaches maturity and the brain has fully developed that new growth or increases in neuron formation not only do not occur but can only be expected to decrease. New developments in the field of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to grow and reorganize itself, are proving these conventions wrong. Here are a few activities we have found that will make your brain bigger, or at least make it more active. You may even enjoy these activities:

Juggling for Intelligence

Juggling may actually make your brain grow. German researchers published a report in the journal Nature that studied 24 participants. Before their findings, it was believed that the brain could only change through deterioration.

They divided their research participants into two groups. For three months, one group learned to juggle. We don’t know how adept they became, but after 3 months, brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging showed that the volume and density of their brains in areas used for visual and motor activity had increased. The researchers were concerned with measuring the structure of the participant’s brains, not the activity.  

The group that did not juggle had no change. The bad news? After 3 months with no practice, the juggling group lost their gains. The researchers were not sure whether longer periods of training would have enable participants to retain their increased brain size. Until further evidence is collected we can call this “use it or lose it” theory demonstrated in cold hard facts.

Blifaloo says: I have been juggling for about 3-4 years. In the first year, I saw amazing changes in my physical abilities -- my reflexes are amazing. I also learned a lot about how my brain/body works together. I can't explain how great an influence learning to juggle has had on my life -- I will just encourage my visitors to try learning to juggle themselves. Just go to youtube.com and type in "how to juggle 3 balls" -- that's how I learned :)

How about doubling up on stress relief by juggling balls built as stress relievers?

There is a short video of Blifaloo juggling here.

Meditation

meditationA group of neuroscientist went to visit the Dalai Lama and a few of his closest monk friends at their home in Dharamsala, India. What they wanted to know was whether meditation can expand or strengthen circuits in a person’s brain. It has already been demonstrated that outside stimulation can affect the brain. They wanted to verify whether the power of one’s own internal concentration can do the same.

Their findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were remarkable. The monks who participated had in excess of 10,000 hours of meditation experience. They were asked to meditate on specific ideas, like compassion. Their brain functioning was compared to inexperienced meditators focusing on the same subject.

The increase in the activity of the monk’s brains was not only greater than that of the inexperienced people to whom they were compared; it was greater than anything previously recorded in similar research. The high-frequency brain activity called gamma waves of their brains dramatically increased during the experiment. These tests also relied on functional magnetic resonance imaging to document activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the participant’s brains.

The thought experiment actually overwhelmed activity in the right prefrontal cortex where negative emotions and anxiety dwell. It appears that their discipline has increased the level of their consciousness in a positive and measurable way. 

Additional information gathered by research scientist Sara Lazar of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School revealed a thicker cortex in the brains of those who practiced Buddhist insight meditation. Related link: Meditation increases grey matter in the brain.

Face to Face Contact (Face Time)

Harvard lecturer, Edward M. Hallowell, tells us in his article “The Human Moment at Work” that we need face to face contact to get our brains to work at their best. The information we process in impersonal communication or reading the computer screen just does not compare to the neurons that are firing when we’re reading someone’s face and engaging in the complex array of skills used while interacting with them.

Research conducted at McGill University showed that it could take as little as one day for someone to begin to hallucinate without normal human contact.

Coffee

Don’t forget that morning cup of coffee, and mid-morning, and lunchtime, and early afternoon, etc. In preliminary findings published by Florian Koppelstaater of the Medical University at Innsbruck, Austria, caffeine was found to inhibit adenosine receptors and excite nerve cells in the brain. Effectively, this improves short-term memory and speeds up reaction time by acting on the brain’s prefrontal cortex. It regulates higher brain function in areas involved in executive memory, concentration, attention, planning, and monitoring. What a great pick-me-up effect. 

The study group abstained from coffee and other stimulants for 24 hours before being tested. Some were then given either strong cup of coffee while others were given a placebo. Several days later their roles were reversed. The participants who actually ingested the caffeine had significantly greater activation in parts of the prefrontal lobe, known as the anterior cingulate and the anterior cingulate gyrus and performed better in memory tests than those who did not receive caffeine. 

Sex

In general, having a relaxed and stress free mind will lead to better thinking. We can think of many ways to accomplish this. Put on some great music, laugh a little, take a walk in the woods, exercise, get a good night sleep. If none of these suit you, you may want to try a little intimate contact. During orgasm, the chemical oxytocin is released. It creates a feeling of trust between partners that allows them to relax and generates bonding and emotional attachment. 

The hormone was given to patients with autistic spectrum disorders. It improved their brain function, reduced repetitive disorders, and helped them to perform better in reading social cues. The hormone increased activation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area that processes facial cues.

Drugs & Supplements

Not the illicit kind. We mean cognitive enhancement drugs. Many are being developed to treat age related dementia and other disorders such as Narcolepsy but have been found to be just as beneficial to the healthy mind.

Some natural brain boosters include fish like krill oil products -- containing large amounts of Omega-3s, EPA, and DHA. St. Johns Wort, Ginseng and Guarana are often marketed as brain-boosting supplements.

Research has found that with the use of modafinil, even someone who is sleep deprived can perform better mentally than they do when fully rested. Ritalin, developed for those with attention deficit disorders, has come into common use among many people with no attention deficit disorders for the superior concentration that it provides.

Pharmaceutical companies are fast developing a long list of other memory enhancement drugs. Most of these drugs act on nicotinic receptors to excite the brain or the cannabinoid system to prevent a person from being too relaxed.

Other drugs focus on memory enhancement but researchers foresee some drawbacks in this area. They have found that the drugs can unlock unwanted memories. Forgetting sometimes has its advantages also. 

Conclusion

We’re sure our list is not exhaustive. We’d love to hear from you any ideas you have for brain stretching activities. 

Try our sites own Brain Training Games or Riddle Challenges to exercise your brain. 

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