Put your brain to the challenge

Just as when you work to strengthen aging muscles, though, you need to put in extra effort to keep the “muscle” inside your head in top condition. Among the best ways to do this is to learn new things that continuously challenge your mind.

Experiences that require you to learn new skills and memorize information stimulate the brain to form new neural connections. The brain’s ability to do this is called neuroplasticity, a process that allows the brain to continue to function at a high level throughout life.

“The more you mentally challenge yourself, the more you can increase your brain’s ability to maintain, and even improve many brain skills, especially memory,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone.

Shall we play a game?Video games could be a winner when it comes to improving memory in older adults. People ages 60 to 80 took memory tests and then played one of three video games for 30 to 45 minutes per day for four weeks. The games were interactive three-dimensional games (Super Mario and Angry Birds) that they’d never played before, and a two-dimensional game (solitaire) they were familiar with. Everyone was then retested. The three-dimensional gamers improved their recognition memory — recalling past events, objects, and people — compared with the solitaire group. The effect lasted up to four weeks after they stopped playing. The results were published in the July 15, 2020, issue of Behavioural Brain Research.

Challenge accepted

The key to neuroplasticity is constant challenges. “It doesn’t really help to do activities you already excel at, like puzzles and games,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone. “You need to expose your mind to something you’ve never done before.”

Frequency is equally important. You cannot engage in something now and then and expect positive results. Dr. Pascual-Leone suggests choosing activities that you can do at least a few days a week. “Ideally, you want to do something daily that takes you out of your mental comfort zone,” he says.

You also want activities that you enjoy and for which you can measure your improvement. “Otherwise, it won’t be fulfilling, and you’ll have trouble staying motivated and committed,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone. Looking for suggestions on how to challenge your brain? Here are a few to consider.

Grab a dance partner. From jazz to swing to ballroom, any type of dancing requires using multiple brain skills, sometimes in rapid succession. For instance, you have to react to your partner’s movements, plan and execute your response, and memorize steps and sequences. “Physical activity also helps to promote neuroplasticity, so combining movement with mental challenges can have even a greater effect,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone.

Pick up an instrument. Studies have shown that learning a musical instrument stimulates both sides of your brain, strengthening memory power. “While returning to an instrument you once played when younger is still great, it doesn’t challenge your brain as much as learning a brand-new one,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone.

Create some art. Painting, drawing, pottery, sculpting — just about any kind of artistic endeavor engages your brain through controlling hand movements, planning, and imagery.

Learn a new language. The evidence is strong that bilingual people often have fewer memory-related problems over time. According to a study published May 15, 2019, in Frontiers in Neuroscience, it’s never too late to learn a new language. It found that adults ages 59 to 79 who studied a second language for four months (16 two-hour sessions) improved the neural connectivity in the brain regions responsible for attention, working memory, and speech. For extra motivation, choose a language spoken in a country you want to visit.

Take up bridge. The classic card game demands constant mental effort. You have to keep track of various sequences of numbers, remember a catalogue of bidding instructions, and determine the best strategies to take tricks and play defense with your partner. You can take beginner classes from the American Contract Bridge League (www.acbl.org) and play online by yourself against robots or join games with people around the world at Bridge Base Online (www.bridgebase.com).

Our brains have the capacity to improve as we age. “The mechanisms in place may slow over time, but the brain’s ability to change doesn’t wane,” says Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, medical director of the Deanna and Sidney Wolk Center for Memory Health at Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife.

Just as when you work to strengthen aging muscles, though, you need to put in extra effort to keep the “muscle” inside your head in top condition. Among the best ways to do this is to learn new things that continuously challenge your mind.

Experiences that require you to learn new skills and memorize information stimulate the brain to form new neural connections. The brain’s ability to do this is called neuroplasticity, a process that allows the brain to continue to function at a high level throughout life.

“The more you mentally challenge yourself, the more you can increase your brain’s ability to maintain, and even improve many brain skills, especially memory,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone.

Shall we play a game?Video games could be a winner when it comes to improving memory in older adults. People ages 60 to 80 took memory tests and then played one of three video games for 30 to 45 minutes per day for four weeks. The games were interactive three-dimensional games (Super Mario and Angry Birds) that they’d never played before, and a two-dimensional game (solitaire) they were familiar with. Everyone was then retested. The three-dimensional gamers improved their recognition memory — recalling past events, objects, and people — compared with the solitaire group. The effect lasted up to four weeks after they stopped playing. The results were published in the July 15, 2020, issue of Behavioural Brain Research.

Challenge accepted

The key to neuroplasticity is constant challenges. “It doesn’t really help to do activities you already excel at, like puzzles and games,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone. “You need to expose your mind to something you’ve never done before.”

Frequency is equally important. You cannot engage in something now and then and expect positive results. Dr. Pascual-Leone suggests choosing activities that you can do at least a few days a week. “Ideally, you want to do something daily that takes you out of your mental comfort zone,” he says.

You also want activities that you enjoy and for which you can measure your improvement. “Otherwise, it won’t be fulfilling, and you’ll have trouble staying motivated and committed,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone. Looking for suggestions on how to challenge your brain? Here are a few to consider.

Grab a dance partner. From jazz to swing to ballroom, any type of dancing requires using multiple brain skills, sometimes in rapid succession. For instance, you have to react to your partner’s movements, plan and execute your response, and memorize steps and sequences. “Physical activity also helps to promote neuroplasticity, so combining movement with mental challenges can have even a greater effect,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone.

Pick up an instrument. Studies have shown that learning a musical instrument stimulates both sides of your brain, strengthening memory power. “While returning to an instrument you once played when younger is still great, it doesn’t challenge your brain as much as learning a brand-new one,” says Dr. Pascual-Leone.

Create some art. Painting, drawing, pottery, sculpting — just about any kind of artistic endeavor engages your brain through controlling hand movements, planning, and imagery.

Learn a new language. The evidence is strong that bilingual people often have fewer memory-related problems over time. According to a study published May 15, 2019, in Frontiers in Neuroscience, it’s never too late to learn a new language. It found that adults ages 59 to 79 who studied a second language for four months (16 two-hour sessions) improved the neural connectivity in the brain regions responsible for attention, working memory, and speech. For extra motivation, choose a language spoken in a country you want to visit.

Take up bridge. The classic card game demands constant mental effort. You have to keep track of various sequences of numbers, remember a catalogue of bidding instructions, and determine the best strategies to take tricks and play defense with your partner. You can take beginner classes from the American Contract Bridge League (www.acbl.org) and play online by yourself against robots or join games with people around the world at Bridge Base Online (www.bridgebase.com).

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25

 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

Recommended contacts for prayer request and Bible study

www.agapetemplesda.com

www.adventistontario.org

https://www.hopechannel.com/au/learn/courses

breathoflife.tv/

https://3abn.org/all-streams/3abn.html

http://www.nadadventist.org/article/15/contact-us

https://www.adventist.org/en/utility/contact/

It Is Written

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