Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Safer, Sexier Approach to Brain Fitness

While brain fitness software might help some to recover lost cognitive function and memory power-- especially the stuff with serious research behind it like Posit Science's--there are a few things that neuroscientists pretty much all agree are good for your brain. I focused research for my story about brain training at the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF, where I asked some of the world's top neuroscientists what they did to keep their own brains humming. Not a single one (except Michael Merzenich, the founder and president of Posit) said they used brain fitness software. Instead, they cited exercise, challenging their minds by mastering new skills (memorize a poem, learn to tango, study a new language, publish another paper), eating well (foods with lots of antioxidants such as blueberries and walnuts, and foods with Omega-3 fatty acids), and engaging in stress relieving activities (hiking, music, meditation, sex). All the researchers also agreed that meaningful work helps a lot; the attention that comes from caring about what you’re trying to do is key to engaging your brain’s learning and memory functions. It's a small survey of scientists, not science, but, assuming they are rational, it's probably good advice. Anyway, their approach is not only good for the brain, it’s what someone with a good head would probably want to do anyway.

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