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Will Working Puzzles and Playing Strategy Games Preserve Your Brain?

If you do it right, puzzles and games might just save your brain. There are millions of players of strategy games, memory games, word games and puzzles. They want to know that working crosswords, solving sudoku, playing bridge, mahjong or chess will help preserve mental acuity. Some are counting on it.

Cognitive Reserve Cognitive reserve is the term developed after researchers found instances of examination of the brains of individuals that showed signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but, while alive, the individual had exhibited no signs of dementia.  We want to build cognitive reserve, and there is evidence that puzzles can do that. One key-and positive-study from 2011 found that solving crossword puzzles delayed onset of memory loss by 2.5 years, and may have had much longer beneficial impact. NIH Research The National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research funded a study on brain-training and cognition. That study is related-admittedly indirectly-to…
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Did You Know You Have An Inner Executive? Show It Some Love

Your brain has an Executive Function. Executive function is the scientific term for our ability to organize activity, learn from past experiences, make plans, solve problems and work puzzles.
Some ScienceAmong the areas in the brain involved in executive function are the medial frontal cortex and the lateral prefrontal cortex. Robert M.G. Reinhart PhD and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Boston University notes that those two areas control most of the executive function. He calls these areas “the alarm bell of the brain”. Reinhart is the Director of the Visual Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston University and, among other area of brain research, has been studying ways to employ electrical stimulation to improve performance in learning and self-control.
“If you make an error, this brain area fires. If I tell you that you make an error, it also fires. If something surprises you, it fires,” says Reinhart.
More Science
Kimberly Luu, currently doing graduate studies at the University of W…

We're Fat as Hell and It's Killing Us

Tuesday, the CDC reported that being overweight or obese is associated with higher risk of 13 different cancers. They put it into perspective with two additional pieces of data: first, two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and second, in 2014, there were 630,000 diagnoses of those forms of cancer in the U.S. That is, there were 630,000 cases of the kinds of cancer associated with being overweight. Over a third of Americans are obese. Now, that’s not someone’s judgement call. That is a statistical finding, based on studies of body mass index (BMI). Here's the formula for BMI so that you can calculate it for yourself. You may want to convert your height and weight into meters; some of the formulas I’ve found use the metric system. Here's a converter for inches into meters.
A friend of mine said he is writing a three-hundred-page book on diet. On one page it has “Eat Less”. The facing page has “Exercise More”, for all three hundred pages. There is no mystery here. We kno…

She Squats Bro

The research team of Dr. Claire J. Steves, Dr. Ted Spector and others at Kings College in London are doing some amazing research on aging (and other important research as well). Much of that examines aging effects on the brain. One of the research studies involved exercise and cognitive decline. Here is a quote from that research: “A striking protective relationship was found between muscle fitness (leg power) and both 10-year cognitive change… and subsequent total grey matter”. In other words, the women with better leg strength and fitness showed less cognitive decline as they aged.
As we continue to note, the link between physical fitness, exercise and so on to maintaining a healthy brain is well known. And, we’ve seen studies where older adults improved cognition with dancing, which obviously requires use of leg muscles. (See Dance Your *** Off; Grow a Bigger Brain). But this is the first I recall where leg muscles in particular were noted, and the first where a muscle group is sho…

Home Alone Wasn't Just Bad For Macaulay Culkin

What everyone ought to know about loneliness.


If you maintain regular interaction with friends and family, everything in your life will be better. If you don’t, odds of bad things, such as cognitive decline and premature death, increase.
Isolation and Loneliness Can Be Deadly From the UCLA Healthy Years Newsletter: Prolonged loneliness and isolation can have serious effects on your health. It can increase bouts of Depression and sadness, disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure and raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research has shown that extreme loneliness can increase your chances of early death by 14 percent. In fact, loneliness is put in the same risk category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and has twice the impact on premature death as does obesity.
The University College London (UCL) and Manchester University have been conducting an ongoing multi-year study called ELSA -English Longitudinal Study of Aging. They reported this finding:                 Social isolation was …

Hang Out & Do Stuff With Friends: Live Longer & Healthier

If you maintain regular interaction with friends and family, everything in your life will be better.
Angela Troyer, PhD and Professional Practice Chief of Psychology and the program director of neuropsychology and cognitive health at Baycrest Hospital in Toronto, Nicole Anderson PhD and Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology at the University of Toronto and Kelly Murphy PhD, Clinical Neuropsychologist at Baycrest and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto wrote Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Guide to Maximizing Brain Health and Reducing Risk of Dementia.
In synthesizing some of their work, Professor Troyer wrote this: “Did you know that connecting with friends may also boost your brain health and lower your risk of dementia?” She went on to make these four points about social interaction: you may live longer, you will enjoy better physical health; you will enjoy better mental health; and you may even lower your risk of dementia.

In their w…

Do This One Thing to Focus Like a Navy Seal

Our brains normally control our breathing automatically. At the base of the brain is the brain stem, which includes the medulla oblongata, which monitors things like carbon dioxide levels in the blood and signals the lungs to adjust as appropriate.
According to Doctor Matthew MacKinnon, taking control of your breathing for a while can be relaxing and calming. Let’s give it a test. Beginning right now, sit up straight, relax your shoulders, put your hands in your lap. Exhale and empty your lungs. Take a slow deep breath. Try to count slowly up to four as you inhale. Hold your breath for a count of four, then slowly exhale counting 1 2 3 4.  Repeat ten times.


Done?
By the time you complete ten reps, you’ve probably cut your respiration rate from about fifteen breaths per minute to six. If you’ve followed along, you should be more relaxed and concentrating better. The Navy Seals call this technique four-box breathing and use it to calm down and focus. And they are likely in more high-pr…