By | Jessica Sweet
For as long as we can remember, the localisation theory of the brain reigned. The idea that the adult brain is composed of several regions, each of which is responsible for separate functions. While most people still adhere to this and assume that vision goes here and memories go there, the emerging science of neuroplasticity outlines how wrong this is.
Rather than immutable and fixed, the neural connections between different areas of the brain can reorganise themselves. This is why one with brain damage to one side of the brain can often recover. Neuroplasticity enables a healthy section to assume the role of the damaged part. It is also how we form memories, develop new skills, and most importantly, learn. Here we will explore ways on how you can increase neuroplasticity and the benefits doing so can bring to your life.
Feed Your Brain
Your brain makes up a tiny percentage of your total body weight. However, it does use up a quarter of everything you eat. Those wanting enhanced neural pathways must adhere to an enhanced diet. This means grabbing snacks like blueberries, walnuts, and avocados throughout the day. Magnesium and vitamin D are top priorities if you wish to promote neuroplasticity.
Understandably, a good night’s rest of between 7 and 9 hours will always set you up for a better brain day. However, short naps of roughly 20 minutes can elevate your neuroplasticity potential even further. Short naps are great for encouraging the growth of dendritic spines. These act as vital connectors between the neurons in the brain. There are many other benefits of naps too. These include reducing fatigue, increasing alertness, and elevating your mood.
Expand Your Vocabulary
It’s recommended to learn one new word each day. This simple act sparks a multitude of new neural pathways, both auditory and visual. There are many books on neuroplasticity you can pick up which explain the topic further and can give you a new perspective. Another option is to study a neuroscience online course. There are six-week-long courses you can embark on that revolve all around neuroscience that are specifically suited for those wishing to develop key skills for growth and move into leadership roles.
Learn to Juggle
Juggling is often cited as a fantastic means of improving neuroplasticity. Keep a small set of balls by your side for a brain boost whenever you’ve got a few moments spare between tasks and chores. Once you get started and get the hang of it, the bigger the benefits you’ll receive. Some of these include improved hand-eye coordination, focused concentration, problem-solving skills, and bi-manual dexterity.
If there is one game that has endless potential for neuroplasticity, it’s chess. Players have significantly more grey matter in their anterior cingulate cortex. You don’t even need another player or board to reap the mental advantages. There’s the option to play chess online for a quick blast whenever you’ve got a few minutes to yourself. One doesn’t need to finish the game either to get the neurological boost. Playing chess can also improve self-confidence, attention span, and pattern recognition. Once you get into the swing of things, you’ll soon become a chess pro.
Stress dampens neuroplasticity in the prefrontal and hippocampus cortex while increasing it in the amygdala. The latter is associated with anger, anxiety, fear, and other autonomic emotional responses. Of course, stress happens to us all. Although, it’s how we respond to it and whether we mitigate its damage is what matters. Most of this is laying the foundations for healthy brain function. There are lifestyle factors that can be exacerbating stress, such as work commitments or looking after young children. Find ways to eliminate stress. This could be in the form of relaxation techniques.
Try Aerobic Exercise
While physical activity in itself does not cause neuroplasticity, it does boost blood supply to the hippocampus. This is the hub of the long-term memory and long-term spatial which can be increased with neuroplasticity. It’s believed that the more you work out, the easier optimising neuroplasticity should become. Among the wide range of brain exercises promising to sharpen your brain, remember that less is more. There are many forms of aerobic exercise that you can try out today which can help in boosting neuroplasticity. Some of these include walking, swimming, rowing, and using an elliptical trainer.
Neuroplasticity is something you can increase for the rest of your life. Regardless of age, you have some control over the neuroplasticity of the brain. Like with any muscle in your body, when it comes to your brain, you either use it or lose it. Trying out any of the above will keep your brain engaged and be beneficial toward your long-term cognitive functioning and overall health and wellbeing.