Brain scientists used to believe that memory loss and other forms of mental decline were just an inevitable part of aging; nothing could be done about it, so whether or not someone became “senile” was due just to the luck of the draw.
This paradigm began to shift in the 1990’s, as more and more scientists began to explore other possible causes for memory loss. In the last two decades, we’ve learned that the brain can continue to make new connections among brain cells, and that it can even grow entirely new ones. Studies have also documented the importance of keeping the brain active; just as muscles grow stronger with exercise, so can the brain if it’s engaged in the right brain fitness activities.
Over the last few years, these exciting scientific advancements have fueled the rapid growth of the brain fitness movement. Almost daily, we hear about the release of a new brain fitness product, or about a friend or family member who is trying to pursue a more brain-healthy lifestyle.
Despite the explosion of interest in brain fitness, no one has yet offered to explain what “brain fitness” actually means, or how we can pursue it holistically. This article provides some guidance on both of these fundamental questions.
“Brain Fitness” Is About Capabilities and Performance
First, “brain fitness” is NOT about the diagnosis or treatment of formal brain-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s or depression. These disorders are rightly defined as medical conditions, and they should be diagnosed and treated under the careful guidance of your doctor.
Similarly, “brain fitness” goes well beyond the prevention of brain-related disorders. Clearly, reducing your risk of having a brain-related disorder is a terrific goal in itself. But the concept of being “fit” means more than just “free of disease”.
“Brain fitness” is about capabilities and performance. Having a fit brain means that you possess the thinking and feeling abilities required to work productively, sustain meaningful personal relationships, and achieve your goals in life. In other words, “brain fitness” means that your brain is performing in the ways that you need and want it to.
Everyone gets to set their own brain fitness performance targets, just as a professional athlete sets different physical fitness goals than an office worker does. Similarly, our brain fitness goals can change over time, depending on what we are hoping to achieve at each juncture in our lives. Because of this, the most important step in your brain fitness journey is to first ask: “What level of performance do I want from my brain, given my personal goals and responsibilities?” Naturally, answers will vary.
Article is 1 of 3 provided by G. Richard Ambrosius and Patrick Brannelly of NeoCorta