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Aging

Continuing The Series On Brain Plasticity By Guest Author Anna Kucirkova

Ways To Harness Plasticity

harness plasticity

With the right circumstances, the power of brain plasticity can help adult minds grow. Although certain brain functions decay with age, people can tap into plasticity and refresh the brain.

Targeted brain plasticity exercises help to keep our brains fit. Even those suffering from brain damage may be able to retrain their brains for better function. The key is identifying what brain functions to target and how to best exercise them.

Researchers suggest that there are various methods of harnessing brain plasticity:

Intermittent Fasting

The Society for Neuroscience suggests that fasting increases synaptic plasticity, decreases risk of neurodegenerative diseases, promotes neuron growth and improves cognitive function. When you fast, a metabolic shift reduces the body’s leptin levels. Thus, the brain receives a chemical signal for neurons to produce more energy.

Travel

Traveling encourages neurogenesis by exposing your brain to new, fresh, and complex environments. Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist from the University of Pittsburgh explains, “Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites.” And a week-long tour of another country isn’t necessary to get this benefit; take a weekend road trip to a different city.

Use Mnemonic Devices

Memory training promotes connectivity in your brain’s prefrontal parietal network and can slow memory loss with age. Mnemonic devices combine visualization, imagery, spatial navigation, and rhythm and melody, so they can reach various parts of the brain simultaneously.

Learn an Instrument

Musicians’ brains show sharp connectivity between brain areas. Neuroscientists explain that the multi-sensory experience of playing a musical instrument allows for the association of motor actions with specific sounds, and memorizing visual patterns leads to new neural networks being formed. As you practice a new instrument, the repetition will allow for neuroplasticity to do its work.

Non-Dominant Hand Exercises

Using your non-dominant hand during routine tasks can help form new neural pathways. Doing this strengthens connectivity between your brain cells. Studies also show that non-dominant hand activities improve emotional health and impulse control. Try switching hands during some simple tasks and give your brain a test.

Read Fiction

Studies show increased and ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading a novel. Enhanced brain activity occurred in the brain area that controls physical sensations and movement. Scientists explain that reading a novel can be a physical transportation into the fictional world. Shifting into this mental state is crucial for learning how to have complex social relationships.

Expand your Vocabulary

When you learn new words, the brain’s visual processes, memory processes, and auditory processes activate. The smaller your vocabulary, the more likely you are to have poor cognitive skills.

Sleep

Studies show that sleep “helps learning retention with the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions that connect brain cells and facilitates the passage of information across synapses.” Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night will help the brain retain information.

Try at least one of these ways and disprove the old idea that we lose brain function as we age.  The last part of this age will be published next week.

Aging Gracefully For Other People, Not yourself (Or Thinking About (“A Place For Mom”) ut

 

With the Baby Boomers coming into the picture, there are more of us who are dealing with the problems of aging.  One of them occurs when others tell those who are aging what they should do and how they should be.  This makes those among us who are aging feel that we are no longer in charge of our own destinies and that it is all downhill the rest of our lives.  Thus we tend not to maintain our intellect, our bodies, and our skills.

Another problem is we seem to not be able to know our own minds, understand our own medical problems, and what we are capable or not capable of doing.  Recently I began treatment for sleep apnea.  I realized from what the doctors said and what I have read and experienced that it was serious enough that it was occasionally interfering with my consciousness and this led to me not driving for a while until my sleep apnea improved with the use of a CPAP machine.

How this problem with sleep apnea was interpreted by some of my family was wrong and I got criticized for saying anything to the doctor (while it really was the truth).  I wound up losing my right to drive until it cleared up.  P.S. I had wanted my family (just before this happened) to drive me to get immediate medical care for asthma on one of these occasions that I experienced this while driving.

 

Secondly, there were no restrictions on my driving before this happened; but after, my family wants to place restrictions on my driving which would include having someone with me and limiting my driving to a certain local area.  While I am limiting my driving on my own to local communities, doctor’s appointments, and church, having certain someone’s with me inspecting my driving isn’t going to help matters.  I want my mind on the wheel and not on those kinds of distractions.

I have physical disabilities, but over time I have improved in terms of what I can and can not do.  Aren’t I supposed to get worse or might that really happen because I am supposed to give up and totally decline in terms of what I am able to do?  I have increased the amount of housekeeping and shopping I do.  I babysit grandchildren while my husband watches TV.  Keeps me busy.  I post on my website each week and balance my checkbook and pay my bills each month.  I have traveled sometimes on my own.

Question is how do those younger in my family or other younger acquaintances perceive me?  Is it for their own convenience or is it from their misguided perceptions of aging?  Beware, is aging caused by time or by what other people expect or by just giving up?

I continually increase my current knowledge in many areas (usually by reading).  I do scan the internet, I watch the news, I follow fashion magazines and TV programs, and I follow the interior decorating channels and magazines as well as religious and spiritual issues in print, on TV, and the internet.  I even talk to myself (sometimes I don’t have an appropriate audience) and my friends formulating ideas for presentations I would like to give on various subjects.  Oh, and my family worries if I say anything on the internet or in my blog I might embarrass myself (what about them?).  P.S. they don’t read my blog and if they did it probably it would probably be to edit it, not read it.  I have been writing this blog for five years.