Monday, April 30, 2012

Brain Training to Avoid Alzheimer's

 Since I have set myself a goal of living at least as long as my grandmother, who died just short of her 99th birthday, I have had this tiny, nagging fear in the back of my head that my body might hold up just fine but my brain won't keep up. That little fear has kept me alert to information that might help me tip the scales in my favor.

Age-Proof Your Brain

Earlier this year, AARP Magazine had an article with suggestions on how to prevent or at least delay problems with dementia. It recommended:
  1. Getting enough exercise
  2. Strength training
  3. Challenging your brain
  4. Meditation
  5. Eating a Mediterranean diet
  6. Eating spicy foods, especially curcumin, found in curry
  7. Finding your purpose in life and setting goals to get there
  8. Having an active social life
  9. Avoiding diabetes, obesity, and hypertension (which all the above will help)
  10. Getting checked for vitamin deficiencies
Alzheimer's

Studies are finding that there is a good chance that exercising your body and challenging your brain can lower the amount of the protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer's.

People who have had the highest levels of mental activity throughout life seem to have less protein build-up. They think that mental activity keeps the disease from developing, or at least slows it way down.

Neuroplasticity

It turns out that neuroplasticity is what it's all about. They used the think that intelligence was fixed at an early age. In other words, when we are young, we get smarter and smarter until, at a certain age, we've gotten as smart as we're going to get. Beyond that point, they thought, we had no more potential for improvement.

But in the last few decades they figured out that when the brain is confronted with new challenges, it can actually reshape and reorganize itself to be more efficient, regardless of its age. And it turns out that video games can be a highly effective method for improvement.

That was certainly enough information to convince me to look into finding a way to challenge my brain. When I Googled "brain training", I got a long list of companies offering to fix me up: Brainmetrix.com; Lumosity.com; Braintraining101.com; Cognifit.com; and LearningRX.com were just the first few that came up. How would I choose?

Lumosity

I followed a bunch of links and decided that Lumosity seemed to me to be the one that had the best program. Lumos Labs works with researchers at universities that I respect to develop and continually improve their program. They explain the science behind the program in terms that everyone can understand. And they let me try enough of the games for free that I could tell I would enjoy the daily challenge.

There are over 35 different games and exercises that can dramatically enhance the brain's proficiency in the areas of speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving. The games are set up so you start with courses of basic training and then focus on specific areas where you might need a bit more help.

I decided the smart thing to do was to sign up for one month to be sure that I would like it well enough to continue for a longer period. As soon as I had done that, they made me an offer for one year at a price that I could not refuse.

That was in November. I set up a daily reminder email and did it religiously for about four months. I have climbed to a very high percentile for my age group - actually, almost exactly the same as my high school achievement tests. Now I have taken more control and pick and choose from my favorites of the games in the areas where I have the most room for improvement.

I Love a Challenge

Every time I get a really good score at a certain level, the game automatically moves me to the next level and it gets harder. Because of this my brain is always being challenged. This is something that crossword puzzles, sudoku, and solitaire cannot do for you.

Are you ready to join me and the 20 million other people who are members of Lumosity?  
Why not follow the link, read what they have to say, and try out the free games? I think you might just like it as much as I do. (By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Lumosity. I'm just a fan.)




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