Neuroscentist, Dr Lynda Shaw reveals her top 10 brain exercise tips to keep those brain cells growing
1. Do more than one thing at once. As we get older the brain becomes less efficient at multi-tasking. Combining activities such as jogging and listening to an audiobook will force your brain to do two things at once, improving your ability to multi-task.
2. Listen to different music. Memorising the lyrics to songs that you don’t know will boost levels of acetylcholine in your brain. Aetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which plays a key role in projecting axons into many areas of the brain.
3. When looking up new words, investigate their etymology too. That is, look up their linguistic origins. Retrieval of tricky words will become easier if you understand their meaning and the context in which they are used.
4. Don’t just look, see. Being able to analyse visual information is really important in the 3-D world in which we live. When you leave a room, try to remember the exact location of certain items in it. This will train your brain to focus on your surroundings and actually see what is in front of you.
5. Get rid of your sat-nav! Relying on others to show you the way causes the brain to become lazy and won’t help you to remember new journeys. Going back to basics and using a map will exercise the part of the brain which is responsible for understanding spatial relationships.
6. Oxygenate your brain! Light exercise stimulates blood circulation which in turn increases glucose and oxygen in your brain. Sitting on the sofa means that the muscles won’t require additional oxygen from the brain.
7. Do every-day tasks with your non-dominant hand. This will stimulate interaction between the two hemispheres of the brain and cause new neural pathways to develop. Although some tasks such as writing will be tricky at first some people can train themselves to become ambidextrous!
8. Try neurobics. These are types of exercises which involve exposing your senses to new situations, combining two or more senses in a novel way. These include getting dressed with your eyes shut, using only visual cues whilst interacting with friends and relatives or listening to music whilst smelling flowers.
9. Mentally rotate. Mental rotation refers to moving things around in your head and is a visuospatial skill. Humans use this naturally when reading maps, using tools, playing chess etc. To practice, picture an arrow or other specific shape pointing right, then turn it around so it points left.
10. Perhaps the most important tip of all is to enjoy the exercises you are doing. Activities that you choose for yourself and gain pleasure from completing will logically produce a more positive effect on the brain than those which are forced upon you!