3 ways to increase brain power & stay sharp!

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It sounds ridiculous that anything can increase the size of your brain, but it looks like the saying “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies to the size of your brain.

My grandpa, now 85, is a firm believer in this. Sometimes I’d see his office light on in the middle of the night and find him playing solitaire, hearts, or some other computer game that he claimed ‘kept him sharp.’ He still tutors algebra at a local middle school!

It looks like he was right, too. Using MRI scans, researchers have found that certain activities lead to increases in ‘gray matter’ - regions of the brain responsible for memory, self-control, decision-making, and sensory perception.

1. Play Games

A German research study1 asked participants to play video games for at least 30 minutes a day. After 2 months, the video game group received MRI scans and several tests for cognitive performance.

People who played video games had more gray matter in areas associated with memory, strategic planning, navigation, and fine motor skills.

(It’s fair to assume these changes occur with things like crossword puzzles, solitaire, and sudoku, too.)

2. Learn Something New, Practice a Skill You Already Have

Especially juggling and meditation. Study2 participants practiced juggling 30 minutes a day for six weeks. They found that the jugglers’ brains had more gray matter and white matter (something scientists didn’t believe was possible).

The best part? These changes occurred no matter how well they could juggle!

Meditation can lead to incredible changes in brain size. After meditating 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks, MRI images3 showed more brain matter density in areas associated with compassion, memory, and learning. Even better, gray matter in the amygdala - the stress and anxiety center of the brain - shrank!

3. Exercise

It looks like cardio is good for the heart and brain. Fifty-nine volunteers between the ages of 60-79 years old participated in a study4 to see how exercise affected the brain.

Half of the participants did aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, etc) and the other half just stretched and toned.

Those who did aerobic exercise experienced significant increases in brain volume - both white and gray matter. The stretch/tone group did not.

Ultimately, you can add all of these habits to your life with small changes. Like choosing a puzzle over watching TV, or fitting in a little exercise in the morning. If you do pick up juggling, please keep us updated on your progress (and try not to break anything).

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/mp2013120
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2770457/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17167157/