What does modern brain and mind science have to offer to improve education, health and quality of life? Here you have some of the most popular highlights about neuroplasticity, emotion and cognition from my book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, courtesy of the thousands of readers enjoying and annotating the Kindle edition of the book.
Which of these highlights surprise you the most? Why?
- "Emotion is the system that tells us how important something is. Attention focuses us on the important and away from the unimportant things. Cognition tells us what to do about it. Cognitive skills are whatever it takes to do those things."
- "Working memory is the type of memory that allows us to both hold information in mind and work on it as needed."
- "The central concept in this new approach is neuroplasticity, the brain's lifelong capacity to change and rewire itself in response to the stimulation of learning and experience. This includes both the lifelong ability to create new neurons -- neurogenesis -- and to create new connections between neurons -- synaptogenesis."
- "Controlling and managing emotion (including stress and anger) is crucial for performing successfully in anything."
- "Sometimes our hypothesis will be right, and sometimes it will be wrong. The fear of failing, the fear of looking not smart, is a key obstacle to learning that I see too often, especially with people who want to protect perceived reputations to such an extent that they do not let themselves try new learning cycles."
- "...a healthy brain is a brain that has the right amount of plasticity: not too much and not too little..."
- "Meditation is one of the techniques to change both brain activity and structures, and may give us unique control over attention by promoting broadening and focus."
- "Learning is physical. Learning means the modification, growth, and pruning of our neuronal networks, through experience."
- "... true brain fitness refers to having the brain functionality -- cognitive, emotional, executive -- required to thrive in the environment we face each day."
- "The only leisure activity that has been associated with reduced brain function is watching television. This has been shown, for instance, by one study which followed more than 5,000 individuals, aged 55 years and older, for 5 years."
- "A consequence of the brain's plasticity is that the brain may change with every experience, thought and emotion, from which it follows that you yourself have the potential power to change your brain with everything that you do, think, and feel. So brain fitness and optimization are about much more than crossword puzzles and blueberries; they are about cultivating a new mindset and mastering a new toolkit that allow us to appreciate and take full advantage of our brains' incredible properties."
- "In every field, elite performers devote more time to practice than to the actual performance. To perform at the highest level, you need to protect and optimize practice and learning time."
- "We need to expand our vocabulary: 'IQ' and 'memory' do not encompass all of the brain's functions. The brain is composed of neuronal networks serving distinct functions, including various types of memory, but also language, emotional regulation, attention, planning, and many others. This is important because our life and productivity depend on the functionality of all these brain functions, not just one."
- "... the more a network of neurons is activated (e.g., the more often the neurons fire together), the stronger the connections become. If a network supporting a brain function is repeatedly stimulated through practice and training, it will become stronger, contributing to the optimization of that brain function... the less a network of neurons is activated the weaker the connections become, and weak connections end up dying. This accounts for the popular idea 'use it or lose it' -- brain functions that are not stimulated end up losing their efficiency since the neural networks supporting them weaken or dissipate."
- "Physical activity and physical exercise are different ... Physical exercise (e.g. swimming) refers to the effortful activity of particular parts of our bodies. While both may bring benefits, it is clearly physical exercise that helps build capacity and muscle strength. It is thus physical exercise that contributes to staying physically fit. This is the kind of exercise that also brings brain benefits."
As you can see, much food for thought, and much room to start transferring these findings and concepts from research labs into our daily lives.
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