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MYTH No. 5: What you’ve got, is all you’ll ever get.
REALITY: According to Paul Tallal, Rutgers University neuroscientist, “You create your brain from input you get.” By this, she means intellectual stimulation strengths brain because in normal course of living, our brains constantly reorganize themselves, which is called “neuroplasticity.” And neuroplasticity speeds up with amount and complexity of new information our brains receive.
MYTH No. 6: As you age, it’s too hard to learn new things, so stick with what you already know.
REALITY: According to Arnold Scheibel, head of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, brain’s axons and dendrites (which send and receive messages) grow fastest with new material. “The important thing is to be actively involved in areas unfamiliar to you,” say Golden and Tsiaras, in “Building a Better Brain.” “Anything that is intellectually challenging can probably serve as a kind of stimulus for dendritic growth, which means it adds to computational reserves in your brain.” Sounds to me like building new hard drive, yes?
MYTH No. 7: Watching Discovery Channel suffices for stimulation.
REALITY: Dr. Robert Friedland reports that adults over age 70 with brain-stimulating hobbies were two and a half times less likely to suffer from effects of Alzheimer’s later in life than were those whose main leisure activity was watching TV.
MYTH No. 8: In order to stimulate and grow brain, you must engage in formal schooling.
REALITY: According to Warner, traditional academic subjects aren’t only answer. The key is to find something both new and challenging to you. “Thus a Latin professor,” writes Warner, “might do better to learn how to prune fruit trees, line her car’s brakes or even solve difficult jigsaw puzzles than to write a scholarly essay parsing Cicero’s rhetoric.”
MYTH No. 9: I can ignore it for a while and it will still be there when I get back.
REALITY: Not! According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, brain uses a lot of energy and blood, something we can’t “afford” to no purpose. If neurons dedicated to perform a given skill are not being used, they’ll either atrophy or be co-opted to some other function.
Myth No. 10: Intellectual stimulation is enough.
REALITY: According to Marion Diamond, aerobic exercise, such as swimming and jogging, may be especially beneficial to brain function in aging people, because it tends to keep blood vessels in better shape. And according to Salk Institute study, mice that exercised regularly on a running wheel grew twice as many new brain cells (again, in hippocampus) as other mice.
So there you have it! Jog on out for those new toys and new playmates and get a better brain and a better life! And it’s never too late unless you don’t start now.
©Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Coaching, internet courses, teleclasses and ebooks on Emotional Intelligence. Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for free ezine (put “ezine” for subject line). I train and certify EQ coaches. Email me for info on this fast, affordable, no-residency program.