The brain’s health affects the entirety of how we function in the present and in the future. The good news is that whether you’re Einstein or an average human being you can do a tremendous amount to improve its function. The better news is that those benefits will last a lifetime. So, here are six ways to improve your brain function:
Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) is not yet mainstream, but neither is it the stuff of science fiction. Used to help Parkinson’s sufferers and stroke victims, it’s increasingly being applied to healthy individuals to improve reaction times and decision making by strengthening synaptic connections. Efficacy and safety issues in this largely unregulated field persist and its early adoption by hard-core gamers is not necessarily a recommendation.
Your brain doesn’t stop working when you’re asleep, even though it’s stood down from its sensory duties. Research from the University Of California, Riverside suggests that memories are transferred from the hippocampus to the cortex during periods of deep sleep. 7 to 8 hours of good-quality zeds promotes good long-term memory, providing a further link between brain health and golden slumbers.
Provigil, the brand name of modafinil and one of the leading so-called smart drugs or nootropics, is out there and in widespread use. It produces higher synaptic concentrations of dopamine in the brain, which can make you feel awake and alert. It doesn’t seem to be addictive, but whether it works or what long-term side effects it carries (if any) is less clear. Do remember, though, that it was originally given to military personnel to keep them awake.
Stay curious: good life advice, but with particular brain benefits. Learning a second language, computer code or a musical instrument – taking you and your brain out of your comfort zone – boosts neuroplasticity, helps create neurons and establishes new connections. The younger you do this, the easier it is and the more long-lasting the benefits… but it works at any age.
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Strong cardiovascular health impacts positively on the brain by maintaining a good blood supply, thus taking oxygen and nutrients to the grey matter. Again, the benefits in the present and the future are a defence against brain shrinkage. Plus, by delivering extra neurons to the brain, it gives an immediate boost to memory and concentration.
Feeding your brain the right diet helps you now and protects you in years to come, like a pension scheme. Your brain needs omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, flavanols and polyphenols and the foods that deliver these are all readily available – salmon, walnuts, blueberries, beans, turmeric, avocado, dark greens and dark chocolate. All delicious (but not together).