Did you know? If we daily do not try to find new ways to improve brain function by creating new neural connections through learning and curiosity, our brain is decaying. Our brain believes what we say to it; if we say we are too old, our brain will believe it too, but in the same way, if we still feel young, it does not matter if we are not physically; our brain will believe it. One is never too young or too old to learn, start a new activity, a new hobby, or something we have always wanted to do. All of this helps us improve our brain function, no matter what our age. More importantly, it’s evident that it’s never too late to start stimulating the mind.
I – The Functioning of the Brain
As part of the central nervous system (CNS), the function of the brain is to regulate most of the functions of the body and mind. This includes vital functions such as breathing or heart rate, more basic functions such as sleep, hunger, or sexual instinct, than higher functions such as thinking, remembering, or speaking.
Higher brain functions such as reasoning, memory, and attention are controlled by the hemispheres and cerebral lobes that are part of the cortex.
The brain is composed of two hemispheres. The law is responsible for the part of emotions, creativity, or art, and the left controls functions more related to logic or reason; mathematics is more analytical. The cerebellum is attached to the neck part and attached to the brain, whose brain function is the primary physiological activities such as breathing, heart rate, or body temperature. As we get older, our brain suffers a decline, but it is less accused than we think.
Our genetics determines part of our brain at birth; it’s known as innate abilities; some people have a remarkable ability to remember dates or languages. We can develop our brain function, train the mind by stimulating it, and improve things that we naturally do well, such as those where we fail. Diet, exercise, alcohol, or tobacco use also influence our brain function to keep it young or age prematurely.
The most significant development of brain function occurs around the age of 25 and then begins the process of slow and gradual aging. However, people who keep their minds active, even though they are older, can physically grow older, but not their brains.
II – Cognitive Functions
Cognitive functions are the mental processes that allow us to receive, select, store, transform, develop, and retrieve information from the environment. It allows us to understand and relate to the world around us. Cognitive functions are interdependent and sometimes overlap.
The main cognitive functions:
It is the cognitive function with which one selects between the stimuli that arrive simultaneously to the brain, both external (smells, sounds, images …) and internal (thoughts, emotions …), which are useful and adapted to perform a motor or mental activity.
Memory is a very complex process that allows the coding, storage, and retrieval of information. In order for us to do all these things, we need the attentional system to work properly.
*** Executive Functions
Almost all relate to the control of cognition and the regulation of thoughts and behavior through several interrelated processes. This includes a complex set of skills such as the direction of attention, planning, programming, regulation, and verification of intentional behavior.
Language is a system of symbolic communication that manifests itself, in the case of humans, through languages. Language is not only important in communicating with others, but it also structures our internal thinking.
*** Visual-Perceptual Functions
These are the ones that allow us to recognize and differentiate stimuli. They help us interpret, attribute, and associate what we see to known categories and integrate them into our knowledge. The proper functioning of these functions allows us, for example, to recognize the faces of our relatives and friends or to know if an object is a comb, key, or hat.
*** Visual-Spatial Functions
They are used to analyze, understand and manage the space in which we live (in two or three dimensions). These functions include processes such as mental navigation, perception of distance and depth, visual-spatial construction, and mental rotation. Tasks like reading a map or orienting yourself in the city, but also other things like guessing how far a car is to decide whether to cross or not and walk without striking us with the things that are on our way.
It is true that the intelligence of a human being can be improved; it is possible to stop the mental aging of the brain, and one can help oneself live longer. Yes, all these statements are true. The brain is full of things that neuroscience can stimulate to improve cognitive function. When these functions are stimulated, brainpower increases and begins to function at a smarter level.
III – Find Ways to Improve Brain Function, Whatever the Age.
Our brain is in permanent transformation because it is endowed with great neuronal plasticity, understood as the capacity to transform its structure and its functioning without the age limit to continue to learn.
The human brain is a muscle that must be worked like the rest of our muscles if we do not want it to rust.
Every person is different, and brain function plays a vital role in our everyday lives, even when we sleep. Genetics is important, especially in neurodegenerative diseases and dementias.
Mental activity stimulates the brain by modifying neural circuits. Cerebral gymnastics strengthen neurons and their connections, developing the ability to make new learning. When we “fertilize” the brain through cognitive training and the acquisition of new skills, we are more efficient and improve our ability to adapt.
To develop our minds, we must take into account that there are different cognitive domains that we must exercise: language, creativity, memory, digital intelligence, and even visual or spatial intelligence. There are different methods for this; the key is consistency and exercise of the mind.
Experts recommend solving small problems every day.
But do not panic; you do not need to take over the math books. The problems can be of any type: puzzles, fork language, logic problems, hobbies, games of the mind, or riddles … There are many options, and some are really fun. And, if we make them with friends? Involving more people, whether it is family or friends, turning it into a game or a challenge will improve the results. It will be easier to maintain consistency in leading to brain function.
Memorizing things helps the mind to create the habit of exercising memory. Trying to memorize things, although apparently, they have no relation. Memorize country capitals, recipe ingredients, and lyrics of a song or create a list of words, study them for a moment, then test how many words are stored. In this way, the mind gets used to memorizing.
IV – Diet, Exercise and Rest, Basic Ways to Improve Brain Function
A healthy and balanced diet is essential. Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, which only succeed in damaging the neurons. Increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and foods rich in omega 3, such as bluefish, avocado, walnuts, or olive oil.
1 – Smoothie to Stimulate the Brain
– 1 glass of vegetable drink with almonds (200 ml)
– ½ avocado (rich in monounsaturated fatty acids)
– 1 ½ teaspoon dark chocolate powder, organic and sugar-free (15 g) or the classic chocolate powder (flavonoid, magnesium, and vitamin B intake)
– 10 blueberries
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin organic coconut oil (15 g) or a spoonful of honey (25 g)
Place the cut avocado in the blender with the rest of the ingredients.
2 – Omega-3 Fats of Animal Origin
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an omega-3 fat, is an essential structural component of the brain and retina. The brain is made up of 60 percent fat, and 25 percent is DHA. DHA is also an essential structural ingredient in breast milk, which is considered to be one of the main reasons why breastfed babies consistently score better on IQ tests than formula-fed babies.
Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA are considered essential because the body cannot produce them, and they must be consumed in the daily diet. Foods rich in DHA are fish and krill.
DHA is found in neurons at high levels, where it provides structural support. When omega-3 consumption is not adequate, nerve cells become stiff and more prone to inflammation because the lack of omega-3 fatty acids is replaced by cholesterol and omega-6 fatty acids. Once the nerve cells become rigid and inflamed, the appropriate neurotransmission from one cell to another and inside the cells is affected.
The composition of unsaturated fatty acids in normal brain tissue is age-specific, which may mean that as you age, you will need more omega-3 fat from animal sources to prevent mental deterioration and brain degeneration.
A Red Carotenoid of Plant Origin Is the Most Active Antioxidant
While the metabolic effects of krill oil and fish oil are essentially similar, krill oil is more effective than fish oil, although it contains less EPA and DHA. Indeed, krill oil contains omega 3, whose chemical structure allows the body to have a greater capacity for phospholipid absorption because of its molecular composition and is less prone to oxidation (rancidity because it has naturally astaxanthin – a red carotenoid of plant origin estimated as the most active antioxidant, 11 times more potent than beta-carotene and about 550 times more active than vitamin E – soluble in fats.
Krill is a crustacean similar to shrimp because its external appearance is commonly called the Antarctic shrimp. Phospholipids contribute to the existence of sufficient amounts of these to ensure the formation of cell membranes, regulate cell transport and protect plasma membranes from the action of free radicals.
3 – Coconut Oil
One of the main food that the brain need is glucose, which is converted into energy. The brain produces its own insulin to convert glucose into the bloodstream into the food it needs to survive.
If the insulin production in the brain literally goes down, it starts to get hungry because it does not have the glucose energy it needs to function normally. This is what happens to patients with Alzheimer’s disease – parts of their brain begin to atrophy or go hungry, causing problems with functioning and possibly loss of memory, speech, movement, and personality.
Fortunately, the brain has the ability to function with more than one type of energy supply, and that’s where coconut oil comes in. There is another substance that can nourish the brain and prevent cerebral atrophy. It can even restore and renew neuron and nerve function in the brain after the damage has occurred.
These are ketone bodies or ketonic acids. Ketones are what the body produces when it converts fat – unlike glucose – into energy, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are a major source of ketone bodies. Coconut oil contains about 66% TCM.
According to leading researchers, it is beneficial to take 2 tablespoons of coconut oil every day. Ketones in the oil will prevent neurological degenerative diseases.
4 – Vitamin D
Activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in the brain, and researchers have also located the metabolic pathways of vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum, areas involved in planning, processing information, and formation of new memories.
The National Institutes of Mental Health recently concluded that it is vital for the mother to get enough vitamin D during pregnancy for the baby’s brain to develop properly. The child must also have enough vitamin D after birth for the “normal” functioning of the brain. In older adults, research has also shown that low levels of vitamin D are related to poor brain function and that high levels can prevent older adults from staying in good mental health.
Good exposure to the sun will solve these problems because the sun is irreplaceable when it comes to the body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. Good sun exposure is all that is needed to have healthy brain function. Fifteen minutes of daily exposure to sunlight is usually an acceptable amount.
5 – Vitamin B12
According to the latest research, people with high levels of vitamin B12 deficiency markers are more likely to have lower scores on cognitive tests, as well as lower total brain volume, suggesting that lack of the vitamin can contribute to the narrowing of the brain. Mental cloudiness and mental memory problems are two of the main warning signs of vitamin deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is available in its natural form only in food sources of animal origin. These include seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs. If a sufficient amount of these animal products are not consumed to obtain an adequate vitamin B12 intake or if the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin from the food is compromised, vitamin B12 supplementation is totally toxin-free and low-cost.
6 – Optimize the Intestinal Flora
The intestine is the “second brain,” and its intestinal bacteria transmit information to the brain through the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that connects the brain stem to its enteric nervous system – the nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract -. There is a close relationship between abnormal intestinal flora and abnormal brain development; just as there are neurons in the brain, there are also neurons in the gut – including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like the brain serotonin, which are also found in the brain and are related to mood.
In short, intestinal health can affect brain function, psyche, and behavior because they are interconnected and interdependent in many different ways.
Intestinal bacteria are an active and integrated part of the body and, as such, are highly dependent on food and are vulnerable to lifestyle. Suppose a large number of processed foods and sugary drinks are eaten, for example. In that case, intestinal bacteria are likely to be severely compromised as processed foods will usually destroy healthy microflora, and sugars of all kinds will feed bad bacteria and yeasts.
Limiting sugar and processed foods, consuming traditionally fermented foods – rich in good bacteria – taking a probiotic supplement, and breastfeeding the baby, are some of the best ways to optimize intestinal flora and, ultimately, the health of the baby’s brain.
7 – Physical Exercise
It is well known that when the body is exercising, it creates a better flow of blood throughout the body. When a body activates regularly, a constant is maintained, nerve connections increase, and multiply. This helps to strengthen one’s connections in the body.
Exercise increases the blood flow to the brain and makes it more efficient. It also stimulates the action of the protein responsible for maintaining connections between neurons. During exercise, nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One, in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is active in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and basal forebrain. It ensures the survival and growth of neurons in the presence of hostile forces. These brain areas have an important role in learning, memory, and other functions. BDNF is particularly involved in long-term memory.
Regular physical activity prevents depression because it secretes substances such as insulin, which is one of the developmental factors of neural networks. Insulin increases neuronal plasticity. The more we play sports, the more we stimulate our ability to produce new synapses, not just in the motor areas. Physical exercise thus delays aging.
It has been scientifically proven that traditional oriental activities such as Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises have very important benefits to the mind.
In addition, exercise offers protective effects on the brain through:
– The production of compounds that protect the nerves
– Increased blood flow to the brain
– Improves the development and survival of neurons
– Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke.
Lift and lower your eyebrows. According to a recent study by the Journal of Creative Investigation, raising eyebrows can stimulate creativity. The perceptual and conceptual attentions of the brain are those that are responsible for the physical experiences, while conceptual attention relates to the mental processes. Since these two faculties of attention are related, they can be manipulated to produce interesting effects. When the eyebrows are lifted, it entails the stimulation of perceptual attention, which can lead to creating connections that did not exist before.
8 – The Sleep
Sleep is not only essential for regenerating the physical body, but it is necessary to reach new mental perceptions and to see new creative solutions to old problems. The dream helps to “reprogram” the brain to focus on problems from a different perspective, which is crucial for creativity.
Sleep and sleep loss alters the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity. Synaptic connections become stronger while you sleep.
Respect the sleep cycles. The sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes on average and consists of several phases, including light sleep, deep sleep, very deep sleep, and REM sleep. Once the REM sleep is over, 90 minutes have elapsed, and we return a few moments to a state of micro-awakening chaining with another cycle just behind.
The further you go in the night, the less you have deep sleep, and the more you have REM sleep. Thus, we will have more dreams at the end of the night, and we will recover better at the beginning of the night with a very deep sleep because it is the most important.
Lack of sleep induces loss of cognitive abilities: it impairs attention, executive functions, working memory, mood, logical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and even motor activities.
9 – Listen to Music
For a long time, we have speculated on listening to music to increase intellectual capacity. Listening to music has been linked to better cognitive functioning and mental focus in healthy adults.
Research has shown that listening to music during exercise has boosted cognitive levels and fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease due to decreased cognitive abilities. In the study, the signs of improvement in the areas of fluency doubled after listening to music compared to the session without music.
Music training improves intellectual abilities in several cognitive domains: it stimulates Spatio-temporal skills, vocabulary, the identification of certain sounds in a noisy environment, working memory, and sensory-motor skills.
Music Therapy. Music is a type of medication that creates cognitive enhancement to improve the immune system. When relaxing music is listened to, the body reduces its level of stress, so it more effectively produces multiple antibodies to fight diseases and other ailments. Over time, this effect will enhance the body’s ability to resist agents that cause disease and harm.
10 – Challenge the Spirit
One of the simplest methods to increase brain function is to keep learning. The size and structure of the neurons and the connections between them really change as you learn. This may include other means than learning in books, such as traveling, learning to play a musical instrument or speaking a foreign language, or participating in social and community activities.
11 – Learn a New Language
Especially if you are over 40, it becomes a stimulus to keep the brain active. It is a way of making an effort on oneself, what the brain requires.
Certain parts of the brain develop, in particular, the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in the acquisition of new knowledge and the consolidation of memory. Speaking several languages also helps to delay the effects of age.
So we must ban these ideas: What to do at my age? At my age, will I learn English? It’s for young people.
12 – Aerobics of the Brain
As with learning, challenging the brain with mental training exercises can keep the brain in good shape as it gets older. It can be as simple as thinking of famous people whose names begin with the letter A, putting together puzzles, or playing games that make you think. Research has even shown that surfing the Internet activates brain regions related to complex decision-making and reasoning. So, unlike watching television passively, using the Internet is an attractive task that can actually help improve intellectual capacity. (To know more about brain games: https://www.cognifit.com/en/public/games ).