These days, a lot of people will tell you, “I do puzzles to keep my brain sharp.” But have you ever wondered if those endless crosswords and Sudokus actually make a difference in reducing “senior moments”… and possibly even dementia?
Scientists from Tel Aviv University have recently uncovered the answer … continue reading to find out!
Research from Tel Aviv University has proven that exercising your brain can truly make a difference in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. But the way it works might surprise you!
Alzheimer’s disease develops when certain types of proteins (called amyloid-betas) aggregate into plaques. These plaques build up between the nerve cells responsible for the brain’s electrical communication, causing the classic signs of dementia like slow speech and memory loss.
However, just as there are two types of cholesterol—one healthy and one dangerous—the same is true for amyloid proteins. Scientists now believe that a high level of amyloid-beta 40 is healthy, while amyloid-beta 42 is dangerous because it’s more likely to accumulate into plaques. If you have a high ratio of 40 to 42, you’re likely to be in good neurological shape.
So how does exercising your brain make a difference?
Here’s how it works, according to Nature Neuroscience
Dr. Inna Slutsky and her team showed that by using high frequency “bursts” of electricity in the animal hippocampus—the center of learning—they could increase the production of amyloid-beta 40.
This led the team to conclude that people who experience regular “bursts” of sensory experience can physically increase the level of amyloid-beta 40 in their brains. These kinds of bursts include environmental changes, new experiences, emotional reactions, and sessions of learning and focus (including completing crossword puzzles).1
Scientists are even optimistic that this discovery could, someday, lead to a gentle electric treatment for Alzheimer’s. But don’t worry—it would be pain-free! Says neurologist Amos Kocyzn, also from Tel Aviv University, “Unlike crude electroshock treatments used in schizophrenia, we are talking about a very delicate, gentle and highly focused electrical stimulation.”
How to create your own “bursts”
Prevention is always the best medicine. There are many easy, free ways to create the same types of electrical bursts in your own brain.
Each of these applications forces your brain to adapt, think differently, and re-wire your neural network in a process scientists call neuroplasticity.
- Read every day, and not just your normal fare. If you always read the newspaper or technical journals, try fiction, and vice versa.
- Do puzzles. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, riddles, logic puzzles… anything that makes you stop and think for a period of time will do it.
- Learn a new language. A study performed at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy showed learning a language causes significant brain development in the hippocampus (center of learning) and three areas of the cerebral cortex.“There is a lot to suggest that learning languages is a great way to keep the brain in shape,” said Johan Martensson, a psychology researcher at Lund University, Sweden.2
- Take an online course. Several universities offer free “open courses” with materials and lectures online. If you always meant to learn more about French culture or astrophysics, now is a great time to start!
When you perform “brain exercises” like these, you literally strengthen your brain, increase the strength and connectivity of your neural networks, and you get the benefits of increasing your levels of healthy amyloid-beta 40 proteins.
Whatever you decide to do, it’s my opinion that you should start soon. It’s never too late to start fighting Alzheimer’s disease.