Decline in mental function starts early
According to a new research conducted by the researchers from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology Population Health in France and University College London, our mental function can start to decline when we hit 45.
The researchers studied over 7,000 civil servants aged between 45 and 70, over a ten year period. The study measured the participants’ cognitive functioning and assessed their vocabulary, hearing and visual comprehension skills. The results showed that all of them exhibited a decline in their cognitive scores, except in vocabulary. The drop was even faster in the older group.
But don’t despair if you’re nearly hitting 45, just because the participants showed decline in their mental functioning by that age, it doesn’t mean that you are doomed to the same fate.
An amazing machine
Our brain is an amazing machine; it doesn’t stop working even as we sleep. It can react to what we want it to do and can command our body to respond. What’s even more remarkable is that it frequently adjusts and rewires itself depending on how we use it and how we interact with the world around us. Even as we grow old, it grows new neurons in response to what it needs to process information.
Decline in mental functioning is usually an upshot of inactivity and lack of mental stimulus. Our brain is like a knife, it needs sharpening, or else it will go blunt.
The Power of the Mind
You have probably read or heard of self-help books telling you that you can think your way to riches or that you can achieve success by thinking about it. If you’re a bit cynical about this claim; how about the claim that you can increase your muscle strength by simply thinking about it? Is it possible? It seems that it is.
In 2003, Dr. Vinoth Ranganathan and his colleagues from Cleveland Clinic Foundation published the results of their fascinating experiment. Dr. Ranganathan and his team studied 30 healthy young adults for 12 weeks. The participants were divided into four groups, one group was asked to imagine exercising the muscles of their little fingers or and the other, their elbows. Another group act as a control and the last group was asked to do the physical training.
The result? The participants who imagined their exercises increased the strength of the muscle of their little fingers by 35% and their elbows by 13.4%, compared to the 53% gained by those doing the physical exercise. Not bad, eh?
How to keep your brain in Tip Top shape
Scientists from Brown University found that when you learn new things, your brain rewires its brain cells connections to enable itself to acquire and store the new information you are feeding it. You don’t need extraordinary things to get your brain to exercise your brain, just simply do new things or do things differently.
Learn new tasks
To keep your brain healthy, you need to challenge it and engage yourself in learning new tasks, especially things that you’ve not done before. Activities that requires remembering things like learning a new dance move, painting or playing chess encourages your brain to grow more connection.
One easy and convenient way to exercise your brain is to learn to write with the hand you are not currently using. So, if you’re right handed, try writing with your left hand. To make it even more fun, try mirror writing at the same time.
Widen your horizon
Travel is one of the best ways to keep y our brain ticking. It allows you to learn new things, experience new tastes and understand the perspective of other cultures. When you travel, emerge yourself in the life of the locals; don’t just go where all the tourists go that it’s no different from home. Order food you’ve never tried before and try to learn the language even just the basic “thank you”, “good day” and “good bye”.
Neurons contact each other and connect with every part of your body, from your skin to your vital organs. The brain is your command centre and it uses chemicals like acetylcholine (neurotransmitter for memory and attention) and dopamine (neurotransmitter for fine motors) to communicate to your muscles and other organs.
Between your muscles and your nerve is a tiny space called synapse. On the surface of your muscle fibre are groups of tiny cells called the acetylcholine receptors; when the brain releases the acetylcholine, it crosses the synapse over to the receptors which bind it with the muscle fibre, making the muscle contract.
Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine, however, found that the receptors are held in place by a scaffolding of special proteins. And they observed that when the muscles stop working the scaffolding comes undone and the muscles lose its acetylcholine receptors, disrupting your brain from processing information to and from the muscles. Once the muscles starts becoming active again, the scaffolding starts working again. This discovery highlights the importance of exercise in keeping the brain working properly.
So, if you’re worried that you’re losing your marbles, get off your chair and go for a walk. In the meantime, I’ll have a go at that puzzle game in my daughter’s DS.