JUN 27 2019
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JUN 27 2019
All Posts

Brain fitness - what you can do about it

Posted by: Rutherford Rede

Jude Walter, an accredited Brain Fit Coach, was interviewed by Newstalk ZB on the subject of brain fit. The interview deals with the brain and strategies to improve its performance, particularly as we grow older. The link - if you want to listen to the interview - is here: 

https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/the-health-hub/jude-walter-how-to-combat-alzheimer-s-and-dementia/

Jude makes the point that there are many types of memories, in fact as many as 49 but there are six key memories that are important to our daily lives:

  1. Verbal memory: Remembering things you read or hear.
  2. Non-verbal memory: Remembering shapes and patterns. Recall of maps is an example of this or, “will this item of furniture fit in this gap?”.
  3. Short term memory: This memory is only 30 seconds long and can only hold seven pieces of information at one time.
  4. Working memory: When transferring information from the short term to the long-term memory, the working memory brings all this together.
  5. Faces and names
  6. Prospective memory: Remembering something that needs to be done in the future.

Working memory and prospective memory are affected by age. Jude makes the point that the short-term memory can be improved with work. She also says that faces and names cannot be remembered without taking the time to focus. This requires at least 2 to 3 seconds of clear focus when being introduced. The brain is designed to forget things. If it remembered everything that it took in then it would very soon run out of capacity. Therefore, focus is required to prioritise the brain for the things that need to be retained.

Contrary to popular belief the brain never stops growing. It is possible to train your brain to function at a high level, even as we age. The concept of training for our bodies to be fit is now accepted, but the idea of training our brains is very new. Stress in particular is very unhelpful to the brain.  Memory is impacted negatively by the presence of stress. An example of this could be looking for lost car keys when you are already late for an important meeting and not being able to think straight. Curiously, calming down and taking it slowly are likely to speed up the process.

Jude also provided some techniques that can assist with memory.

  1. Names and faces. Encoding helps here. That is when being introduced to someone note a physical feature, or association with their name such as a mind picture of a burger if their name is MacDonald. In other words, you attach a code to a particular thing that links to their name.
  2. Pegging. This is where physical queues are linked to the things we want to remember. For example, there may be a requirement to remember three tasks required that day. Buying some butter, then weeding the garden and finally posting a letter. The technique involves tapping your nose and visualising buying butter, rubbing your ear and visualising weeding the garden and putting hands on hips and visualising posting a letter. This should be done a few times, and then when recall is required, tapping your nose will recall the task of buying the butter and continuing to use these physical queues to recall each specific task.

Most of us have heard that doing things like the crossword or Sudoku are helpful for stimulating memory. Jude indicated that stimulating the brain is much broader than that. First a good diet is helpful. A healthy body is likely to assist with a healthy brain. What constitutes a good diet is now well understood, with a balanced diet including lots of nuts, seeds, vegetables and some fruit being very supportive to brain health.

Exercising the brain involves exposing it to stimulus in the form of new experiences that challenge the brain. As we age, our lives tend to become simpler. We tend to socialise with the same group of friends, shop and visit the same places and have the same routines. The brain keeps growing, it is us who stop stimulating it. What we can do is provide stimulation through things like meeting new people, visiting new places, doing new things, driving to the same place a different way, trying a new skill, opening the door with our other hand, parking in a different car park at the super market, walking a different route. These activities are new and fresh and require the brain to work rather than relying on habit and memory. Coming back to the crossword, if the same type of crossword is repeated day after day then the brain settles into a pattern. What is better for brain health is to try different crosswords that operate in a different pattern. Another exercise is to walk into a room and see how many things you can remember seeing in the space of 30 seconds. It seems making your brain work hard supports its development and this can continue all of your life.

Jude Walter, an accredited Brain Fit Coach, was interviewed by Newstalk ZB on the subject of brain fit. The interview deals with the brain and strategies to improve its performance, particularly as we grow older. The link - if you want to listen to the interview - is here: 

https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/the-health-hub/jude-walter-how-to-combat-alzheimer-s-and-dementia/

Jude makes the point that there are many types of memories, in fact as many as 49 but there are six key memories that are important to our daily lives:

  1. Verbal memory: Remembering things you read or hear.
  2. Non-verbal memory: Remembering shapes and patterns. Recall of maps is an example of this or, “will this item of furniture fit in this gap?”.
  3. Short term memory: This memory is only 30 seconds long and can only hold seven pieces of information at one time.
  4. Working memory: When transferring information from the short term to the long-term memory, the working memory brings all this together.
  5. Faces and names
  6. Prospective memory: Remembering something that needs to be done in the future.

Working memory and prospective memory are affected by age. Jude makes the point that the short-term memory can be improved with work. She also says that faces and names cannot be remembered without taking the time to focus. This requires at least 2 to 3 seconds of clear focus when being introduced. The brain is designed to forget things. If it remembered everything that it took in then it would very soon run out of capacity. Therefore, focus is required to prioritise the brain for the things that need to be retained.

Contrary to popular belief the brain never stops growing. It is possible to train your brain to function at a high level, even as we age. The concept of training for our bodies to be fit is now accepted, but the idea of training our brains is very new. Stress in particular is very unhelpful to the brain.  Memory is impacted negatively by the presence of stress. An example of this could be looking for lost car keys when you are already late for an important meeting and not being able to think straight. Curiously, calming down and taking it slowly are likely to speed up the process.

Jude also provided some techniques that can assist with memory.

  1. Names and faces. Encoding helps here. That is when being introduced to someone note a physical feature, or association with their name such as a mind picture of a burger if their name is MacDonald. In other words, you attach a code to a particular thing that links to their name.
  2. Pegging. This is where physical queues are linked to the things we want to remember. For example, there may be a requirement to remember three tasks required that day. Buying some butter, then weeding the garden and finally posting a letter. The technique involves tapping your nose and visualising buying butter, rubbing your ear and visualising weeding the garden and putting hands on hips and visualising posting a letter. This should be done a few times, and then when recall is required, tapping your nose will recall the task of buying the butter and continuing to use these physical queues to recall each specific task.

Most of us have heard that doing things like the crossword or Sudoku are helpful for stimulating memory. Jude indicated that stimulating the brain is much broader than that. First a good diet is helpful. A healthy body is likely to assist with a healthy brain. What constitutes a good diet is now well understood, with a balanced diet including lots of nuts, seeds, vegetables and some fruit being very supportive to brain health.

Exercising the brain involves exposing it to stimulus in the form of new experiences that challenge the brain. As we age, our lives tend to become simpler. We tend to socialise with the same group of friends, shop and visit the same places and have the same routines. The brain keeps growing, it is us who stop stimulating it. What we can do is provide stimulation through things like meeting new people, visiting new places, doing new things, driving to the same place a different way, trying a new skill, opening the door with our other hand, parking in a different car park at the super market, walking a different route. These activities are new and fresh and require the brain to work rather than relying on habit and memory. Coming back to the crossword, if the same type of crossword is repeated day after day then the brain settles into a pattern. What is better for brain health is to try different crosswords that operate in a different pattern. Another exercise is to walk into a room and see how many things you can remember seeing in the space of 30 seconds. It seems making your brain work hard supports its development and this can continue all of your life.

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