“I understand that brain exercise works, but I would like to see scientifically proven facts behind that statement.” This was said by a person who wanted to learn what neuroscience has to say about why brain exercise is good for us.
Here is a short explanation. There is no doubt that brains have the ability to exercise and learn at any age. Also, cognitive function can be improved regardless of age. This sounds very promising.
Many people are sceptical regarding brain exercise. They have this opinion: “The brain is not a muscle, so how is it possible to train this ‘organ,’ like we do our muscles?”
The answer is simple: Correct, the brain is not a muscle, but “this organ” follows the same motto as muscles do:Use it or lose it! When we say “use it”, we do not mean that you are not using your brain, but simply: “Be engaged in brain stimulating activities like: reading, writing (novels, articles, poems, or journaling), learning new skills, doing Sudoku, puzzles, or playing brain games.
Research on the brain has proven that the brain continues to make new neurons (nerve cells) throughout life in response to mental activity. By learning and making new neurons, you keep your brain active and protected from the cognitive declining process. Not just that, but by learning new skills and with “brain training,” you can reverse the process of cognitive declining; that is a very important fact.
Many believe that people with a higher education probably have better cognitive function when aging, just by being more intellectually involved. If you stop challenging your brain, even if you have a very high level of education, your brain will cognitively decline very fast. The conclusion is that people with a lower level of education have the same chance to stay “in good brain condition” as people with higher education, just by simply applying the statement: Use it or lose it!
You might say, “At work, I am doing an intellectually demanding job, and I am safe.” Then my question to you is, “Is this a job that you learned many years ago, and now you can do it without ‘thinking’ (with your subconscious mind)?”
If your answer is: “I can do my job without really being consciously engaged.” I understand, but then you are not safe.Most of the time, you are not consciously engaged. You do your job from your subconscious mind, like driving car, as a routine, and your brain is not involved with a challenge.
Let me clarify: To keep your brain’s functions active, you must be cognitively and consciously connected to the task with full attention. If you can do your job “without thinking,” subconsciously, this is not a “brain exercise.”
When any skill becomes routine, it goes from the conscious to the subconscious mind and is not challenging for you anymore. Only a new task that is not routine counts as a demanding brain exercise.
If you do not challenge your brain, and you