Summary: Three factors have been identified that help keep your brain in top shape.
Your brain is pretty fabulous. About 100 billion nerve cells work together to keep you agile and quick to think.
But like the rest of your body, your brain may not be as energetic as you age a bit. Maybe you need to write down something, forget about meetings, or you can’t keep up with a conversation or an activity on TV effortlessly.
Fortunately, it’s also possible to exercise your brain.
“Gray and white matter are the key to our nervous system,” says Hermundur Sigmundsson, professor at NTNU’s Department of Psychology.
Roughly speaking, gray matter consists of nerve cells – or neurons – and dendrites, while white matter makes contacts between cells (myelinated axons) and contributes to the speed of signal transmission and distribution.
Three factors contribute to good brain health
The last article in the journal Brain Sciences it combines much of what we know from previous research in the field of brain health. Scientists have gone to great lengths to be thorough in their theoretical perspective article and offer 101 references to articles on how to keep our gray and white matter in shape.
“Three factors stand out if you want to keep your brain at its best,” says Sigmundsson.
These factors are:
- Physical exercise.
- Being social.
- Having strong interests. Learn new things and don’t hold back from new challenges.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge for many of us. Your body gets lazy if you sit on your butt too much. Unfortunately, the same goes for the brain as well.
“An active lifestyle helps to develop the central nervous system and counteracts aging of the brain,” say Sigmundsson and his colleagues.
Therefore, it is important not to get stuck in the chair. It takes effort and there is no way around it. If you do sedentary work, go to school or finish work, you need to stay active, also physically.
Some of us are happiest alone or with a few people, and we know that “hell is other people” – if we rewrite the sentence of writer-philosopher Jean Paul Sartre a little loosely. (Although his version was admittedly a bit more complicated.) But in this respect you have to arm yourself.
“Relationships and interactions with other people contribute to a number of complex biological factors that can prevent the brain from slowing down,” says Sigmundsson.
Being with other people, for example through conversation or physical contact, supports good brain function.
This last point may have something to do with your personality, but if you’ve read this far, chances are good you already have the necessary basics and probably want to learn.
“Passion or a strong interest in something can be the deciding factor that leads us to learn new things. Over time, this has an impact on the development and maintenance of our neural networks, ”says Sigmundsson.
Stay curious. Don’t give up and just let things go the same way all the time. You are never too old to do something you’ve never done before. Maybe it’s time to learn to play a new musical instrument.
Use it or lose it
Sigmundsson collaborated with graduate student Benjamin H. Dybendal and Associate Professor Simone Grassini of the University of Stavanger on a lengthy article.
Their research therefore shows a similar picture of the brain and body. You have to train your brain to keep it from falling apart. “Use it or lose it” as the saying goes.
“Brain development is closely related to lifestyle. Exercise, relationships and passion help to develop and maintain the basic structures of our brain as we age, ”says Sigmundsson.
These three factors are therefore some of the keys to maintaining a good quality of life – and hopefully aging well.
About this news from brain health research
Author: Steinar Brandslet
Contact: Steinar Brandslet – NTNU
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“Movement, Relationship, and Passion in Physiological and Cognitive Aging of the Brain” by Hermundur Sigmundsson et al. Brain Sciences
Movement, relationship and passion in physiological and cognitive aging of the brain
The aim of this study was to present important factors determining the intact maintenance of the basic structures of human brain functioning, i.e. gray and white matter.
Several lines of evidence have shown that movement, relationship and passion are the main factors in the preservation of the gray and white nervous system during aging.
An active lifestyle has been shown to contribute to the development of the central nervous system and counteract the aging of the brain.
It has been shown that relationships and interpersonal interactions contribute to the formation of complex biological factors that positively affect the decline of cognitive immunity.
Moreover, the current scientific literature suggests that passion, strong interest may be a factor motivating an individual to learn new things, thus influencing the development and maintenance of a functional neural network over time.
From a theoretical perspective, this article aims to convey a few key messages: (1) lifestyle is critical to brain development; (2) physical training enables the development and maintenance of brain structures during aging and can be one of the keys to a good quality of life in an elderly person; (3) a variety of stimuli are a key factor in maintaining brain structures; (4) movement, relationship and passion are key elements in the contrast of the brain’s gray and white loss.