I’ve read three fiction books over the last two months.
Some people may think this is because of all the extra time I have due to COVID 19. Nope, it’s because I recently learned that reading fiction is a fun and easy way to develop neuroplasty.
What is neuroplasty? The fact that the brain can actually “rewire” itself due to environmental inputs.
If you want to see something informative on how our brains adapt to environmental inputs, watch this 2:25 video about London taxi drivers. It’s very eye-opening.
So what does it take to create neuroplasty?
- Goal: There has to be a reason to develop the new skill. Do you want to pass a test? Do you want to be a master juggler? Do you want to be a concert violinist?
- Effortful: There needs to be a tremendous amount of effort behind the learning. If you could pick up a violin and immediately play Stairway to Heaven, then neuroplasty may not be happening.
- Repetition: It’s generally not a one-and-done event. The London taxi drivers developed their skills over three or more years.
- Use it or lose it: Even though a skill was perfected, if not used, the brain changes may be reversed.
So what can you do to develop more neuroplasty? (Source: Dr. Irena O’Brien, Ph.D., The Neuroscience School) No surprise, reading fiction is my favorite, closely followed by sleep, and dancing. 🙂
- Intermittent fasting: Increases synaptic adaptation, promotes neuron growth, improves overall cognitive function, and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative disease.
- Traveling: Exposes your brain to novel stimuli and new environments, opening up new pathways and activity in the brain.
- Learning to play a musical instrument or learning a new language: May increase connectivity between brain regions and help form new neural networks.
- Non-dominant hand exercises: Can form new neural pathways and strengthen the connectivity between neurons.
- Reading fiction: Increases and enhances connectivity in the brain.
- Expanding your vocabulary: Activates the visual and auditory processes as well as memory processing.
- Creating artwork: Enhances the connectivity of the brain at rest, which can boost introspection, memory, empathy, attention, and focus.
- Dancing: Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and increases neural connectivity.
- Sleeping: Encourages learning retention through the growth of dendritic spines that act as connections between neurons and help transfer information across cells.
Side note: Although the findings are controversial, the Decoder Brain Training app has shown promise with increased performance on a reliable and objective measure of sustained attention. (Source: Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience).
So, what are you willing to do to keep your brain growing?
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