Brain Training Defined
I can feel myself going Senile.
I better start doing some cross word puzzles and Sudoku.
Phew. Nearly lost it. Can feel those brain cells coming back. Alzheimers ain't gonna get me!
The brain training craze may or may not have started off because old folks (and not so old folks) was worried about getting alzheimers. There are lots of gimmicks for training the brain, lots of books, lots of computer programs. Do they work? I think it depends on how you define brain training.
Instead I'm going to ask the question (and answer it). What does the brain do?
In general terms, the brian is responsible for controlling our body.
Think about how much processing power is needed for all the basic functions of our body. Then think about how much processing power is required when our body is in action. Not only does it have to control the body, it has to decide what to do with the body. And it has to process sensory information to help it decide what to do.
In our earliest days, the basic brain programming was survival which meant not getting eaten and in turn finding stuff to eat. Add on to that survival of the species, reproduction and stuff like that.
Later on when we learned to fight among ourselves brain functions may have been increased to include new skills like how to hurt other people without getting hurt ourselves.
In general, it is probably safe to say that the combatant who could act the fastest, and who had the best skill and even who could think the most creatively would probably come out on top.
Traits for a good fighter: quick thinking, good mind body coordination, creative, good stamina, skilled in fighting.
All of these traits, at their core, tie back to the brain. Quick thinking is brain related. Mind body coordination, also brain related. Creative (able to see openings), brain related. Stamina, maybe not so much but skilled in fighting, well that could be tied to the brain (as well as the body.)
So this offers one possible example of how to train the brain. By training the mind and body to act as one whilst at the same time processing external sensory input (i.e. observing what opponent is doing so can counter act it.
I'm not saying that you have to become a fighter to train your brain. However, it does some ideas. Want to train your brain, then work on improving your coordination and your ability to make decisions and act on them while under pressure.
So what else can the brain be used for?
If we learn new stuff then we burn new patterns into our brain. The more we learn the more we change our brain.
One way of looking at the process of learning is breaking some subject matter into useful chunks, taking them inside of ourselves and then reassembling them inside of ourselves, in our brain.
The actual process of breaking things down so that we can learn them can be a way of exercising the brain. And this can apply to physical skills and mental ones.
But learning is more than just learning that 2 plus 2 is 4. And its more than learning how to punch or kick. Learning can continue when we learn how to use skills in different circumstances. Addition can lead to algebra, to trigonometry, to calculus.
But also learning things in isolation can be followed by learning, or experiencing in context. For example, doing a martial arts from is different that fighting. What's the difference? Unpredictability. In experience mode we put what we have learned to the test. We learn to use our senses and to respond to what we have sensed, ideally as quickly as possible.
The more focused we are on using our senses and on responding, i.e. the more present we are, the better we can respond. In a fight this means staying alive. Doing a math test it can mean a passing grade and onwards into better and better things.
And if we fail or get the stuffing beat out of us then what? We go back to learning with the experience we have gained a part of ourselves.
If we don't look back at experiences, then we go back into the ring and get beat up again and again and again until we do learn. Then we can go on to better and better experiences.
And this can apply to any endeavor.
Now then, am I suggesting that you not do crosswords or sudoku. Hell no. If you enjoy them, then do them. But if you don't like them, find something that you do enjoy.
If you want to train your brain and keep it healthy, then live your life. Learn things, experience things. Make mistakes (or don't make mistakes) and then build up on what you have experienced.