Cognitive Stimulation ~ Brain Training
"Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind." ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
What is Cognitive Stimulation?
With our ever increasing aging population, there are a lot of new words and phrases being tossed around. One such phrase is “cognitive stimulation,” and it certainly gives one much to consider.
What exactly is cognitive stimulation? Simply, it is exercise for the brain.
How do we go about providing stimulation or exercise for our brains? Can it be an individual activity? Does it require a computer program? Do you have to join some type of group? We will answer these questions and more.
Cognitive Stimulation is Important
Cognitive stimulation is as important to the health of your brain as physical exercise is to the health of your body. This simple fact is becoming more and more apparent as we grow older, and as Alzheimer’s and dementia become more prevalent. It's important that we do all we can to keep ourselves mentally fit. The saying: "If you don't use it, you lose it!” also applies to the brain.
The brain has a natural ability to process information in all stages of life, and continual learning or stimulation is essential for brain health. Individuals never stop learning! We can teach our brain that nothing more is required of it than what is necessary to sit in front of the TV all day long, or we can challenge our brain by learning new activities, doing crossword puzzles, engaging in a hobby, reading a book, or any other mentally stimulating or challenging activity. The choice is really ours, but then so are the results.
Brain Training Books are a Great Investment!
Cognitive Stimulation, Functioning, and Alzheimer's
Much is being discovered about the brain and the brain’s development with new discoveries and theories to be tested always on the horizon. Papers and reports are frequently published. Let’s look at snippets from a few of them.
The adult brain continues to generate new neurons (brain cells) throughout life. This is good news! But, the new cells must be used in order to survive and become integrated in the brain. (Van-Pragg, Kempermann and Gage, Nature, 2000; Eriksson and Gage, 1998, Nature). Therefore, stimulation can help preserve the remaining healthy cells, and newly developing brain cells.
Robert Wilson with The Rush Institute in Chicago reported in 2002 that people who participated in mentally challenging activities had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and a reduced decline in global cognition.
. . . cognitive training therapies help improve memory, cognition, and daily functioning for Alzheimer’s (Sobel, 2001;Avila, 2002; Emmerson, 2002).
Intensive cognitive training in persons with mild to moderate cognitive impairment improves cognition (Ballarini, et al 2002)
Robert Wilson with The Rush Institute in Chicago in 2007 showed that loneliness doubles a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. He went on to stress that meaningful cognition and socialization is associated with lowered risks of depression, loneliness and cognitive decline.
MRI Brain Scan on Video
Maintaining Cognitive Health
So, how do we develop and keep these neural connections? Stay active, both mentally and physically! Challenge your mind. Work crossword puzzles. Do math. Read. Learn new words. Join a study group.
If an activity is no longer challenging, it is not giving your brain a good workout. When this happens, it might be time to try a different activity. You need to stretch the limits every now and then to create new neural connections.
Websites that Offer Free Cognitive Training Exercises
Many websites are now available to those having access to a computer and an internet connection. Some of the sites require a subscription, and will track your progress. Others are free. A few of these sites are listed below:
- Lumosity – This is a very popular subscription site, but a few great games are available for free.
- Mind Dabble – This site does not require a registration or subscription and provides games to boost your brainpower and improve your memory. It does allow you to post your results on Facebook and other social networks
- Brain Metrix – This site has free brain exercise games that helps train your brain in the areas of memory, learning and power.
- Brain Age Games – measures your brain age in two minutes by playing games.
- Brain Training 101 - This free site has a wide variety of games that that helps to train your brain in logic, memory, focus and attention, and problem solving skills.
- Fit Brains – This free site provides scientifically developed brain games to develop memory, concentration, language, visual spatial, and problem solving. This site also provides detailed feedback and recommendations.
Cognitive Stimulation and Brain Training - The Choice is Yours
Everyone is looking for a way to prevent the brain from deteriorating. Now you get to choose - use it or lose it!