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 lots 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 put, it is exercise for the brain.
How do we go about providing stimulation or exercise to our brains? Can it be an individual activity? Does it require a computer program? Do you have to join some type of group? In this article, 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 becomes more and more apparent as you age and as Alzheimer’s and dementia become more prevalent. It's important to do all you can to keep yourself mentally fit. The saying: "If you don't use it, you lose it!” also applies to your 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! You 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 you can challenge your 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 yours, but then so are the results.
Cognitive Stimulation, Functioning, and Alzheimer's
Much is being discovered about the brain and the brain’s development, and new discoveries and theories to be tested are always on the horizon. New papers and reports are published frequently. 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 into 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.
In 2002, Robert Wilson with The Rush Institute in Chicago reported that people who participated in mentally challenging activities had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and a reduced decline in global cognition. And, in 2007, he showed that loneliness doubles a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. He went on to stress that meaningful cognition and socialization are associated with lowered risks of depression, loneliness and cognitive decline.
. . . 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)
MRI Brain Scan on Video
Maintaining Cognitive Health
So, how can you develop and keep these neural connections healthy and strong? Stay active, both mentally and physically! Challenge your mind. Work crossword puzzles. Do math. Read. Learn new words. Join a study group.
Note: If an activity is no longer challenging, it's not providing your brain a good workout. When this happens, it's time to try a different activity. It's important 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 brain training sites are listed below:
- Lumosity is a very popular subscription site, but a few great games are available for free.
- Mind Dabble 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 offers free brain exercise games that help 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 is free and has a wide variety of games that help to train your brain in logic, memory, focus, attention, and problem-solving skills.
- Fit Brains is a free site that provides scientifically developed brain games to develop memory, concentration, language, visual-spatial, and problem-solving skills. It also provides detailed feedback and recommendations.
Cognitive Stimulation and Brain Training - The Choice is Yours
Everyone is looking for a way to prevent their brain from deteriorating. You get to choose - use it or lose it!
© 2012 Cindy Murdoch