Are you experiencing Brain fog every now and then? Here we discuss four lifestyle habits, that will help you improve your brain performance, by modulating a process in the brain called neuroplasticity.
Brain cells, so called neurons, can change throughout a person’s life. They can form new connections with one another, form new pathways for communicating and change their structures. Our brain performance relies much on neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is key player in the complex process of learning, memory formation and performing mental tasks.
Research has shown, lifestyle habits affect neuroplasticity. Among others, four lifestyle habits have great impact on neuroplasticity, and on the way the brain changes as we age. Here they are:
- Physical activity: Physical activity on a regular basis will increase neuroplasticity in your brain. It will help your brain to maintain a healthy structure as it ages. Research has shown, exercising helps to increase the size of a region in the brain, called the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation and learning. How exercise increases neuroplasticity is still not entirely clear. Increased release of neurotrophic factors, molecules that promote growth of brain cells may play a role. Physical activity also improves the blood circulation in the brain, hence supplying more oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells. It reduces inflammation in the brain, by improving stress response and defense mechanism. For healthy adults 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week is recommended by the WHO. If you have any health conditions, consult your physician to find the best exercise routine for you.
- Engaging in mentally stimulating activity: Activities that engage you intellectually, will improve your brain performance over time. Engaging the brain in challenging tasks is much like forming and shaping the muscles on your arm through exercise. Studies have shown, people who engage in intellectually stimulating activity have lower decline in brain volume, the process in which the brain shrinks with age. Stimulating environment, filled with challenging activities for the brain increases neuroplasticity in the brain, hence new connections between brain cells are made, new brain cells are created in certain regions of the brain, in a process called neurogenesis! Leisure activities that may result mental stimulation include reading, learning a musical instrument, dancing, discussion groups, solving puzzles, taking part in interactive social events, board games among many other things. Find what works best for you and engage in intellectual stimulation regularly.
- Eating healthy food: The brain comprises only two percent of the body weight, yet twenty percent of the energy that comes from nutrients goes to the brain. This fact itself shows the importance of food in the proper functioning of the brain. Healthy food improves brain function, by upscaling neuroplasticity in several ways. Healthy food maintains a balanced energy metabolism in the brain. Food rich in polyphenols reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Through a process called neurogenesis, new brain cells are created. New connections are formed among existing brain cells. This way, heathy food helps fight decline in cognitive function with age. Choose non-processed whole food with high nutritional value to get the optimal benefit for your brain.
- Get quality sleep: Research shows that new brain cells and neural connections are formed during sleep. Brain scan has revealed, activation pattern of brain regions associated with a newly learned skill changes after sleep, suggesting sleep related reorganization of neural connections associated with those skills. People with chronic sleep deprivation, such as in case of insomnia, have smaller volume of a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is very crucial to decision making and rational thinking. Furthermore, sleep deprivation has been linked to decline in volume of the hippocampus, an area of the brain crucial in memory formation. Sleep increases neuroplasticity in various ways, not all of which is fully understood. One way that sleep improves neuroplasticity is by increasing a process called Long-tern potentiation (LTP), which is a mechanism through which connection between brain cells are strengthened. LTP is strongly associated with one type of periodical electrical activity in the brain during deep sleep, called Slow Wave Activity (SWA). Getting enough quality sleep is imperative to optimal brain performance. Make sure to get enough quality sleep by going to bed early and keeping a healthy sleeping environment.