I am reposting this because I got so busy yesterday I actually forgot to blog!
Cognitive function can be affected by a number of factors including brain aging, stress and anxiety, diet and exercise or physical disability.
Cognition is defined in Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary as “Thinking skills that include language use, calculation, perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, judgement, learning, intellect, social skills and imagination.”
It was thought until recently that brain function was fixed and that after birth no new neurons could develop. Research into Neuroplasticity has proven this not to be the case. It is now understood that the brain remains capable of change into later life. A number of factors influence cognitive functioning both negatively and positively. New information is being found daily.
Although it is a radical idea neuroscientist Michael Merzenich has made the claim that “brain exercises may be as useful as drugs to treat diseases as severe as schizophrenia”. He also claims that brain plasticity continues for life.
Some of the brain exercises that are thought to assist with cognitive function are:
Learning a language
Playing board games
The activities must be consistent and the more varied they are the better. The key is mental stimulation. If something becomes boring then it must be changed up with something new to keep the brain engaged.
Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise play a distinct role in cognitive function. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and low glycemic carbohydrates have been shown to improve cognitive functioning. In addition, eating five small meals per day reduces blood glucose spikes and drops which assures the brain a consistent source of nourishment.
Ballroom dancing, basketball, walking daily, yoga and Tai Chi all assist with cognitive brain function. Along with the stimulation of the various forms of exercise, overall health improvements assist with the brains ability to receive nourishment.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress anxiety and lack of sleep have enormous impact on the ability of the brain to function properly. They lead to memory loss, confusion, lack of clarity and impaired verbal skills. Stress releases cortisol which can impair memory function and damage memory cells. Relaxation exercises such as Yoga and Tai Chi as well as stress relief techniques such as meditation have been shown to be highly beneficial in reversing the effects of stress.
Studies have been done with Tibetan monks Carmelite nuns and numerous others to measure the effect of meditation on the brain. The results show that long term practice of meditation changes the activity level in the part of the brain related to attention.
Studies have also been done with groups of employees who practised meditation or mindfulness for forty-five minutes a day. The results were that the employees stress levels were reduced and their natural attitude went from stressed and anxious to happy.
Until recently it was believed that once an area of the brain associated with a specific function was damaged, that function could not be returned. New findings in neuroplasticity show that brain activities associated with specific functions can relocate to different areas of the brain.
Studies have been done with stroke patients that have been paralyzed for years. They were able to recover after being treated with brain stimulating exercises. The best results are achieved through interesting and motivating rehabilitation.
THIS BLOG IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE THE ADVICE OF YOUR DOCTOR
Venes Donald M.D.,MSJ et al, Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, F.A. Davis Company