Gaining Brain

Remember the information you grew up with? That the brain doesn’t grow more cells, and that children become “set” for life intellectually very early? Well, it appears that isn’t so.

neuroplasticity: the notion that adult brains are more adaptable, capable of reprogramming themselves, than was once thought. –Meghan O’Roarke

Scientists have found out that blind people really do hear and feel more acutely.The portion (rather large in percentage) of the brain called the visual cortex gets harnessed for the sense of hearing- it does not go unused. The fact is that the brain can adapt and we can learn to use parts of it differently or more efficiently. The parts of the brain which process feeling often grow larger in blind people as they use their fingertips in reading braille, etc.
There are things we can do to keep our brains from aging and losing ability.

Of course, they have the caveats in much of the reporting. The ideas given for helping neuroplasticity work isn’t based on solid unrefuted evidence yet, but we will take all the helpful tips and suggestions we can get. Most of them are common sense habits that benefit the body in a wide range of ways. Exercise, for instance, is suggested for keeping brains healthy, and it is a factor in moderating many diseases that afflict us as we age. It is useful in lowering blood pressure, in keeping bones strong, and in managing diabetes. So, why wouldn’t we want to keep fit and active as we age…for our brains welfare as well?

One of the more interesting types of programs on the local PBS ( although many of them are interesting) has been those that share research and practical pointers on how to age well, and how to keep the brain working optimally. With the types of mapping of the brain, and even the rather morbid research done with terminally ill patients ( they agree to have a dye mark the growth of the brain and allow for autopsy results to report the activity) the way in which the brain works is becoming more evident all the time. From “exercise” of games and learning new things, to the importance of physical activity, and even foods that we eat ( more curry dishes, more mustard, too, it seems!), we can make a difference in our brain’s health and well-being.

Understanding the brain impacts how we make decisions at times, too.

When you imagine choosing between making a quick buck or growing rich later, you know the right answer: Be patient and hold out for the bigger gain. But as soon as you face a real rather than an imaginary choice, the fast money seems irresistible.

New discoveries in neuroscience labs are helping to explain why it’s so hard to resist the allure of instant gratification. It turns out that your brain is much more aroused by $1 today than by $1 tomorrow. And $1 six months from now barely registers.

Only the promise of a much bigger reward later can fire up your brain the way an immediate score does.

This bit of info comes from the finance pages written to help us to understand how we short circuit those good intentions to save. Our brains can change for the better, and we can change for the better…. and if you are a praying man (or woman), you might have heard how good prayer and meditation is for you…. apart from what it does on the receiving end of those prayers. It seems it works to “reset” us, and to increased “gamma signal” activity.

We are working on fast brain waves, at about 40 cycles per second (Hz), which are known as gamma band. Gamma rhythms appear to be involved in higher mental activity, including perception and consciousness. It seems to be associated with consciousness, eg it disappears with general anesthesia.- Brainwaves
descriptions of other types of brain waves are as follows:
Brain waves are classified into four categories (delta, theta, alpha, and beta)—each with an associated mental state. Delta is seen only in the deepest stages of sleep. Theta is seen in light sleep and drowsiness. Alpha is present in wakefulness where there is a relaxed and effortless alertness and Beta is seen in highly stressful situations and where there is difficulty in mental concentration and focus. It is well known that alpha brain waves are generated during a relaxed state and therefore alpha waves are used as an index of relaxation. -from the article on green tea

And what about the now ubiquitous green tea? Its health qualities are “a unique, neurologically-active amino acid in tea called L-theanine (gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid).L-theanine is a free (non-protein) amino acid found almost exclusively in tea plants (Camellia sp.), constituting between 1 and 2-percent of the dry weight of tea leaves.” but don’t put milk in your tea, if you want the benefits.

Humans know very little about their brains, but even if we feel rather like Pooh, the bear “Of Very Little Brain”, we can all benefit from acquiring the habits and activities that lead to better brain function.