We all know that cognitive fitness, keeping our brains sharp by keeping them working and exercised by engaging in a variety of cognitive activities, is crucial for long term brain health.
But physical activity is important for long term cognitive fitness too. Recently my eye was caught by this paragraph in an article in the AMA’s American Medical News:
Each time a dance step is learned, for instance, new pathways are formed. “Dancing is excellent for the brain and body,” says Vincent Fortanasce, MD, clinical professor of neurology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He wrote the Anti-Alzheimer’s Prescription. “Not only are you moving around more, your brain is in constant motion as it recalls steps and movements.”
In other words, in the same way that new cognitive and intellectual activities—trying new kinds of puzzles, or games, for instance, will “grow” our brains, so do does physical exercise and learning new physical skills. As the AMA Medical News article puts it:
“Exercise can actually increase neurogenesis and increase the size of the hippocampus,” says Dr. Fortanasce, who promotes isometrics and weight-bearing exercise. “Exercise also increases youth hormones. And novelty, doing new things, builds branches.”
In a 2006 study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Brandeis University researchers found that strength training increased the participants’ working memory span. The higher the level of resistance, the more memory improved, suggesting that strength training benefits not only the muscles but also the mind.
New activities, new challenges, new skills, are key for physical and mental fitness as we age.
It used to be, a few decades ago, that scientists thought once we reached adulthood, our brains stopped developing; we could learn, sure, but the physical structure of the brain wouldn’t change; or heal.
Now we know that even in our senior years, the brain is still growing, still forming new neurons, and making new physical connections. That ability to change, to grow, to re-route the pathways even after trauma, is called neuroplasticity.
Because of neuroplasticity, if we continue to stimulate our brains with activity of a variety of types. Mental stimulation allows us to train our brains, including our visual / spatial, auditory, and language abilities, and even our attention and the “executive” or higher functions like planning and problem-solving.
Dakim’s games are deliberately designed around six cognitive domains, including memory (short-term and long-term), language, calculation, visuospatial-orientation and critical thinking. Sure they’re fun—and often visually stunning—but they make us think, too. And that‘s good for all of our brains.
You can read more about neuroplasticity here, and here’s a helpful glossary of terms.
Welcome to Dakim, Inc.’s new blog about brain fitness, cognitive
software and Dakim BrainFitness programs.
You’ll see a number of people, from Dakim and elsewhere, posting to
this blog, but you’ll see a lot of me. I used to help make the games
that Dakim BrainFitness plays, the games that help train and exercise our
brains. I’m just as excited now, as I was when I first heard about
Dakim two years ago, because I’ve seen first hand how dementia affects
us all, whether we’re coping for ourselves or helping loved ones or
are professional care-takers.
This is an exciting year in terms of improving treatment for dementia,
traumatic brain injury, and Alzheimer’s. Dakim has been following the
latest research in cognitive fitness and incorporating techniques for
brain fitness training in Dakim’s game software. With the
recently announced plans for a Home unit, we can expect lots of
activity here, and on our new discussion boards.
Settle in your chair, and pick up a keyboard to let us know what you
think, what you’d like to know about the Dakim BrainFitness, and do go introduce
yourself in our new discussion forum.