Do you remember those Reader’s Digest articles, “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power”? Well, the word of the day when it comes to Brain Fitness is: neuroplasticity. It simply means that your brain can create, change and strengthen neural connections—and it can do that even as we age. But just like a regular muscle, if you don’t work it, it doesn’t get stronger. Have you ever seen an atrophied arm or leg muscle right after the cast comes off? Well, don’t expect your brain to remain strong in the twilight years if you don’t use it—especially if all you do is watch TV. A recent study with children indicated that even though some areas of the brain enlarged during 4-hour bouts of TV-watching, it didn’t increase meaningful intelligence. In fact, other measures such as verbal intelligence were negatively affected: MORE TV=LOWER I.Q.? Hard to say if that is because the kids just weren’t doing anything else—but it sure didn’t help.
The good news is that we can keep building up our brain connectivity. Stressing the brain–the way we gently stress a muscle to make it stronger–is one of the best things we can do to keep our brain ‘flexible’ and healthy. Doing two things at once—like exercising while listening to music, or using hand motions while singing—aids neuroplasticity, because neural circuits are strengthened with the dual activity.
Recent research even showed that clenching the right hand strengthened learning in the left brain “encoding” area during memorization, while clenching the left hand improved results during follow-up right-brained memory recall activity.
So wake up your brain! Learn something new. Challenge your brain circuits by regularly doing something with your non-dominant hand. Brush off those old Reader’s Digests—or go online to learn new words every day: READER’S DIGEST WORD POWER FLASH CARDS (Try a little hand clenching while you memorize and then recall those new words!)