How to Build A Better Brain

It is a common perception that memory and other cognitive functions like responses and reasoning declines as we age, but there are ways we can re-wire our brains and slow the degeneration down. 

Dementia is the focus of a long term study of older people in Edinburgh, Dr Allan Gow is looking at how exercise can help them. His team looked at a cross section of older people at 70, and compared their sharpness of memory with their level of physical activity. What they found was that those who exercised performed better in mental tests than those who did not. The physically active were sharper in memory and reasoning, and the test was backed up by brain scans. The scans found that the physically active older people had less damage to the white matter of their brain and less degeneration in the grey matter.

The brain shrinks as we get older, and this is perfectly normal. We also receive scarring on the white matter of our brains that can interrupt our ability of recall. Studies have shown that something as simple as walking every day will see benefits in terms of cognitive function, benefits such as working memory, planning, multi-tasking, task switching, management processes in the brain and the activities related to age and decline.

Some years ago a study at UCLA interviewed a group of subjects when they were 36, 43 and 53, with the aim of monitoring changes in the brain over time and the effect exercise had on those changes. What they found was that those who started off physically active but who were not in later years did not get any benefits in cognitive function. However, those that started exercising in later life, did. Scientists are currently working on defining the points in your life where exercise will boost cognitive function in later life.

Neuroscientist Dr Hannah Crishlow who has been experimenting on mice, exercise and the relation it had on their brains. They found that new nerve cells were born in the Hippocampus when the mice exercised on the wheel – and they believe that the same result can be expected in humans. Physical activity boosts this production of cells in the Hippocampus area of the brain, allowing us to increase synaptic function, make new memories and recall old on