One area of interest of many people is how to grow your brain. Through neuroplasticity, can we actually make ourselves smarter, or grow our brain, or at the minimum, maximize our brain’s potential? You probably heard the statistic that we only use ten percent of our brain. Although now this is considered largely an urban legend, people still want to know how to maximize their brain potential.
We see this in Hollywood movies like the one about a writer that takes a pill allowing him to use 100 percent of his brain, Limitless (2011). We also see it in the movie Lucy (2014) where the character is injected with a drug that gives her superhuman powers like telekinesis and telepathy. Although we don’t have a magic pill to maximize our brain’s’ potential or to give us supernatural ability, we do have much safer and more realistic ways to stimulate brain cell growth.
The scientific term for this phenomenon is neuroplasticity. It is defined as “the potential that the brain has to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs.” We talked about neuroplasticity in our blog Tuesday about supports necessary after brain injury. Author and psychologist Janelle Breese-Biagioni writes that brain injury is not a death sentence to the brain’s ability to change for the better, known as neuroplasticity. Even in adulthood, we still have the ability to grow our brains.
Another term that is used to signify brain cell growth is neurogenesis, defined as “the growth and development of nervous tissue.” One writer for The Huffington Post tackled this issue in an article titled “10 Proven Ways To Grow Your Brain: Neurogenesis And Neuroplasticity.” He supported each of his ten ways with scientific research. Here they are:
- Intermittent Fasting
- Use Mnemonic Devices
- Learn an Instrument
- Non-Dominant Hand Exercises
- Read Fiction
- Expand your Vocabulary
- Create Artwork
- Hit the Dance Floor
In addition to these, exercise for thirty minutes a day or meditation and eating foods rich in flavonoids and antioxidants also help stimulate brain growth. Learning new things build new neuronal connections that weren’t there before. This is turn will make you smarter. Learning a foreign language, math or writing can form new neuronal connections, too. No magic pill…yet. Growing your brain takes time and practice and develops slowly over time.
Anything that stimulates the muscles while working the mind is very good for neuronal health. Typing as we do when we write these blogs, is a good example. It requires us to use our motor cortex to control the fingers. Writing also requires us to use the speech and language parts of our brain to sort for the right word and then spell that word. Most important, it stimulates our frontal lobes as we think and plan what we desire to say. Even texting is likely good for your brain, even if a bit hard on the eyes.
(Soon we will see studies that texting makes you nearsighted. But that has always been the hazard of too much reading of small print.)