From the moment brain cells start to develop to the brain’s death, there is an enormous amount of activity. Within this extraordinary and flexible organ, there is a continuous process of modification resulting from our behaviors and the stimulation we seek. This process of neuroplasticity (also known as brain plasticity) has long been studied — and recent discoveries have altered the way we see brain “growth.”
No longer is the brain thought to slow learning as we age or that it is incapable of recovering from injury. Modern research has shown the brain never stops changing through learning due to neuroplasticity.
Commonly defined as the capacity for brain cells to change, neuroplasticity helps us to contribute to our overall well-being through thoughtfully engaging in certain activities. Having such an extensive capability to change creates opportunities for everyone — no matter their age — to positively influence brain development by deliberately challenging themselves and pursuing new skills.
What are some ways to boost your neuroplasticity? The first may come as a surprise, but playing video games has many associated cognitive benefits. Improvements may include motor coordination, reaction time, and memory — to name a few. That said, not all games are created equal when it comes to boosting the brain.
Puzzle games are recommended for spatial prediction and problem-solving skills, while rhythm gaming, such as dancing games, may help improve attention and visuospatial memory. Of course, too much screen time is not great for the brain. Yet adding a few hours of gameplay to your weekly leisure time could be a good way to enrich neuroplasticity.
The next is learning a new instrument, making art, or any form of expressing yourself artistically. Creating art can benefit mental, emotional, and social health. Additionally, drawing, painting, and other art forms can enhance creativity and improve cognitive abilities that further benefit the brain. If you are unfamiliar with such art forms or have no experience with instruments, all the better. Repeated practice and working to hone new skills can help the brain thrive.
Lastly, another way to exercise your mind is through exercising the body. Strengthening muscles and getting aerobic exercise also work to enhance the brain. Besides the benefits of getting better sleep and a healthier body, regular exercise may lead to improvements in learning, memory, and other cognitive functions. Furthermore, physical activity promotes increased blood flow and brain cell growth, in turn, fueling neuroplasticity. Whatever your age or ability, it’s recommended to incorporate such activity daily.
The brain is a remarkable tool we can refine through continuous training and learning. Consider “exercising” your mind to protect against cognitive decline and aid with certain mental health symptoms.
For more information on neuroplasticity, please see the accompanying resource.
Guide created by The Academy Piano & Voice