Through various research studies, scientists learned that the brain is more adaptable than previously believed. Regardless of whether an individual is a young adult or a senior citizen, the brain has a capability known as neuroplasticity, which allows the organ to create new pathways of communication between neurons on a continual basis. This discovery means that you are never too old to learn or improve your memory. There are a number of recommended methods to encourage pathway development.
In 2013, scientists from Tel Aviv University found that puzzles requiring problem-solving skills may stimulate neural circuit development that could slow the onset of Alzheimer's. John Hopkins University researchers found that by participating in 10 cognitive training sessions involving video games, elderly volunteers demonstrated enhanced reasoning ability and increased mental processing skills that lasted up to 10 years later.
Scientists from both the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School revealed that engaging in physical activity encourages the release of hormones and a chemical compound known as irisin that enhances cognitive skills while protecting delicate neurons from degeneration. A study of school children in Finland uncovered that youngsters who demonstrated physical fitness also had better cognitive abilities as evidenced by achieving higher math and reading skills.
Exposure to chronic stress leads to high levels of cortisol, which damages neurons and impairs cognitive function over time. Abnormally high cortisol levels trigger an inordinate amount of myelin and white matter accumulation that interferes with the pathways between various regions of the brain and the prefrontal cortex where learning and memory take place. This action could also lead to emotional disorders. Studies suggest that learning meditation and other stress reduction skills helps prevent this process.
It is common knowledge that the brain needs sleep for optimal functioning. During sleep, different regions of the brain reorganize and process data received during the day. On the other hand, researchers from the University of California in San Francisco discovered through imaging studies that a lack of quality sleep leads to a reduction in brain volume in frontal regions. This information is of particular importance to people suffering from sleep disorders.
University of Chicago researchers believe that people not having adequate social connections may experience cognitive deficits. Being isolated may lead to sleep disturbances, hypertension, depression and elevated cortisol levels, which also impair cognitive function by disrupting neuron pathways.
Michigan State University scientists found that children exposed to arts and creativity during their youth were more likely to mature into adults who successfully established businesses or obtained patents for inventions. A group of neuroscientists from Emory University learned that engaging in playing a musical instrument, reading or writing at any age improved overall brain plasticity.