hippocampus

Two ways to make your brain grow

Its pretty amazing to think that just twenty years ago, the mainstream thinking amongst scientists was that the brain, as we get older, shrinks—basically slowly “dies”—and that there was nothing we could do about it.

Fortunately that thinking has totally changed, and now the concept of neurogenesis—growth of new nerve cells, even in our brain—is the mainstream thought, and much research has turned to how to facilitate this process. Today we suggest two ways for you.

In March we presented research showing that bilingualism appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (in people destined to get the disease) by up to five years. Now a study out of Sweden and published in the October 15 issue of the journal NeuroImage shows that bilingualism helps younger brains too. Properly stimulated, parts of the brain actually grow, as demonstrated by serial MRI (magnetic resonance) scans.

Dr. Johan Martensson and his associates from Lund University in Sweden studied two groups of students. The first group was recruits at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, who studied a new language seven days a week for 13 months, at which point they were expected to be fully fluent.

The second group of students were enrolled in medical or cognitive science programs, and, while they studied hard, they were not studying language, and the intensity of study was less than for the recruits in the Interpreter Academy. The researchers performed MRI scans at the beginning of their program and again after three months.

The results showed that the Interpreter Academy recruits showed significant physical growth in a part of the brain especially important for memory, the hippocampus, as well as three other brain areas important in language. The hippocampus is the brain region particularly crucial to acquiring new information, as well as for spatial navigation.

The medical and cognitive science students—not involved in learning a new language—showed no increase in the size of the hippocampus. So there seems to be something really good for the brain about learning a second language, especially in an intensive way.

The second way is perhaps easier. You may have heard that doing brain “games” such as crossword puzzles is good for the brain but here is something much better: aerobic exercise of any sort, even just regular walking. Yes, perhaps surprisingly, aerobic physical activities stimulate the brain to grow better than mental exercises!

We will cover in depth more about physical exercise—as well as other methods—to improve your memory in future posts. In the meantime, if you have been considering taking a second language course, especially an intensive one, it’s a good idea to actually do it!

And if you are trying to learn, or practice, your English or Portuguese, right here we offer you one way several times a week: try reading our posts in both languages!

If you would like to find a doctor in Brazil, you can do so through our main website: www.procuramed.com.

Read also in ProcuraMed:

*High sugar levels can contribute to brain shrinkage 

*Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed, but it is not…

 

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)