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Turn on Your Neurons!

Basic Facts About Brain Fitness & Cognitive Training For many years, brain scientists believed that the number of neurons in the adult brain was fixed; and that the connections between these neurons was relatively 'hard wired'. We now know that both of these assumptions are wrong.

Through a process called neurogenesis, new neurons are constantly being created in the human brain, even in older adults. Moreover, research has clearly established that neurogenesis occurs in the human hippocampus, one of the key structures involved in learning and memory. (Some scientists have suggested that neurogenesis is occurring in other brain areas as well, including the frontal lobes, an area important for attention, working-memory, and decision making. This possibility is currently under intense investigation and, if true, could radically alter the way we think about brain development, stability, and change across the lifespan).

Along with neurogenesis, a number of findings in the neurosciences have converged on the conclusion that, rather than being hard-wired, the brain is able to adapt to experience much faster and more extensively than previously believed. Evidence for such neuroplasticity is now available from a number of sources, from studies showing that animals living in enriched environments have larger brains than those living in more impoverished environments, to studies documenting the ability of the human brain to 'rewire' itself after injury.

The existence of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity raise a fascinating scientific question: Can the adaptive potential of the human brain be harnessed to slow age-related cognitive decline or the onset of dementia? Unfortunately, we are just beginning to address this question scientifically. Nevertheless, a number of factors suggest that at least some age-related cognitive decline can be slowed by doing things such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and living an active, intellectually-challenging lifestyle.

One of the most exciting findings in the emerging field of 'brain fitness' are those showing that aerobic exercise can enhance performance on high-level memory and attention tasks associated with frontal-lobe functions. There is even evidence that aerobic exercise can have positive effects on the structure and function of the brain.

Equally exciting are cognitive training studies showing that older adults can improve their memory, attention, and reasoning skills through practice. Some of these studies have even shown that cognitive training may induce patterns of brain activity that more closely resemble the patterns observed in younger, higher-performing adults.

The 'brain fitness revolution' is off to a great start. Nevertheless, a number of important tasks remain including the refinement of existing training principles, and the development of new, more effective principles that take into account individual differences in patterns of cognitive decline. Also important are the development of methods for delivering science-based brain fitness products to the general public. In this regard, Minds Refined is dedicated to producing fun, affordable, evidence-based games that can truly enhance mental function.

To view a related fact sheet on Aging, Memory, & Cognition, click here.

To view a related fact sheet on Alzheimer's Disease, click here.
At a Glance...
Through neurogenesis, new neurons are constantly being created in the human brain, even in older adults.

Neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus, one of the key brain structures involved in memory.

Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to rewire itself as a function of experience.

Research suggests that the human brain is much more adaptable than previously believed.

Aerobic exercise and cognitive stimulation may increase neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in older adults.

Cognitive training research has shown that older adults can improve their memory, attention, and reasoning skills through practice.