Sunday, March 14, 2010

Curious about the Brain and Brainpower: What Are You Doing to Keep It Active and Young?

An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” - Arnold H. Glasow, American humorist

Do not call for black power or green power. Call for brain power.” - Barbara Jordan, American lawyer

I am fascinated with the brain and our brainpower. How about you?

There was a time when people were talking about the death of brain cells. And, even using that myth to explain why – as we mature – we start forgetting. Yes, forgetting facts, names, where we left our keys, why we went to a certain room, and, for me, forgetting the perfect word to use while speaking, teaching, or telling a story.

Well, the great news is that there is presently a lot of interest in our brains. From the article, Boost Your Brain Health, in the current issue of AARP’s magazine, “Studies show that diverse, mentally stimulating tasks result in more brain cells, and a greater ability to bypass age: or disease–related trouble spots in the brain. The more you work your mind, the greater your cognitive reserve . . . thus the greater your ability to withstand the inevitable challenges of aging.”

As I read on in the article, I was thrilled to find that the habits suggested to maximize brain health are the same habits I have been suggesting to my senior students all along: walk and talk; vary your routine; get smart; play; de-stress; sleep; imagine; party; eat right; and watch your numbers.

The quotations I found were wide and varied – and not scientific and/or technical – but also helpful for attitude and activities of daily living (ADL):
  • It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.” - Michel de Montaigne, French philosopher
  • Money is the last enemy that shall never be subdued. While there is flesh there is money or the want of money, but money is always on the brain so long as there is a brain in reasonable order.” - Samuel Butler, British poet
  • A strange thing is memory, and hope; one looks backward, and the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day.” - Grandma Moses, American artist
  • The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.” - Robert Cormier, American author
  • Genetics is crude, but neuroscience goes directly to work on the brain, and the mind follows.” - Leon Kass, American educator
  • If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.” - Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist

And, some more for fun and interest:

  • "You have to have conviction and completely question everything and anything you do. No matter how much you study, no matter how much you know, the side of your brain that has the smarts won't necessarily help you in making art.” - Maya Lin, American architect
  • I think that cognitive scientists would support the view that our visual system does not directly represent what is out there in the world and that our brain constructs a lot of the imagery that we believe we are seeing.” - Galen Rowell, American photographer
  • We are not interested in the fact that the brain has the consistency of cold porridge.” - Alan Turing, British mathematician
  • I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities.” - Theodor Geisel, American writer
  • My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery - always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?” - Virginia Woolf, British author
  • I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” - Nikola Tesla, American inventor

So, how is your brain faring? I am so excited to be living in a time period where brain aging is but a memory of the past. Keep exercising, learning, playing, and taking care of your health. And, let me know how you are doing.