Brain Health

Richard Edelson, Ph.D.

As we get older, nerve cells in the brain (neurons) die, and except in a few select areas, are not replaced by new cells.  As a result of this nerve cell loss, the brain shrinks.  This process is called atrophy, and it happens to all of us with time.  However, certain activities have been found to reduce the rate of cerebral (brain) atrophy.  One set of these involves engaging the brain in behavior which requires thinking, for example, reading a book, playing cards, or using the computer; yes, even videogames can be beneficial.  Such activities lead the brain to develop new connections between neurons, and thereby increase resistance to cell death, a process referred to as building neuronal reserve.  Think of it as helping yourself become the Energizer Bunny.

And if you don’t like any of the above, research done in Scotland recently concluded that physical activity of almost any type is also good for brain health.  That is, people who were physically active had less brain atrophy than people who weren’t.  The conclusion from a variety of such studies – if it’s good for your body it’s good for your brain. 

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