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  A Note from the Director of the Brainwaves Center

Suzanne Corkin quoteOur mission is putting current research to work to improve brain skills in the real world. The Brainwaves® Center provides the general public with practical applications of current research in the neurosciences, to help our readers improve and maintain mental skills.

The Brainwaves Center's information is trustworthy because we study the published neuroscience research and build our text and targeted exercises from those results. We write up only what applies to practical, day to day living as we humans walk around in the real world. We don't report how lab rats seem to think, only what humans do when given a specific task.

We are dedicated to improving performance that maintains self-sufficiency and quality of life. We design tools for thinking in the form of brain games and self-tests. These tools build different mental muscles because they are based on the same tasks used in cognitive research on how normal humans behave when they are given a similar task. We don't test abstract, academic skills. We create sets of mental exercises targeted to stimulate the essential circuits that run your life. We reveal crucial research that can improve anybody's mental performance.

Our advice is based on proven facts that would otherwise remain buried in obscure scientific journals. We construct "tasks" based on cognitive experiments that sharpen different parts of the brain so they grow stronger and work faster to get things done in the real world. We are like a brain gym where you go to play selected brain games to buff up connections between neurons for memory or for eye-hand coordination, or creative visualization, social facility, emotional control, math and vocabulary, concentration power, and other abilities that make you human.

The Brainwaves Center's skill-building exercises are targeted to prevent embarrassing symptoms of age-related decline in crucial thought-processes that could develop into Alzheimer's disease. You can maintain your brain's infrastructure — its paths to your knowledge. How does that work? Brain cells die off at a steady rate starting about age 27. Mostly, the ones that die are the ones not being used. Brain cells do their different mental jobs by passing an electrical current that jumps from one cell to another to fire up a circuit. When a cell is not there, or its wiring is weak from disuse, the circuit fails. That, for example, is why you forgot something you should have known.

I am concerned by the future need to care for a large population of elder people who are not cognitively self-sufficient. Caring for a physically mobile person with anti-social or self-destructive capabilities is very, very expensive. Expensive in creating physical environments that protect the elder from himself, paying for 24/7 supervision, training — then having to replace — caregivers who burn out emotionally from long exposure to a super-stressful job. 

Furthermore, I am worried about facing an impending, epidemiological threat: The number of cognitively-impaired elders will increase exponentially as children born in the post-WW II population bulge turn 65 years old. I am concerned that most people still do not know that they can maintain their mental powers longer into their lives simply by exercising them vigorously. 

Here are 4 Keys to avoid symptoms of embarrassing and debilitating cognitive decline.

Key #1: Human brains are lazy. They burn almost 20% of the nutrition in your system. So they shut down their circuits that are not being used. Worse still, the brain is wired to prune cells at a steady rate starting at around 25 years of age. This apoptosis process continues relentlessly whether you exercise your brain or not. All the more reason to cultivate the remaining cells that produce brain power. 

Key #2: Fortunately, the human brain is also wired to solve whatever problems you present to it. Pushing your brain to work increases the physical strength and volume of its circuits that solve the different kinds of problems you face every day of every year you live. More challenges creates more circuits to meet them. The circuits in different parts of the brain cooperate to find a solution. Solving the daily crossword is fine but it uses only a few circuits, mostly in the left hemisphere. Performing music, for example, tunes up many more circuits on both sides of the brain.

Key #3:  Exercising the rest of your body helps maintain blood flow to the brain. Physical conditioning exercise also pays off in building and maintaining mental muscle. It doesn't ask for much: 20 minutes of fast walking on four days per week will do it. The equivalent in your choice of activity will work too. Keeping fit gives you the power and the self confidence to take on more challenges. 

Key #4: Feeling good about yourself helps maintain your brain. When you have done some thing well (like getting in good shape, for example), it charges up your confidence to tackle another skill. It charges up your batteries to try something else new you would otherwise be afraid you couldn't handle. 

Strengthen your hand in this game of life by strengthening and maintaining your brain power.

    Allen D. Bragdon
Member, the Society for Neuroscience
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©2009 Allen D. Bragdon Publishers