Can You Design Your Own Brain? Yes, You Can! – Part 2

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

In Part 1 we looked at how we might design our brain using music and language. If you found that a bit on the heavy side you may find these methods more appealing

So let’s “hit the road”….

3. Do sums in your head
Mathematics such as arithmetic require the ability to match numbers (quantity) with specific symbols (o,1,2,3… etc). When doing mathematics different parts of the brain are used depending on whether you are performing estimates or exact calculations.

In adults the parts of the brain that play key roles in number processing include the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex and the temporal regions. The advantages of doing mathematics in your head go beyond simply providing the tools for problem solving and answer evaluation. It stimulates the areas of the brain that are involved in visualisation and concept formation both of which I believe are important in developing lateral thinking skills.

 Now you can see how two+ two might actually equal more than four in terms of brain benefits. So throw away your calculator and get on and play with some numbers.

4. Storking not stalking!
Balancing employs the vestibular system, which is a fluid-filled chamber located in the inner ear. The fluid shifts whenever the head is moved. This change is converted into electrical impulses and sent to the brain whereby the brain uses the information to maintain balance. Why would you want to maintain a healthy vestibular system?

Well, having a faulty vestibular system predisposes a person to falls and so undermines confidence and makes smooth coordinated movement seem difficult This lack of confidence can mean a person is less likely to move outside the boundaries of their home with the result that social contact is reduced.

How can you activate and maintain your the vestibular system in good order?
Well, once again it’s a “use it or lose it” situation. Here’s just one way you can “use it”. We’ll call it storking for want of a better description.

Level 1
1) Stand comfortable on both feet.
2) Place your hands on your hips.
3) Slowly lift one leg and place the toes of that foot against the knee of the other leg.
4) Balance for as long as possible without letting your foot move away from the knee.
5) Repeat by changing legs

I guess you can now understand why I’ve called it storking.

Level 2
Repeat as above except after completing Step 3 close your eyes

I’ll bet you found that a bit more difficult… more like drunken storking!  As a guide if you can hold steady for about one minute that’s good… two minutes and I reckon your vestibular system is in really great shape.

5. Smelling
Sense of smell provides information about your environment. I think it is fair to say that sense of smell is somewhat undervalued in a world in which we are bombarded with visual stimulation.

The olfactory bulb is the part of the brain that processes smell information. Information about smells detected by the olfactory bulbs is converted into electrical impulses and goes directly to the cortex (involved in sensory processing), amygdale (seat of emotions) and hippocampus (seat of memory).

Wow, that’s not a bad effort for a nose, but what are the implications? Well, it helps explain the arousal by familiar smells of past memories and emotions. In part it helps explain why, for example, the smell of paint makes some people feel nausea or the smell of fresh baked bread promotes feel-good emotions. As you can imagine, reduced ability to sense perfumes and body odours can interfere with your sex-life.

Having a keen sense of smell can be a life-saver. When it is impaired it makes it difficult to detect, for example, leaking gas with potentially disastrous consequences.

Sense of smell is also an intrinsic part of our sense of taste so impaired sense of smell can spoil our enjoyment of food.

So what can you do to boost the performance of your olfactory bulbs?

            1) Sniffing the air. You should take the opportunity to sample the air when you are out walking. Obviously I’m not suggesting you start inhaling toxic gasses but normal everyday smells you would not previously given any attention. Try to distinguish between the various odours.

            2) Buy a range of spices. Place them separately from one another and practice distinguishing them. Once you’ve done that, try and identify them with your eyes closed. Next re-arrange the order, then with eyes closed try to identify them.

            3) Stop smoking

            4) Smell challenge  This really just a variation on 2) above. Start by smelling something with a safe strong odour, say, fresh or dried herb. Work with that for just a few minutes a day for as long as it takes for you to notice the odour is getting stronger. Now find something with a less strong odour and repeat steps until that is getting stronger. Then find a weaker odour still and repeat. Continue until you feel you are able to detect even the faintest of odours. The process may take several months.

That’s probably a good point to wrap things up…

Of course, I haven’t covered all the possible opportunities you can use to influence the shape of your brain, but can you see can you see how all this might come together to create your own designer brain?

At the simplest level you identify the parts of your brain you would like to build up then you undertake activities that might foster their growth by taking advantage of your brain’s remarkable ability to rewire itself in response to changing circumstances – brain plasticity. It should not be assumed that brain attributes built up through a particular activity will necessarily and fully transfer to other activities. However, in most cases I suspect there will be a positive and noticeable flow-on effect 

One thing you need to be aware of is negative plasticity. Because all parts of your brain are in some way inter-connected the “use it or lose it” principle applies. What I mean by that can be best explained with a simple, but real-life example.

It is well known that as people age their fear of falling increases. In an attempt to feel more confident they tend to put increasing emphasis on watching where they place their feet. But as we discussed earlier the body already has a balance system in place  – the vestibular system. By watching their feet they tend to rely on their visual system more than their balance system which takes less and less interest in proceedings, so to speak and so the brain is being trained to fall.

But cheer up, we’re into positive plasticity!

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you approach designing your brain with moderation and balance (.as in evenness) in mind. Practice makes perfect and you can’t reasonably expect that a short term burst of activity will produce lasting changes… it may or may not. The best way to cement your new designer brain in place is long-term practice – Yes, I know there’s always a catch!

Well, It’s been quite a journey… now you know why ‘designer clothes’ cost so much!

As always, your comments are very welcome… if you like my posts please tell your friends

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7 Responses to “Can You Design Your Own Brain? Yes, You Can! – Part 2”

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