How to Make Your Dendrites Grow and Grow
by Daniel Golden, Adapted from Life Magazine
can the average person do to strengthen his or her mind? “The important thing is to be actively involved in areas unfamiliar to
you,” says Arnold Scheibel, head of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. “Anything that’s intellectually challenging can probably serve as a
kind of stimulus for dendritic growth, which means it adds to the computational
reserves in your brain.” So pick
something that’s diverting and, most important, unfamiliar. A computer programmer might try sculpture; a ballerina might try marine
navigation. Here are some other
stimulating suggestions from brain researchers:
· Do puzzles.
can’t stand crosswords,” says neuroscientist Antonio Damasio of the
University of Iowa, “but they’re a good idea.” Psychologist Sherry Willis of Pennsylvania State University says,
“People who do jigsaw puzzles show greater spatial ability, which you use when
you look at a map.”
· Try a musical instrument.
“As soon as you decide to take up
the violin, your brain has a whole new group of muscle-control problems to
solve. But that’s nothing compared
with what the brain has to do before the violinist can begin to read notes on a
page and correlate them with his or her fingers to create tones. This is remarkable, high-level type of activity,” says
· Fix something.
repair your car or repair a shaver, suggests Zaven Khachaturian, a brain expert
at the National Institute of Aging. “My
basement is full of electronic gadgets, waiting to be repaired. The solution is not the important thing. It’s the challenge.”
· Try the arts.
verbal skills are good, buy a set of watercolors and take a course. If your drawing skills are good, start a journal or write poetry.
“We keep seeing a relationship between physical activity and cognitive
maintenance,” says Harvard brain researcher Marilyn Albert. “We suspect that moderately strenuous exercise leads to the development
of small blood vessels. Blood carries oxygen, and oxygen nourishes the brain.”
But be sure the activity is new and requires thinking. Square dancing, ballet or tap is preferable to twisting the night away.
· Date provocative people.
yet, marry one of them. Willis
suggests that the most pleasant and rewarding way to increase your dendrites is
to “meet and interact with intelligent, interesting people.” Try tournament bridge, chess, even sailboat racing.
remember, researchers agree that it’s never to late. Says Scheilbel, “All of life should be a learning experience, not just
for the trivial reasons but because by continuing the learning process, we are
challenging our brain and therefore building brain circuitry. Literally.
This is the way
the brain operates.”
San Diego Brain Injury