by Alex Lee, WTH writer
(Courtesy of mythunderstandings.wordpress.com)
Check out this feature and other great stories in the newest issue of What the Health magazine, dropping this week! Look for it in all the dining halls, dorms, fitness centers and academic buildings.
Battling memory decline with daily mental exercise
In one corner of the ring sits your brain. In the opposing corner, ready to take you down, is memory decline. Let’s get ready to rumble.
Memory loss may seem light years away to a college student, but according to the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan your brain function begins its steady free-fall as early as your mid-20s. In fact, mental decline occurs at the same rate at in a 25-year-old as it occurs in a 70-year-old.
Number games and doodling become key weapons for both young and old adults. Studies conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal that engaging in cognitive training several times a week significantly wards off memory loss and can even improve brain function for up to two years.
Ian Robertson, a professor of psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and author of “Stay Sharp,” studies the effects of cognitive stimulation like that of Sudoku on the brain. Robertson argues that certain types of brain stimulation can improve cognitive function. The connections within the brain necessary for mental performance tend to weaken when the brain does not get enough exercise, but can be strengthened with repeated use.
The potential threat of early memory decline has received attention throughout the Syracuse University community as well. “I recently learned in psychology class that people start to lose their memory as early as their 20s,” says Stephen Glennon, a health and exercise science major. “I figured that I would get ahead of the game and start doing Sudoku every now and then.”
Doodling may also benefit the brain, according to a recent study by Jackie Andrade, a professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom. Her study tested doodling and its power to improve memory and concentration. After listening to a brief auditory message, participants took a surprise quiz to recall information mentioned in the message. Compared with subjects who did not doodle while listening, doodlers scored 29 percent better. Andrade’s results provide strong evidence that doodling while working can be helpful because it maintains concentration during boring tasks.
Train your brain now and prepare it for the battle against memory decline. Exercise your brain using the resources around you. Take a stab at the daily newspaper’s Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Doodle your heart out during biology class. As Robertson puts it, “there is an element of truth to the ‘mental muscle’ model of the brain—use it or lose it.”