A few days ago, I awakened at 3 am and couldn’t fall back asleep. After tossing for an hour or so, I got up, did some reading and eventually started my workday. As the day went on, I found myself snacking on every high-calorie in our house: cashews, tortilla chips, cookies.
The next day I found an interesting article by Nancy Foldvary, D.O. Ms. Foldvary is Director of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorder Center. From that article:
Studies suggest that sleep deprivation is associated with increased hunger and cravings for high-calorie, high-carb foods…
Lack of sleep increases gherlin, a hunger-controlling hormone, while decreasing leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone…
I probably consumed 3,000 or 4,000 calories that day. Not good for blinding brain speed. Article linked here.
Tip 1 Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for high-speed brain work. Scientific research has now identified multiple repair and maintenance functions the brain performs during sleep. Imagine your brain like a Formula One race car. Technicians monitor dozens of real-time indicators of engine, transmission, suspension performance and more. Each element is exquisitely maintained. Treat your brain that way.
Tip 2 Have Some Chocolate
Researchers at the University of L’Aquila have found a link between consumption of chocolate and a healthy brain. From that study:
Although still at a preliminary stage, research investigating the relations between cocoa and cognition shows dose-dependent improvements in general cognition, attention, processing speed and working memory. Link to the study here.
In this research work, cocoa was consumed as a drink (presumably hot chocolate, but it doesn’t say). Other research typically shows the benefit being derived from dark chocolate. Your grocer probably has some cocoa mixes with dark chocolate. You may have to search around a bit to find them.
Tip 3 Play a Video Game
A large study (2,800+ participants) performed by researchers from Indiana University, the University of South Florida and Penn State University tracked individuals over 10 years. The research team included Indiana University Professor of Clinical Psychology Frederick Unverzagt, PhD, Lesley Ross, PhD, from the Department of Human Development at Penn State University and Jerri Edwards, PhD from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the University of South Florida. The participants were divided into four groups. There were groups that received memory training, reasoning training, or speed of processing training, with the remaining participants part of a control group.
To score points in the game, participants must spot something, such as a highway sign on a roadway, while simultaneously noticing something else in the periphery. The faster you identify and click on the objects, the better you score. As the game proceeds, the background becomes more complex, making it harder to find the images. The good news: participants playing that type of game had a 29% lower incidence of dementia than the control group. That is a very big, important finding. As a study author Frederick Unverzagt, PhD stated: “This is the first time a study had shown a protective benefit against dementia” using brain training. Link to the research here.
Tip- Fire up the X Box. Find games that require you to build a mental map, e.g. where you are on a battlefield, maze, etc. versus competitors, and to observe not just a focal point on the screen, but movement on the periphery.
And Bonus Tip 4 Get Your Brain Electrified
Put our bonus tip into your future follow-up file. Researchers Robert M.G. Reinhart, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and John A. Nguyen, PhD student, both of Boston University, zapped subjects’ brains with electricity to see if they could improve memory. They had two groups to compare, one of young adults and one of older adults. First, they administered a memory test. Predictably, the older adults underperformed the younger (but I would observe that the difference was not huge). Subsequently, researchers put caps with electrodes on the subjects’ heads. The younger group received a stimulus that made them believe they had been treated with electrical stimulation, but it was a fake. The older group actually received 25 minutes of electrical stimulation, tuned to their specific brain wave pattern. When more memory tests were administered, the older group performed as well as the younger. It seems that a consequence of aging is that parts of our brain get out of wave sync. The electrical current stimulation, tuned to the right frequency, gets our brain waves synchronized again. And working memory seems to require good brain frequency alignment to perform at peak. Link to the study here.
Given that I no longer come up with answers to Jeopardy questions fast enough to be competitive, I don’t think I have an objection to getting zapped….
Does your brain need some stimulation? Please check out our games and puzzles.
Have friends who need to grow bigger brains? Please use the links below to share this post.