Modern research is proving that an old dog can indeed learn new tricks.
While it was once thought impossible, researchers over the last decade have found that the human adult brain is capable of adapting and growing new neural pathways.
The neuroplasticity of the adult brain can also be influenced by a number of factors, which can improve or worsen the brain’s ability to adapt and, therefore, a person’s ability to learn.
What is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.
For example, if you're learning a new skill or recovering from an injury, you can thank neuroplasticity for helping your brain adapt and change.
It's like a superpower that keeps your grey matter flexible and ready for new challenges.
However, as the saying goes, "use it or lose it."
Promoting neuroplasticity as we age is crucial because it helps maintain cognitive function and adaptability.
It's like keeping your brain in top-notch shape—flexible, resilient, and ready to take on whatever comes its way.
Engaging in activities that stimulate the brain, like learning new things, exercising, or even socialising, can contribute to preserving and enhancing neuroplasticity.
How to enhance neuroplasticity?
There are quite a few brain-boosting strategies to enhance neuroplasticity as you age.
First up, challenge your noggin with new activities - learning a language, picking up a musical instrument, or mastering a dance move.
Regular exercise is also a brain booster, promoting the growth of new neurons. And don't underestimate the power of a good night's sleep; it's like a spa day for your brain.
Socialising is also vitally important for maintaining a flexible mind while ageing. Engage in conversations, join clubs, or embrace your inner social butterfly.
A healthy diet, low in sugar and rich in nutrient-rich whole foods can also give your brain what it needs to stay adaptable.
In a nutshell, keep your brain on its toes—give it novelty, exercise, social interactions, and good nutrition.
What supplements can promote neuroplasticty?
There are a number of supplements that have been shown to promote neuroplasticity and neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells). Here is a quick overview of the best…
- Lion's Mane Mushroom: This fungi superstar stimulates the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that plays a key role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells. You can find lion's mane supplements in various forms, such as capsules or tincture.
- Psilocybin: Research suggests that psilocybin, found in certain ‘magic’ mushrooms, has potent neuroplasticity-promoting effects. It's thought to enhance communication between brain regions and promote the formation of new neural connections.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for regulating synaptic plasticity and neurotransmitter release, as well as having anti-inflammatory effects in the brain.
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid): DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in high concentrations in the brain. It is important for brain structure and function.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine: This amino acid derivative has been investigated for its potential to support cognitive function and neuroplasticity. It is involved in energy production within cells.
More ways to support neuroplasticity as you age
If you want to keep sharp as you age, you’ll need to adopt a lifestyle that supports brain health.
Here's an extensive list of activities and practices that can contribute to promoting neuroplasticity:
- Engage in Lifelong Learning:
- Take up new hobbies or learn a musical instrument.
- Attend workshops, classes, or lectures on topics that interest you.
- Physical Exercise:
- Regular aerobic exercise has been linked to improved cognitive function.
- Incorporate activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing into your routine.
- Strength Training:
- Include resistance training to promote overall health, including brain health.
- Healthy Diet:
- Consume a diet rich in nutrient-rich whole foods.
- Avoid processed foods, especially those rich in sugar and carbohydrates.
- Mindful Meditation:
- Practice mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and enhance focus.
- Mindfulness has been associated with changes in brain structure and function.
- Adequate Sleep:
- Ensure you get sufficient, quality sleep each night.
- Engage in social activities to promote cognitive stimulation.
- Join clubs, community groups, or volunteer to stay socially connected.
- Brain games and puzzles:
- Solve puzzles, play strategy games, or engage in activities that challenge your brain.
- Travel exposes you to new environments and experiences, stimulating changes in the brain.
- Stay hydrated:
- Proper hydration is essential for overall health, including brain function.
- Manage stress:
- Practice stress management techniques, such as yoga or deep breathing exercises.
- Cognitive training apps:
- Use brain-training apps designed to challenge memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.
- Music and art:
- Listen to music, play a musical instrument, or engage in artistic activities.
- Stay curious:
- Cultivate curiosity and a desire to learn new things.
- Limit alcohol and avoid smoking:
- Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can have negative effects on brain health.
- Regular reading, whether books or articles, stimulates the brain and enhances knowledge.
- Nutritional Supplements:
- Consider supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and lion’s mane mushroom.
- Maintain a healthy weight:
- Obesity has been linked to cognitive decline, so strive for a healthy weight.
- Continuous goal setting:
- Set and work towards personal and professional goals to maintain motivation.
- Limit sugar intake:
- Excessive sugar consumption may have negative effects on cognitive function.
- Microdose psilocybin:As discussed above, psilocybin can boost the growth of new brain cells and neural pathways.
The human adult brain is proven to be capable of adapting and forming new neural pathways, so don’t tell me old dog can't learn new tricks!
Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganise itself, is influenced by various factors that we can control.
Living a lifestyle that promotes neuroplasticity as we age is crucial for maintaining brain function, as we age.
As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
So keep your brain adaptable, resilient, and you’ll be ready for new challenges throughout your life.
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