It has been suggested as a means to improving brain capacity for several years, but scientists continue to find new evidence which points to a link between physical and mental health.
A Cambridge University study suggested that jogging just a couple of times a week stimulates the brain. After a few days of running, hundreds of thousands of new brain cells were shown to have grown in a region that is linked to the formation and recollection of memories.
An improved ability to recall memories without confusing them has a direct impact on other crucial cognitive tasks, and could lead to potential new ways of slowing down the deterioration of mental ability in old age.
Meanwhile, scientists have also recently found that particularly vigorous exercise helps release a protein that goes by the name of ‘noggin’.
The protein acts as a counter-agent to another protein, bone morphogenetic protein, thereby stimulating the increased division of brain stem cells, keeping the brain nimble and active as we get older. Research suggests that amplified production of noggin could therefore prevent the on-set of age-related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
An Afternoon Nap
While scientists have long suspected that sleep has a significant impact on the brain’s capacity for memory, recent research found that sleeping for an hour in the afternoon boosts brain power and dramatically increases its ability to learn new facts and tasks.
Having a nap after lunch acts as a regenerative aid, allowing the brain to ‘file’ away memories so that new information may be more easily retained.
The researchers discovered that those who stay awake all day are less likely to be able to learn new tasks as the day goes on, leading the experts to suggest that napping in the long-term may be conducive to staving off age-related degenerative mental diseases.
Magnesium Rich Foods
Eating foods rich in magnesium such as spinach and broccoli could boost memory and brain power.
Recent research, published in the journal Neuron, found that an increase of magnesium in the braincould help learning in both the young and old.
Half the population of industrialised countries have a magnesium deficit, but with the help of a healthy increase in one’s diet, the effects of mental ageing could be significantly delayed.
Scientists have found that increased exposure to the sun could boost your intellect and prevent dementia.
A larger intake in vitamin D, which can also be found in oily fish, was linked to an amplified ability to keep the brain active and in top condition as we age.
Although the biological reasons for a connection remain unclear, a study published in the Journal of Neurology found that an association between increased vitamin D and faster information processing was particularly significant in men over the age of 60 years.
Mowing the Lawn
Researchers have discovered that a chemical released by lawn mowing not only relieves stress and makes people happier, but could also prevent mental decline in old age.
Australian scientists claimed that the aroma of freshly cut grass works directly on the brain, particularly targeting areas associated with emotion and memory.
So confident are they in their findings that they even released a perfume, “eau de mow”, which can be used as either a personal spray, or in public to relax and stimulate the brain of surrounding individuals.
Sex and Chocolate
A book has claimed that eating a lot of dark chocolate, having lots of sex and following the Scandinavian tradition of having cold meat for breakfast significantly improves brain power.
The book, by Simon Wootton and Terry Horne, analysed how diet, the environment and stress affect mental capacity. They asserted that while brain capacity has always been considered in terms of genetics, it is in fact a lifestyle choice.
The two suggested that the thought processes induced by having sex, as well as the hidden nutritional ingredients of dark chocolate and energy-giving qualities of cold meats, stimulate the brain and help battle age-related mental deterioration.
Music Lessons For Young
A study has shown that young children who take music lessons show more advanced brain development and improved memory than those who do not.
Musically trained children were found to perform better in a memory test which is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, mathematics and IQ.
The scientists who undertook the research suggested that music can potentially improve the intellect in children as young as four years old.
Talking to your Baby
Experts have claimed that mothers who use baby talk help their child’s brain develop better.
Researchers from Northwestern University in Illinois found that words play an important role in the brain development of children even before they begin to speak.
The study suggested that an increased capacity to be able to categorise words according to their pictorial representation at an early age was a significant aid in child brain developement.
A study by American scientists found that the classic computer puzzle Tetris may also have a positive impact on your brain power.
Tests showed that despite being relatively simple compared to today's sophisticated computer games, regular practise could increase a player's grey matter and improve thinking.
Having played the game for half an hour each day over a three month period, subjects' brains were found to have undergone 'structural changes' in areas associated with movement, critical thinking, reasoning, language and processing.
A Thinking Cap
Scientists who have worked on developing a 'thinking cap' hope the device will enhance the mind's ability to learn.
The researchers from the University of British Colombia in Vancouver started to advance the project after they discovered that the brain's ability to learn a new task was significantly enhanced when a magnetic pulse was applied to the premotor cortex, the area of the brain just behind the forehead.
The technique could be used not only to boost intellectual capacity but also to aid those with debilitating learning difficulties.