For my Senior Citizen counseling clients, brain training software is of interest. Most of us Boomers and Seniors have noticed the changes that come to our memory with our age, and are definitely interested in managing that change, so that it does not become any worse.
Some of my younger clients are curious about how brain training software might make them more effective in the job market, or at school.
And I am glad to share with them what I have learned about the emerging concept of brain fitness.
In fact, taking care of your brain’s fitness should happen prior to choosing brain training software.
You may ask why should I take care of my brain’s fitness, isn’t it always just there, working away to move my hand to the computer mouse, thinking, and monitoring?
Yes, your brain does do all that, and it has a couple of newly discovered capacities, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which we can enhance by giving the brain what it needs to function best.
So the issue of brain fitness means taking care of the hardware of the brain first, then picking some brain training software to help out memory or I.Q., for example.
An excellent primer for brain fitness is the aptly titled e-book Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., neuroscientists at the University of Michigan who have culled the neuroscientific research for tips that we non-neuroscientists can use to make our brain more effective as it moves us through the events of our day and lives.
Evans and Burghardt write about what they call the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical activity/exercise, nutrition, including antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, getting good sleep, stress management, and novel learning experience, which is where a brain training software program might be helpful.
If we maximize our efforts at taking care of the pillars, then we maximize our neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis means that we grow new neurons every day, and neuroplasticity means that we form new connections between neurons sometimes within minutes of learning something new, and keeping those connections strong through increased challenge and positive feedback is the key to keeping the brain fit.
Once the Brain is Fit, Then Choose Brain Training Software
So after you have begun a regular exercise program, which will lead to better sleep, which is the time that our brain uses to consolidate memories, and you have increased your consumption of antioxidants and omega 3, and learned heart rate variability biofeedback for your stress management, then you are ready to tackle the novel learning experience pillar of brain fitness, which is where brain training software could prove useful.
Most of the experts who write about brain fitness say that the novel learning experience required to best enhance neuroplasticity and neurogenesis is the kind that we experience when learning a new language or a new musical instrument, because those endeavors expose us to increasing levels of complexity, and the regular practice gives us an opportunity to achieve appropriate levels of positive feedback.
Not sure about you, but even with retirement looming in my life, I do not have time to undertake a language or instrument regimen, so I will look for brain training software that has some research behind it to try out.
I really like three programs for brain training software. The first is based on the dual n back task, which Evans and Burghardt discuss. The next is the program put together by Michael Merzenich, Ph.D. which exercises the neurons in the Senior Citizen auditory circuit.
The program utilizing the dual n back task is addictive, and it will quickly teach you how fast your attention wanders, the Merzenich program really helps with word recall, and the online tool is a quick, easy to use, economical tool that I can boot up and use between clients or phone calls to get my brain a rest between stressful situations.
My guess is that once you find a program that you like, the use of brain training software will become a regular part of your day.
There are some significant side effects, like increased IQ and improved communication and relationships. If I can process auditory data more effectively, I become a more confident listener, which is a key piece in relationships, far more important than speaking actually.
So my suggestion is that you start with the pillars of brain fitness, and then find brain training software. I know that research driven by Boomers is going to keep improvements coming so keep your ears to the ground for more.