Science 4 min read

Here's a Useful Exercise That Boosts Brain Power

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Lisa Alisa |

Researchers identified the better of two main brain training methods, one that helps to improve your memory and attention span.

Exercising is the best way to increase the body’s strength, flexibility and overall physical and mental health.

But to reap all the benefits of physical activity, it needs to be paired with mental training, and luckily there’s a workout that helps us strengthen our cognitive skills, too.

The Brain's not a muscle, but it can still pump iron.Click To Tweet

No Drug to Access the Mythical Idle “90%” Cerebral Brain Power!

Although some doubt it, we have access to 100% of our own cerebral power. The old “we use only 10% of our brain” myth–whose origin is attributed to many people including Einstein without documented evidence–is nothing but a myth that goes against mechanisms of evolution and scientific evidence.

The human brain, which has tripled in size over the last two million years, only accounts for about 2% of total body mass, yet makes up about 30% of the total energy burnt in the body.

From an evolutionary point of view, it wouldn’t make sense to have such a high-maintenance organ that is used at only 10% of its full capacity.

What’s more, neuroscientists have been able to prove that the brain is fully active all the time. Under functional MRI (fMRI), the brain doesn’t look to be wholly active at a given time; but this doesn’t prove that brain activity is limited to these small, illuminated areas.

Mythbusters dedicated an episode that declared the “10 percent of brain” myth (partially) busted, arguing that we use about 30-35 %. Again, neuroscientists have disproven that Mythbusters claim.

Regardless, the myth persists, and Hollywood may be partly to blame for perpetuating this bogus idea. Filmmakers used it as a premise in thriller movies, such as Limitless and Lucy, where a drug enables the hero or heroine to unleash his or her full brain power with amazing consequences.

The brain is an organ made up of cells that are functioning all the time to some extent, just like all other organs, yet you don’t hear people saying we use only a part of, say, our heart or liver.

Exercise Improves Your Cognitive Skills, but Won’t Make you any Genius

There’s no alternative to learning and training to enhance one’s brain power, but science is here to help, and not with a brain-boosting drug or a shortcut.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University reviewed two leading brain training methods used to strengthen memory and attention to find the one that yields the best results.

The team studied 136 young adults who were split into three groups and brain-trained for 30 minutes a day, five days a week during an entire month.

The first group did the “complex span” test while the second group trained with the “dual n-back” method, and the third was a control group.

Researchers found that the “dual n-back” test was twice as effective as the “complex span”, suggesting that it’s possible to target the brain with workout like other physical parts.

“People say cognitive training either works or doesn’t work. We showed that it matters what kind of training you’re doing,” said lead author Kara J. Blacker. “This one task seems to show the most consistent results and the most impact on performance and should be the one we focus on if we’re interested in improving cognition through training.”

Although evidence suggests that training could boost cognition and brain power, brain training is still at its earliest stages in terms of efficacy, said researchers, and people shouldn’t expect any of the brain training programs available on the market to make them smarter.

What do you do to train your brain?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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