You can outsmart your age and be in control of your brain health. How? By playing games.

In our Boomer – Vitality section we reviewed The Longevity Prescription: The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life by Robert N. Butler, M.D., considered the father of geriatrics medicine. The first prescription is to maintain mental vitality, and strategies for doing so are to (1) practice cognitive calisthenics; and, (2) reconfigure the brain. In her book, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain [The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Brain], Barbara Strauch states the baby boom generation enters middle and upper age having had access to more education, better healthcare and nutrition, and a cleaner environment, all of which have improved brain health and put them at the peak of their game (see the full review in the Boomer – Vitality section). The middle-aged brain taps into its library of experience and expertise, or as Strauch calls it “gist,” to power up for a “full-tilt life.” Research now shows along with physical activity and diet, staying mentally active helps fight the natural effects of aging. The good news, boomers, is brain cells don’t die with normal aging. Neurons in your brain continue to grow through a process called neurogenesis. All you have to do is give them proper stimulation. Strauch says, “what we do changes the architecture of our brains, which is called neuroplasticity, and brain games are tricks that older brains can use for more “neural juice.” Thus, exercise drives neurogenesis and improves cognitive fitness which is part of the key to being a successful ager.

So, how to go about achieving and maintaining cognitive fitness? Brain training software, an effective tool to help us think faster, focus better, and remember more, can help. See our Boomer – Vitality section for our reviews of www.positscience.com, whose commitment to science makes their software stand apart; and, www.marblesthebrainstore.com, which offers products designed to stimulate and strengthen the brain – products vetted by scientists, physicians, psychologists, and therapists for memory, critical thinking, coordination, visual perception and word skills.

Posit Science provides games that engage the brain’s natural plasticity. Their Brain Fitness Program speeds up and sharpens the auditory system of the brain for faster thinking, sharper focus, and better memory. The InSight Brain Fitness software program does for the visual system of the brain what the “Brain Fitness Program” does for the auditory system. The Marbles the Brain Store site is loaded with information and products that include software, books, riddles, brain teasers, trivia and word games, and free printable crossword puzzles. You can test drive each product before you buy. “Secret Files from HAPPYneuron” is a comprehensive brain fitness game that targets your attention skills and executive functioning. We played this nifty interactive game, and concluded more workouts are needed! Do you know all the countries of the world and their corresponding flags? The “Guess the Flag” has become our secret addiction! Some flags are so similar that not only your global knowledge is being tested, but also your attention to detail, as well. Joni Gatz at Marbles told us that her clients love “Quiddler, a game like gin rummy except words are made instead of pairs and straights;” and, “Quarto, a derivative of Connect Four. The multiple dimensions players need to consider when making a move helps improve foresight and strategic thinking. It’s simple, but very challenging – just like chess, but much more fun.”

Like going to the gym, brain fitness is part of a healthy lifestyle. Even incorporating small changes into your personal routine can make a difference. Brain boosting activities that challenge, like learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument, solving puzzles or playing board games are all great ways to grow your neurons. And, as long as you continue to challenge yourself with more difficult games over time, your brain will continue to benefit and grow. Don’t forget: if you don’t use it – you risk losing it!

Check out the blog at Posit Science for a fascinating post by Ted Baxa about Einstein’s brain bits.

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