It takes more than nutrition and physical workouts to end up with an Olympic gold medal. Anyone training for the Olympics knows it takes not only talent, but also a mind-set totally dedicated 24/7 to achieving that highest performance goal.
The same could be said for Brain Olympics. Similar to the way muscles grow stronger and more adept with use, the brain’s structure strengthens every time it is engaged in a significant way. Consequently, mind exercise can drive neurogenesis and improve cognitive fitness. This mind-body link or mind-powered focus is what separates the Olympic caliber of brainiacs from the rest of us.
In our review of The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain [The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Brain, author Barbara Strauch discusses how brain cells don’t die with normal aging, but can be ready and able well into old age. Myelin, that fatty-white-coating on neurons causing them to fire messages, continues to build up into late middle-age. Neural networks and the genes that govern them adapt and strengthen with deliberate use or practice to change their structure and improve function. Strauch says, “what we do changes the architecture of our brains. It’s called neuroplasticity and it’s the underpinning of everything we now know about the brain.” Thus, cognitive exercise workouts are important for a lifetime of brain fitness. It’s the “use it or lose it” conundrum. And, games, puzzles, learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument are some of the compensatory tricks that older brains can use for more “neural juice.”
Are you ready for the Mind Sports Olympiad? This organization, based in London, provides an event for lovers of games and mind sports to go for the gold. Home of intellectual pursuits, yearly international tournaments combine events from an amazing number of games requiring any kind of mental discipline like Chess, Backgammon, Go and Mastermind. The most prestigious event is the Pentamind, a mutli-discipline event created specifically for the MSO. Unlike the Decamentathlon which has 10-fixed events, the five events of the Pentamind can be any five different events from one year. The Pentamind World Champion can most likely be called the best games player in the world with superior mind skills honed by staggering drive, determination and desire to crush all competition and obstacles.
Interestingly, David Levy was the visionary and one of the founders behind the Mind Sports Olympiad. He’s an International Master at Chess and has managed to learn some new games (part of the ethos of the Mind Sports Olympiad) where he has won medals at Bridge and the game that entices all strong chess players, Poker. Levi won the highly prestigious 2009 Loebner prize for artificial intelligence (AI). He produced the most human-like chatbot (a computer pretending to be a human when having a conversation) called Do-Much-More.
To stimulate the production of that “neural juice,” brain training resources we’ve reviewed to increase memory, concentration, focus, imagination, and creativity like PositScience and MarblestheBrainStore are outstanding. Another resource we like is Mind360. As medicine continues to increase longevity, Dr. Robert Goldman’s book, Brain Fitness, offers excellent information to exercise your mind.
We might not be ready for this year’s Mind Sports Olympiad, but tapping into the mind-body link to improve cognitive fitness just might make us players competing against brainiacs in the next. We may not win gold, but our supercharged brains won’t mind!