Increase Your Brain Power with Unfamiliar Tasks

Increase Your Brain Power with Unfamiliar Tasks!

Improve Brain Function By Challenging Your Mind!
In the last post we discussed the importance of exercising the mind in order to improve brain power. As powerful as active mental stimulation like crossword puzzles or brain training programs like Lumosity can be for increasing concentration and memory, it turns out that really challenging your mind with learning and accomplishing unfamiliar tasks can be significantly more effective.

Think about it. Have you ever had a leaky faucet, a mechanical issue with your car or any other problem that needed fixing, and you chose to take it upon yourself to tackle the task? Well assuming you got the problem fixed and didn’t flood your house or blow up your car and end up infinitely times more frustrated than you were before noticing the problem in the first place, I’m willing to bet you ended up with a feeling of accomplishment and the confidence to handle some other unfamiliar task, should it arise. And not only that, but after facing this challenging task and accomplishing it, I bet your day to day tasks suddenly seemed less overwhelming. You may have even looked forward to some of them!

Basically, what you did was rev up your mental engine and in response your general focus and concentration have improved.

And now for some science…

The ability of unfamiliar challenges to affect cognitive function was recently explored in a study conducted at The University of Texas. The study took 221 people ranging from age 60 to 90, and put them 3 specific groups. Each group was to perform a certain type of activity 15 hours a week for 3 months.

Group 1 was tasked with learning how to quilt and/or learning digital photography. These were foreign skills to the      participants.

Group 2 was given more familiar tasks, and directed to perform crossword puzzles or listen to classical music (a more passive mental stimulation) at home.

Group 3 (apparently the fun group) was directed to attend social events, field trips, and engage in “other” types of entertainment.

Findings showed that those in group 1 (foreign skill/unfamiliar activity group) saw the most cognitive improvement.

To quote Lead Researcher in the U-Texas study, Denise Parker, “When you are inside of your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone.”

It’s no wonder that the more challenging tasks one accomplishes the easier others become. Whether you want to know the exact physiological reason for this or to chalk it up to mental momentum, it works! And Parker speculates that this type of mental engagement should have long term benefits on cognition as well. Although unproven at this time the research team plans to follow up with the subjects at the 1 and 5 year marks to assess their mental progress and hopefully confirm the speculation.

So make sure to incorporate the proper diet and lifestyle to reinforce your foundation for mental health and get out there and challenge your mind with unfamiliarity!

 

Brain Training

tumblr_static_exercise-Get your trainin’ on!

Have you ever heard the expression,”Your brain is a muscle”? Well, it isn’t really true from a literal standpoint (it’s technically an organ), however it DOES require exercise in order to stay strong and keep on developing healthily. Mental exercise can come from activities such as reading, creative writing, solving math equations, crossword puzzles and so on. As beneficial these types of exercises can be for your mental health and as crucial as they are for optimizing your cognition, they are not the only training your thinking “muscle” needs.

Actual physical exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function in both the SHORT TERM and LONG TERM!

If you’ve ever started off the day at they gym, jogging or walking outside or doing some morning yoga you may already be familiar with the powers of a solid workout. It can boost your mood and increase your focus on tasks that lie in the day ahead. And not only that, but so long as you’re not overtaxing your body and it’s not your first workout ever (you may notice the need for more sleep or a short nap in the beginning stages of a workout routine) that you have more sustained energy throughout the day.

Exercise leads to an increase in the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which has been shown to increase learning and memory, improve cell signaling and even reverse the negative affects of Alzheimer’s disease. You can read more about that here.

To get all sciency on you for a sec, it works like this… exercise induces FNDC5 (and the expression of  FNDC5  is regulated by PGC-1α), which is secreted as a substance called irising in the blood which then induces BDNF in the hippocampus and voilà! You’ve got yourself some good old fashioned nueroprotection!

So, some of the short term benefits of exercise are:

-Improved Focus

-Improved Memory

-Increased Enery

-Improved Mood

…and all of this will lead to an increase in productivity!

 

In addition to all these benefits, the long term effects of exercise on the brain are incredible as well. Physical activity helps significantly with preventing AND treating nuerologic diseases. Regular physical exercise has been shown to have such positive effects on brain health that it’s been implemented in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (you can check out a few of the studies conducted on this subject here.. 1, 2), a progressive and debilitating disease.

As stated earlier, physical activity has also been shown to up-regulate hippocampal BDNF. And this increase in BDNF may play an important role in mood states, learning and memory to lessen the decline in cognitive function associated with MS. The study referenced in link [2]” looks at the differences between MS patients who were more active and physically fit and those who more sedentary.  In additton to performing better on cognition tests, the study found the following:

“Physically fit MS patients had fewer lesions compared to those who weren’t as fit and the lesions they did have tended to be smaller”

 

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In addition to these studies we have some pretty strong anecdotal evidence of exercise’s impact on MS. Recently, a Danish woman who had been diagnosed with MS completed the absolutely astonishing feat of running 366 marathons in a total of 365 days. But that’s not it… she now says she has no symptoms of MS. Now, her claim isn’t exactly scientific, and it’s surely counterintuitive, but the fact that she is even still alive after that  is almost unbelievable in itself. So if she’s still walking around and if she says she’s free of symptoms I believe her! That’s not to say that you should go out and attempt a marathon tomorrow, but it does speak to the positive effects of exercise. You can read a little more about the story here.

It seems that exercise exposure enhances your brain’s resistance to stress, leading to more resilience when it comes to some of the underlying causes of conditions like MS and Alzheimer’s. If physical exercise can have this much of a protective effect on those with degenerative nuerologic disease then it is definitely something you should be including in your lifestyle, whether your goal is to optimize concentration or to just prevent diseases like MS, Alzheimer’s or dementia in general.

So get exercising! Get outside and catch some sunshine, get in the gym and hit the eliptical or head to your garage and pump some iron… do whatever you need to do to get your muscles moving. Your brain will thank you and you productivity will skyrocket!

 

What Exactly is an IQ…?

Interesting fact: IQ’s across most countries have been increasing since the early 1900’s at a rate of 3 points per decade. Meaning that if you scored a 100 on your IQ test today, and then took a standard IQ test from 1930 you would theoretically score about a 124. Pretty cool huh? This phenomenon is known as The Flynn Effect.

 

So what exactly is an IQ you ask? Well I’ll tell ya!

The acronym stands for “Intelligence Quotient”. The term can be used to reference a plethora of standardized tests, used historically, to measure a certain range of categories of intelligence of an individual in relation to the population at large.

Generally, a modern IQ test measures intelligence in areas of information processing, and general understanding of ideas, however, there are many areas such as creative ability and emotional acuteness that standard IQ tests cannot measure. Because of this limitation other methods like the emotional intelligence or “EI” test have been developed.

So where did the IQ test come from? Well…

In 605 AD, in the time of the Sui Dynasty reign in Imperial China, the Imperial System was established and used to determine the educational merit of participants. This is thought to be the first standardized cognitive test implemented on a large scale.  The results fed into decisions on what administrative office each participant would be suited for in the Imperial government.

As far as the history of the modern IQ test goes, it’s believed to have started with Sir Frances Galton in England in the late 1800’s. Galton believed intelligence to be inherited and developed his testing method on the basis of reaction time, and sensory motor tests in order to predict academic achievement.

Next, Frenchmen, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, who believed practical awareness would be a more accurate determinant of intelligence in academia, created the Binet-Simon Intelligence Test in 1905. The test more closely resembles standardized and IQ tests we’re familiar with in today’s age.

Lewis Terman who was an American psychologist then took a translated version of the publication (thanks to Henry Goddard, another American psychologist who translated the Binet-Simon Intelligence Test in 1910) and revised it, creating the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. This test is where the term “Intelligence Quotient” comes from. The mental age of the participant (which was determined by their performance on the test) would be divided by his or her actual age and multiplied by 100 to determine intelligence score.  Modern IQ tests are very similar to this, only the score is not an actually quotient of mental and actual age, but a standard deviation (how much difference there is from the average score either above or below) of 100 as the median.

As you can see IQ tests are far from perfect and are continually reevaluated to adjust for the times as well as to improve upon the process. Additionally, we now have so many new methods for measuring brain function that span across all areas of the brain. Creative potential, emotional awareness and sensitivity etc. are all now measurable in some way, whether it be through a standardized test or high tech ultra specific brain scans.

So, I suggest taking an IQ test for a quick and general assessment of your intelligence level, but don’t consider it the end all be all by any means. You CAN improve your IQ with lifestyle changes, and mental exercises. You can test for free at http://www.intelligencetest.com

Btw, don’t retake an IQ exam over and over in hopes of higher results. This is a great way to teach your mind how to take that specific type of exam, but your results will not be reflective of your actual intelligence as familiarity with the test or general testing method increases. This however, is a GREAT way to prep for the SAT’s and other standardized tests.

Have fun! And post your results in the comments section. No need to be embarrassed if they’re a little lower than you’d like either, because we’re all here to learn how to increase concentration! These scores are going to improve with better diet, exercise and supplmentation! The brain’s function is a work in progress, not something carved in stone!

 

 

How To Increase Concentration Now!

 

Are your focus and memory as strong as you’d like them to be? How about your ability to solve problems or deal with stressful deadlines? If you end up procrastinating as I have most of my life then please read on! Improving my diet and lifestyle and experimenting with knowingly safe and effective supplements has improved my cognitive abilities extensively and I believe it can do the same for you.

 

Let’s learn How To Increase Concentration Now!

Ever hear of “The Cocktail Effect”? It’s basically the art of selective listening, or ignoring noises, or voices, in your surrounding area and focusing in on one. This analogy can be applied to your ability to focus on things like work, or learning a new skill. This is becoming more and more of a lost art as we are bombarded with all sorts of new distractions like television, video games, viral Youtube videos… and the list goes on and on! Luckily, there are a multitude of things you can do to increase concentration!

1. Eat the right foods for brain health

This obviously will include a well balanced diet, but that’s not as simple to achieve as one might think. In order determine what the best foods for brain health are it’s a smart idea to determine if you have any food allergies first. You can do this via an elimination diet or ALCAT Test. If you have any food allergies or intolerances then you most likely have digestion issues as well. The health of your digestive tract is directly related to your immunity as well as brain health. Get this in order with a proper diet such as SCD or GAPS or any other diet aimed at healing the gut. Then you can proceed on your journey to increase concentration and improve your brain health.

Once food allergies and intolerances are ruled out you can look to high quality and nutrient dense foods for brain health that will increase concentration. These include:

1. Grass Fed Beef

2. Wild Caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon and other DHA / EPA rich fish

3. Coconut Oil

4. Grass Fed Butter

5. Pastured Eggs

6. Raw Green Smoothies (you can check out some killer recipes here)

 

Total body cleansing is also extremely helpful to increase concentration and improve brain function. Cleansing of heavy metals, environmental and synthetic toxins and proper detoxifying are essential to improve brain function.

Once your body is back in shape, a well thought out supplement plan can do wonders for to increase concentration. MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) oil is great addition. If you’re up for some scientific jargon check out this study on MCTs and how they improve brain function. If not, then to summarize it basically shows how MCTs administered to hypoglycemic/Type 1 Diabetic patients was able to improve brain function.

There are many quality brands of MCT oil on the market, but my favorite is Bullet Proof Upgraded. The whole line of products is top quality. Check it out here (Yes that’s an affiliate link… feel free to check out other brands, but if this article helped you and you decide to go with Upgraded MCT oil I’d appreciate the click!)

Enjoy your journey on the path to improve brain function and increase concentration now!