Brain Fitness 101I have a neighbor in her eighties, whom I've known and loved for many years. Her husband died recently from Alzheimer's disease, and she's on constant alert for signs that she's succumbing to it. Every time a word, or especially a name, doesn't come to her lips immediately, she tightens up in fear... "Oh Babe," she sighs, "I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm forgetting so many things... I can't remember names, where I put things, what I ate for lunch....
"Don't worry, Arlene." I tell her. "I forget those things myself!" (I wish I just told her that to make her feel better.)
The boomer years are when we begin to notice... First, it's names, then words, then the purse, keys... where did I park the car? Common things. Things you never thought you would forget. You can't even recite the roll call of your senior class anymore. Poems, parables, the things you memorized just to memorize them, you can't for the life of you recall.
Hold on, you're not ready for the farm yet! The old theory that you can't build new brain cells has been disproved. Neuroscience is now focused on the influences that dull cognition and the exercises that can restore it. And none too soon for us boomers.
I found a website called SharpBrains, "Your Brain Fitness Center," whose brainy programs are based on the most current neuro and cognitive psychology research. I know there are thousands of on-line brain teasers and puzzles on the web that might very well help you to create neurons and improve synapses and all that... but I like to know that there are specific, measurable, and applicable scientific principles behind the exercises, and SharpBrains' programs all have them. I tried a few of the programs on the web and they are fun too!emWave Personal Stress Reliever®
SharpBrains is not only for boomers. Most of the programs are for people of all ages, although some are specifically for children, for athletes, and there is even one for day traders!
Brain fitness programs range from a DVD tutorial explaining the science of brain fitness, Exercise Your Brain: New Brain Research and Implications DVD (19.99) to a software program that provides exercises tailored to your personal memory skills, MindFitTM Personal Edition ($139).
We know that stress interferes with memory and SharpBrains has a unique program for stress, The Freeze-Framer® Interactive Learning System for Stress Management ($280)
This program measures your heart rate variability and provides methods of controlling that rate based on your reaction to a variety of stimuli and tests. The emWave Personal Stress Reliever® ($199) is a portable training device for relieving stress. Its copy says it allows you to "slip into the Zone at any time." Sounds good to me!
Premonition PromotionOh, I forgot to tell you the best part of visiting SharpBrains is that if you sign up for its monthly newsletter, you get a free download of Brain Fitness 101, a 40 page booklet with answers to the most common questions about memory and aging. I found it very enlightening. And if you would like a chance to win several SharpBrains' programs plus $1000 cash, sign up for SharpBrains' promotion for the film Premonition!
Another product, designed by a neuroscientist and author of several books onBrain & Memory Fitness Trainer memory that I'm going to try is the The Handheld Brain And Memory Fitness Trainer($29). Available from Hammacher Schlemmer , this device, by Dr. Gary Small, includes five games claiming to improve various aspects of your verbal and visual memory as well as logical skills. It comes with Dr. Small's book, The Memory Bible. You can't try out the trainer online, but the nice thing about Hammacher is that you can always return it and it has a lifetime warranty.
As for Alzheimer's, neuroscientists now believe that some cases can be mollified or delayed or even prevented by brain training, but not all memory loss is Alzheimer's. Whatever the kind of dimentia we're getting, it seems that brain training as well as body training are going to be what keeps us boomers babes.
Keeping you posted...