Can you change your brain?

Are people born smart, or can they become smart?  New science shows that we can do things every day that can actually change the structure and even the chemicals in our brain.

An example of this is a study done on London cab drivers.  The longer a person has been driving a taxi, the larger their hippocampus became, which is the part of the brain involved in spatial-visual memory.  The cab drivers brain literally expanded due to the cognitive demands of navigating London’s streets.

Here are some ways you can actually change and improve your brain:

Listening to music:  One study that was done performed EEGs (the test that measures brain waves) on patients who were listening to music.  The study found that when music was played, the brain had alpha brain waves, which puts the brain into an ideal condition to learn new information.  So listening to music can actually help your brain as you process new information.

Exercising:  Physical activity can improve memory and the ability to learn.  A study found that patients who have a period of  30 minutes of vigorous activity showed improved ability to learn new information, and showed an increase of endorphins in the brain (the chemical that makes us feel good).

Reading:  Volunteers had an fMRI (functional MRI of the brain) performed, then for everyday read 30 pages of a book and took a quiz.  They then had a repeat fMRI.  The repeat brain scan showed increased connectivity of the neurons in the temporal cortex of the brain, which  is associated with language comprehension.

Positive thoughts:  Studies have shown that positive thoughts alone can actually cause your brain to release neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that control the body’s functions.  This neurotransmitter release can result in more energy, improved immune system function, and reduced anxiety.   For example, when someone consciously practices gratitude, their brain releases a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.  This results in increased alertness and cognitive function of the brain.

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