Ever heard of a medical doctor from Massachusetts named Dr. John Ratey? Hang out with me and you will hear his name often along with quotes from his books about learning and the brain.
The BRAIN and how to make yours better and keep it that way will be the subject of my next episode of Ask an Expert on BlogTalkRadio on Thursday May 27 at 730PM EST.
Now, back to Dr. Ratey. I love his book SPARK . I am not paid to say so, I receive nothing if you buy Spark or any other of Dr. Ratey’s books. They are just so good that I have to tell you about them.
Would you like to:
have your senses heightened?
improve your focus and mood?
feel less fidgety and more motivated and invigorated?
Then EXERCISE! It will make every brain cell ready to process any information you present to them.
According to Dr. Ratey and other researchers, the brain is not really hard-wired. It is more like a plastic and is constantly remodeling and increasing and improving circuits. Your brain is a computer you don’t need IT to upgrade, you can do it yourself. Yes, we are professionals and encourage you to do this at home. In Dr. Ratey’s words “Become your own Electrician!”
If you read any research on the brain, you know drug companies are obsessed with neuro-regulator chemicals. The names of these chemicals are Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Dopamine. There is a long list of medications available. They are being used to influence these regulator chemicals to help people with Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Attention-Deficit Disorder to name a few.
One brain chemical you may not have heard of is called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It is from a family of proteins that are nerve cell growth factors. They as a class and BDNF in particular, cause neurons or brain cells to Survive longer, Differentiate and Grow. They facilitate the growth of the nerve cell to cell communication network called synaptic plasticity.
The synapse is the gap between one nerve cell and the next and the cell uses chemicals to propagate the nerve impulse across the gap. More synapses and more available neuro-transmitters to send the signal across equals better and faster communication within the brain. You get a stronger brain that thinks better, remains calmer and will last longer.
What do you do to get this effect in your own brain? Exercise is part of the equation, a very big part. The other parts identified by Carl Cotman of the UC Irvine Institute on Aging and Dementia are learning through out life and self efficacy or great self talk (I have a few articles on that around here).
Dr. Ratey points out there is a strong Mind-Body connection. The cerebellum at the rear base of the brain is in charge of balance and co-ordination. It is wired with more and larger circuits to the prefrontal cortex or boss/executive center of the brain than monkeys’ brains. Want to make better decisions, recall things better and have more stable emotions – then move more regularly. Dr. Ratey calls this the “Rhythm and Blues connection!”
I would suggest you not make it a routine but do some long and slow stuff – I dance sometimes in my basement, alone – to music that varies from rock, swing and African drums. I do that for 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I lift light weights to music and other times I just do some heavy yard work. Other times I run a series of sprints or lift my 180lb anvil a few times. I mix it up but do it regularly. Dance would have to be my favorite.
What do you do? How do you stimulate your brain through movement? If you have a test, stressful period or need to increase your concentration may I suggest a little more sleep (7.0 instead of 6.5 hours), get up 20 minutes early and go dance. Start with slow songs, build the intensity and then slow down to cool off. It will get you ready. Now tell me do you think I am crazy? Let me know in the comments section! Tell me if you need some help, we can talk on Skype. Look forward to your comments, questions and conversations.