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Cognitive Training Changes Brain Chemistry

Posted Apr 11 2009 11:43pm

We all know physical training changes the body.  If you lift weights or perform other exercises, your muscles get larger and stronger.  Now there are research findings that confirm that cognitive exercises increase the number of receptors for the  neurochemical dopamine.

Science Daily had an interesting article entitled “ Cognitive Training Can Alter Brain Chemistry of the Mind “.  The article summarized research from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute.  The researchers  showed ”for the first time that the active training of the working memory brings about visible changes in the number of dopamine receptors in the human brain. The study, which is published in the journal Science, was conducted with the help of PET scanning and provides deeper insight into the complex interplay between cognition and the brain’s biological structure ”.

What was so exciting about this research was the finding that our mental activity and thinking process can effect the brain’s biochemistry.  Brain biochemistry does not just underpin our cognitive processes and mental activity.  There is a two way street between biochemistry in the brain and our mental activity and thinking processes.

The neurotransmitter dopamine is very important for many of the brain’s functions.  Disruption to the dopamine system can impair working memory, interrupt short-term memory, and impair cognitive thought processes. 

This research is very encouraging for people with cognitive impairments.  This research may help people with diagnoses such as ADHD or schizophrenia.  The research suggest that cognitive stimulation and retraining may help people with cognitive impairments associated with strokes, some illnesses and normal aging.

The research also provides greater evidence for actively stimulating one’s mind through cognitive exercises and learning new experiences in order to not only maintain brain functions, but even to increase the brain’s ability to function.  Increasing mental fitness can increase brain fitness.

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