Brain Training: It’s Best to Train Your Brain

Reducing fractions and figuring out the area of a triangle may not be on the top of your list of  leisure things to do on a daily basis, but as we age we might need to revisit those middle school skills again. We’re not talking  about sitting down and going through one math problem to another. We need to stimulate our brain so that we stay as sharp as we can. Let’s take a look how we could train our brain and become more intelligent at the same time.

Which could train your brain better?

Back in 2001, Dr. Ryuya Kawashima, a neurophysiologist pondered on a very simple question; Which would require more brain power, playing video games or doing meaningless repetitive mathematics exercises? To answer this question, Dr. Kawashima set up two experimental groups. One group was to play video games and the other group was instructed to do mathematical exercises. A control group was also set-up to provide a base line for the two comparison groups. Then Dr. Kawashima conducted the experiment using precise imaging techniques that measured brain response.

Which group do you think had better the better response? Most would probably say that the video games stimulated the mind better than doing mathematical operations because  video games require fine-motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and quick reflexes so it must simulate the mind more. Lo and behold, the math problem group did better! According to brain imaging data, it proved that mathematical exercises stimulated the brain far better than the video games. This means that if we want to train our brains, it could be done simply by doing quick mathematical operations on our heads. Brain training is literally as simple as 1-2-3!

With these findings, Dr. Kawashima became more interested in brain training and its applications. With the information from his research, he postulated that  by doing mathematical operations and similar brain exercises, young children, old people, and even those who are undergoing rehabilitation could boost their brain power further. Figuratively speaking, brain training builds your brain muscles. This is quite interesting for doing something as simple as adding and subtracting.

How to train your brain

If you’re familiar with the Nintendo DS portable gaming console, you’ve probably heard of one of the offshoots of Dr. Kawashima’s research: Brain Age. It’s one of the most best-selling games ever on a console and in effect quadrupled the market for brain training games. What the game does is to provide you with exercises similar to Dr. Kawashima’s experiment. It also includes ways to chart your progress. It’s an instant you have a brain gym on the palm of your hand.

Of course, we don’t need to buy a DS just to train our brains. We could apply the same principles by doing the following during our daily tasks:

1. When doing simple arithmetic, don’t reach for the calculator – do it in your head instead.
2. When buying from a store, add up your purchases before you go to the counter. (Mentally, of course.)
3. Estimate the number of people in a room, then try to calculate the maximum capacity of the area.
4. Do exercises that calculate an outcome: when the next bus will arrive, the next turning of the stop light, etc.
5. Teach math or do math tutoring.

The list is obviously not exhaustive and there are plenty more brain exercises out there. Just be mindful that among all these, there’s only one principle to follow, if your brain is stimulated, i.e. not bored nor anxious, then you’re doing great brain training. Stay young and stay sharp. Train your brain at any age.

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