By Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director
I am conducting background research into neuroscience and neuroplasticity, and into the components of CEI’s Heart Centered Approach (the 5 Cs: Consciousness, Compassion, Courage, Confidence, and Community). As I am doing this investigation, I am tuned into popular media and also personally dealing with a 91-year old mother who is aging and showing, within this past year, more cognitive decline. This morning, my sister sent me an email on the “Art of Maintaining Cognitive Health as our Brains Age.” The article published by the University of California at San Francisco had the usual insights into the importance of diet and exercise and also cautions about what to avoid (i.e., smoking, excess sugar, and fatty oily foods). Researchers at UCSF also suggested that caution be used regarding “brain training programs and supplements.” After reading, I paused and reviewed what I already knew about brain pathways and strengthening neural connections.
Here are a few of my conclusions:
- There is considerable evidence that yoga and meditation can create a sense of calmness and well-being, as well as help to repair pathways after trauma has occurred.
- To discount the value of brain training, even for the elderly, is simply erroneous. Recent results suggest that “some” brain training programs may enhance performance in “some” daily activities.
- Regarding supplements, without going into a separate treatise, suffice it to say that there is considerable scientific evidence that some herbs and spices such as cinnamon provide a variety of benefits, including their role as antioxidants.
Switching gears from mom and the elderly, to my research with children, one has to wonder about the long-term benefits of yoga, meditation, and brain-training programs, in addition to (of course) the widely accepted notions regarding the value of diet and exercise. Imagine if yoga, meditation, and computerized programs that rebuilt neural pathways were implemented at a rather early age, then could it be possible for individuals to make better, healthier life decisions? Without the amygdala over-reacting to stress and if individuals gained positive benefits of improved brain health in terms of sustained attention, memory, etc., could an improved quality of life extend over a number of years? Perhaps a series of healthy decisions will enhance well-being. Perhaps enhanced well-being will lead to an increased ability to handle life stressors we all encounter.
Well-being. An important topic. Perhaps as important as reading or math.
Kurtzman, L. (2015). The art of maintaining cognitive health as our brains age. UCSF. Retrieved from http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2015/04/125471/art-maintaining-cognitive-heal