In a study done last year, researchers looked at the brain scans of 126 adults between 22 and 35, who were asked to do a specific task. Some participants were simply told to lie still. Others were given cognitive tasks related to language, motor skills, memory, or emotion. For the study, conducted over a two-day period, researchers divided the brain scans into 268 regions and looked at the neurological connectivity in the regions of the brain. While connectivity in some regions was similar for most participants, certain regions, such as the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes, were unique to that person.
Interestingly, the unique nature of the person’s brain scans continued across both days of the study. A brain scan of the same person doing the same task could be matched with 98-99 percent accuracy. When performing different tasks, the accuracy went down to 80-90 percent, still much higher than would be expected by a random matching of two brain scans.
Overall, two brain scans from the same person doing two different tasks were more alike than the brain scans of two different people doing the same task. One potential medical benefit of understanding the unique nature of people’s brain scans is the ability to better tailor treatments for individual patients. This could include treatment for disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Interesting enough, although everyone’s brain is unique, many of the same brain training exercises work for most people when it comes to stimulating your mind and your memory.
Continue to Learn
According to a Harvard Health Professions article, a higher level of education correlates with better mental function in older age. While this does not necessarily mean you need to go back to college if you did not complete a degree, it does mean continuing education is important. Even less formal education can help. Learn a new skill. Expand upon a previously learned skill. Join a group, such as a book group or a chess club, where you are required to use your mental skills on a regular basis. Even doing crossword puzzles, word searches, Sudoku, or another word or number puzzle can help you to stimulate your brain on a regular basis.
While it may be harder as you age, learning a foreign language or refreshing your previous language skills can help you to stimulate your brain, thereby helping your brain functioning skills. Always make it a priority to continue to learn throughout your life.
Economize Your Memory
While you do want to have a great memory, that does not mean you have to remember everything on your own. Write things down that you need to remember, such as appointments, birthdays, or other important information. This can be recorded in whatever fashion you are most comfortable using, including in a planner, on a wall calendar, or in your phone. Writing it down may help you to remember the information, but having it recorded also allows your mind to focus on other things that you need to remember. Other habits, such as always putting your keys away in the same place, parking in the same spot or the same area in a large parking lot, and knowing where you store important documents can help you better economize your memory.
Make Mnemonic Devices
Remembering lists or the order of things can be difficult. Mnemonic devices, which are words or phrases that provide word association, can make remembering things easier. Mnemonic devices are fairly common in school. For example, many students learn “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” to help them remember the order of operations for mathematical equations: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. RICE helps those with injuries, such as a sprained ankle, remember to rest, ice, compress, and elevate their injury.
Mnemonic devices can be used for everyday tasks as well as information you need to remember over an extended period of time. For example, if you forgot to create a grocery list, but you need to buy milk, bread, cereal, sausage, raspberries, and apples, you might create the mnemonic device “My Brother Can Sell Red Automobiles” to help you remember your grocery list.
Of course, the real key to keeping your brain healthy is making sure you continue to stimulate it. If you are having trouble remembering things or you do not often learn new skills, start out small. Brain training does not have to mean you spend ten hours a day, seven days a week learning a new skill. Instead, spend ten or fifteen minutes learning the basics about something new. Spend a little more time on that skill or activity the next day. Never get discouraged if you are not learning something as fast or efficiently as someone else. Remember, everyone’s brain is unique, and sometimes that means you need to take a different approach for things to click properly for you. Learning and stimulating your brain should be a fun experience. Make it one.