Building a better brain: Research reveals two keys



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Have you ever considered that you can build a better brain for yourself? One that is more resilient and less susceptible to emotional ruts?

Research suggests that you can. Your brain is ready to create more connections, work more efficiently and process emotions with greater ease.

And how exactly is that possible?

Recent studies show that you can build a better brain by doing two things: 1) Enriching your environment and 2) Exercising.

In a new joint study, researchers from Cologne, Munich and Mainz have found that enriched environments promote the regeneration of cells in the hippocampus and improve the connectivity of new neurons. 

The hippocampus helps form memories and regulate emotions. It is also one of the few areas in the adult brain where new neurons are generated. So, the hippocampus is capable of building new neurons that can process memory and emotions. And you can play a vital role in doing it well. 

Scientists successfully showed that the pattern of connectivity of new neurons, namely the number and types of inputs received by each new neuron, is not prefigured in the adult brain. It can be significantly altered in response to environmental conditions. 

In fact, following environmental enrichment, the innervation by both local hippocampal interneurons and long-distance projection cortical neurons was substantially increased. Better yet, the effects remained even after ending the exposure to enriched environments.

Researchers also discovered that the number of new neurons incorporated into the hippocampus increases in response to exercise. Add this fact to the plethora of benefits you already know about physical conditioning.

To summarize: Complex environmental conditions and voluntary exercise significantly alter the number and type of input that each new neuron in your brain can receive.

How to enrich your environment

Your environment consists of the information your brain processes. So, make it interesting by:

  • Taking up new hobbies;
  • Reading interesting books;
  • Doing projects around the house to beautify it;
  • Getting out in nature more often;
  • Meeting new people;
  • Setting challenging goals;
  • Learning a new language; and 
  • Studying art, history, philosophy, music, etc.

In short, making your life varied, interesting and physically challenging can do more than you though: It can actually help you build a better brain.  

Mike Bundrant is co-founder of the iNLP Center and author of the book "Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage."