Have you heard that our brain is like a muscle? Meaning, you can train it to perform better, is nothing new, right? But what is more exciting - the brain can actually be rebuilt, in a physical way!
Sounds incredible, as the old belief was that the brain does not grow once you hit adulthood (18-20 yo). Just recently is been found that our brain is plastic & plastic means flexible, where every experience is changing and shaping our brains and the development never stops. Let's have a look at what in it for us!
Back in 1890, psychologist William James published the book "The Principles of Psychology", where he suggested that the brain was perhaps not as static as previously believed. Unfortunately, his ideas were ignored by mainstream science for many years to follow. Only by 1960s, researchers started looking into cases where older adults were capable to restore their brain function after massive damage.
The source of the old belief is the rationale of the time. Back in the days we just couldn't look into the brain on the level that's possible now. Also, the fact that many of the patients suffering critical brain damage were not able to recover, led to the perception that the brain is this magical machine capable of many things, except repairing itself.
Until recently the common understanding was that the 86 billion neurons making our brains stop growing after birth. Luckily our ability to look into the brain proves it is a misconception.
Now we've understood that the brain has the capacity to reorganize its pathways, create new connections, and even create new neurons (brain cells). The last one being the most groundbreaking discovery, as it completely reshapes our understanding of the abilities our or body.
Why is this important
The biggest impact of rising intelligence on neuroplasticity is on healing trauma - the speculations are that not just mental trauma can be healed, but also the physical damage to the brain could be fixed. But let's leave it to doctors & medical professionals. Our interest is more in benefits, that could enhance our lives. From what we've learned the following gains could be achieved:
- Easier adoption to change;
- Enhanced cognitive abilities & intelligence;
- Protection against brain diseases (like Alzheimers & Parkinson) that are linked to neuron wear (degeneration);
- Protect again decline in cognitive function due to aging.
Pretty cool, huh! We can become smarter by making our brain more flexible!
What should we do to get there?
Whats good in knowing we can train the brain without the actionable steps. Here are some ideas on how to improve the plasticity of the brain:
- Whole brain holistic thinking - meaning think both rational & creative. Doing music is one good example of this one.
- Learning new skill;
- Exercise (aerobic) - sprint or any other high-intensity interval training;
- Intermittent fasting - skipping any food for more than 12h (including sleep).
Of course, food (our favorite section) does also impact your brain performance. Here are the foods & the nutrients that promote brain plasticity & new neuron growth:
- Coffee fruit (a.k.a Cascara) - Yep the same we use our Coffee Pixels Cascara bar;
- Magnesium-rich products (eg. almonds);
- Vitamin B12 rich products (or supplements);
- Omega 3 rich products;
- Green & Matcha tea.
With all the information on hands about activities to be done & nutrients to be consumed, the future of mental performance looks promising. The science is new and just gaining traction into the mainstream medical field. While the most important gain should be healing from trauma & gaining back the normal life, some may take advantage to boost their performance on new levels.
Yet remember, not the muscle itself provides the benefit - what you do with it does ;)
This article was written by Raivis Vaitekuns, co-founder of Coffee Pixels. After years in specialty coffee as a barista, certified trainer & consultant, nutrition is his latest subject of interest with a particular focus on how food influences mental performance.