8 tricks to boost your brainpower
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Mind Games1 of 9
By Paige Brettingen
It happens to all of us: That person's name on the tip of your tongue, the lyrics to a song you once knew and, wait, why did you come into the living room again? To keep your mind sharp, try a little neurobics. Developed by Dr. Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin in their book Keep Your Brain Alive, neurobics are exercises meant to boost activity in the brain and slow the mental aging process. In honor of Train Your Brain Day on Friday, Oct. 12, here are eight mind-flexing tricks to keep your brain in shape.
Watch Out2 of 9
Wear your watch upside down. When you read time in its correct form, the left side of the brain takes charge since it processes logical and sequential order. But when an image is upside down, the right side of the brain (which processes unrecognizable objects) has to give its counterpart a hand, or hemisphere, rather.
What's in a Name?3 of 9
Spell your name backwards. (Try doing it in your head, instead of writing it down.) Doing so requires increased alertness and engages the visual area of the brain (hello again, right hemisphere). The exercise can strengthen synapses between nerve cells in the brain, which helps with learning and memory.
No Peeking4 of 9
Close your eyes and try doing one everyday "no-brainer" task, like unlocking your door or putting your key in the car's ignition. Having to rely on other senses to complete an activity forces your brain to make new sensory associations and causes the circuits controlling your attention to become more active.
Handy Work5 of 9
Right-handed? Make a phone call with your left hand. Left-handed? Button your shirt with your right. Doing things with your nondominant hand not only ups your concentration, it also works your brain's nondominant side. According to Katz and Rubin, research has shown that this type of exercise can increase the expansion of lesser-used circuits on the other side of the brain.
Take a Whiff6 of 9
Try this: With the next few people you meet, see if you can smell their perfume or cologne (subtly, of course). Smell is the only sense that has direct connections to the cortex, hippocampus and other parts of the limbic system—all of which process emotion and memory. If you can associate a smell with a new person you meet, chances are you won't forget him or her as easily.
Change of Plans7 of 9
Throw a curve into your daily routine. Katz and Rubin say that because routines are often done subconsciously, your brain gets off easy, but if you change things up, then it's engaged. So instead of doing the next thing you had planned after reading this, do something completely off course. If you were about to check your email, then go for a quick ten-minute walk instead (and try a route you don't normally take). The more unpredictable and spontaneous the activity is, the better.
Criss-Cross8 of 9
If you're going to get frustrated or impatient, then you might as well work the brain while you're at it. When you cross your arms, try re-crossing them the unnatural way. It will wake up the circuits and pathways that are usually inactive in the nondominant side of your brain. (And hey, it may even calm you down too.)
Mind Reading?9 of 9
It turns out being asked to read in front of your class in middle school was one of the best things for your brain development. According to Katz and Rubin, reading aloud engages three regions of the brain: the motor cortex on both sides of the brain (which decodes the information being read and controls speech), as well as the cerebellum (which aids in coordination).