12 Tips for Brain Fitness

1. Eat (dark) chocolate. When you eat chocolate, you activate the systems in your brain that pump dopamine, an important brain chemical. These systems enable learning and memory, and help keep your brain sharp and fit.

2. Visit a museum. Go on a guided tour of a museum or another site of interest. Pay careful attention to what the guide says. When you get home, try to reconstruct the tour by writing an outline that includes everything you remember. The reason: Research into brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to change at any age) indicates that memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation -- receiving, remembering and thinking -- help to improve the function (and hinder the rate of decline) of the brain.

3. Memorize a song. Choose a song with lyrics you enjoy, but don't have memorized. Listen to the song as many times as necessary to write down all the lyrics. Then learn to sing along. Once you've mastered one song, move on to another! The reason: Developing better habits of careful listening will help you in your understanding, thinking and remembering. Reconstructing the song requires close attentional focus and an active memory. When you focus, you release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a brain chemical that enables plasticity and vivifies memory.

4. Exercise your peripheral vision. Sit in a place outside your house, such as on a park bench or in a caf. Stare straight ahead and don't move your eyes. Concentrate on everything you can see without moving your eyes, including in your peripheral vision. When you have finished, write a list of everything you saw. Then try again and see if you can add to your list. The reason: Scientists have shown that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is crucial to focus and memory, falls off with memory loss and is almost absent in Alzheimer's patients. This activity should help you reinvigorate the controlled release of acetylcholine in your brain through a useful visual memory task. 5. Learn to play a new instrument. If you've ever thought about learning to play an instrument or take up an old one, now is a great time! The reason: Playing an instrument helps you exercise many interrelated dimensions of brain function, including listening, control of refined movements, and translation of written notes (sight) to music (movement and sound). 6. Do a jigsaw puzzle. The task: Do a jigsaw puzzle that will be challenging for you -- no fewer than 500 pieces. The reason: Mundane as they may seem, jigsaw puzzles can provide real help for your brain. Completing one requires fine visual judgments about where pieces belong. It entails mentally "rotating" the pieces, manipulating them in your hands, and shifting your attention from the small piece to the "big picture." To top it off, it's rewarding to find the right pieces. Next: Turn down your television >
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Source: Health & Wellness

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