Do you have a brain? I really hope you are answering yes to that question because if not, the rise of the machines has already begun and we’re all doomed.
For those of you that are human and still with us, how would you like to discover 5 ways in which you can improve that brain of yours and hopefully keep your sanity a little longer?
Some of these may be obvious and some of them may make no sense but every entry here has been confirmed by scientists and work like a charm. So without further ado here are 5 Completely Random And Awesome Ways To Improve Your Brain.
1. Playing team sports increases spatial awareness
Studies have shown that playing team sports such as football can increase spatial awareness and problem solving skills in a similar way to chess players.
Some very clever people over in Sweden did a series of tests to 57 elite players from Sweden’s highest professional league, Allsvenskan, and the league just below known as Division 1. What they discovered was that the elite players performed significantly higher than a control group of non-players and the Allsvenskan players also outperformed the Division 1 players.
This may seem obvious but what was interesting was that this wasn’t a test of footballing ability, but the ability to engage their brain in more general cognitive ways. The amazing mental skills professional footballers acquire over time, including excellent spatial attention, divided attention, working memory and metalizing capacity fall under the banner of ‘executive functions’ which cross over into everyday life.
Basically what this means is that footballers are cleverer than you.
2. Playing a musical instrument increases your IQ
New evidence suggests that playing a musical instrument can cause the brain to actually improve cognitive function even increase IQ by seven points in both children and adults.
Researchers think that the brains of musicians are structurally and functionally different than non-musicians
These parts of the brain that control motor skills, hearing, storing audio information and memory become larger and more active when a person learns how to play an instrument and can apparently improve day to day actions such as being alert, planning and emotional perception. (which might explain why most X Factor contestants are clinically insane)
Being a musical person should enhances your ability to process auditory information which means that musicians are able to pick out exactly what others are feeling just on the tone of their voices. Empathy, disappointment, that kind of thing.
Basically playing a musical instrument turns you into a dog. Awesome.
3. Playing video games improves your decision making
Of all the potential ways to improve your brain, this is the most satisfying.
The next time your parents moan at you for spending too much time playing video games, just tell them how you are actually becoming smarter as a result. Various University research concludes that gaming increases decision making, multitasking, speed and in women, the ability to mentally manipulate 3D objects.
People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study. Scientists also found that women, who make up about 42% of computer and videogame players, were better able to mentally manipulate 3D objects.
Another awesome way in which video games can turn us into potential superheroes is how playing violent games can improve our ability to kick pain in the ass.
A study at Keele University found that 40 volunteers were able to stomach pain for 65 per cent longer after playing violent ‘first person shooter’ games, than those who had played a non-violent golf game. Which is ironic as playing most golf games can be quite a painful experience in itself.
4. Visualisation can change how the brain learns
Research has shown that purely by thinking about an activity will engage the same part of the brain as actually performing the task physically. A Havard study had two sets of volunteers learn a simple 5 finger piano exercise. One group actually played it, the other just thought about it. After 5 days both sets of brains had changed significantly.
So what’s going on here then?
Well the brain is a little squishy mush of paradox. On one hand it has more neural connections then there are atoms in the known universe, but on the other hand it is really stupid. It simply cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imaginary.
“The brain doesn’t know the difference between the visualization and the real thing,” says Paul Salitsky, a lecturer in exercise biology at the University of California at Davis. “In visualization, the brain sends neural signals in the same patterns to the muscles, thus training them for the particular activity even though the muscles are not activated.”
5. Taking ketamine cures depression
While the previous 4 entries in this article can be tried out by most of us, this one is a little different. Now before I go on I would like to state that taking illegal drugs is very stupid and you may or may not end up looking like Russell Brand. You have been warned.
I thought I would include this here though because it’s kind of interesting.
One of the most popular recreational drugs to come into the clubbing scene in recent years, Ketamine, has been found to almost instantly cure depression. Wait, what? Yes you read that correctly. Scientists are looking for ways to tap into ketamine and to eventually replace drugs such as Prozac.
Actually researchers in the US who have studied its effects say small amounts of the drug can provide immediate relief to patients for whom existing antidepressants do not work. Its impact is so rapid and so dramatic that experts are hailing it as an extraordinary advance.
So that’s my 5 awesome ways to improve your brain. Can you think of any more? I’d love you to share your thoughts.