We all know what we’re supposed to do to keep our bodies buffed, limber and long-lasting. But how are you meant to whip your brain into shape—not just today but into the future? Unlike diets (which give you the satisfaction of seeing your clothes gradually get looser), brain boosting is tough to track. The field of brain research has exploded over the past decade, and though many findings show intriguing levels of correlation, they still fall short of actual cause and effect, says Peter Schofield, PhD, CEO of Neuroscience Research Australia. The only true examination of the brain comes a little too late—at autopsy. At first, scientists sought ways to prevent both structural and functional brain changes. Now, researchers are trying to understand why some people enjoy ‘cognitive reserve’—the ability to maintain most, or all, of the brain’s normal function—even after negative changes, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or decreased memory, have occurred. The idea is that even if you have a strong family history of mental decline in later years, what you do or don’t do—right now—could make all the difference to keeping your mind in mint condition. Follow our guide for an easy and effective mental tune-up.
By Stephen Fried and Mandy Bryan
Nov 9, 2011