Brain Training Part 1
In this day and age, the call for improved health and wellness can be heard from every corner. We are encouraged to exercise and eat well to fuel our bodies and keep them healthy for as long as possible.
And we should!
But do we exert the same effort in keeping our brains healthy and strong? Perhaps you’ve started using brain-boosting supplements or followed a brain-centric diet like the keto diet. Great! But just as it is with our bones and muscles, training can impact the brain.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be discussing specific training exercises to improve and strengthen aspects of your brain and cognitive function. Focuses include:
- Brain Speed (improving your cognitive processing speed)
- Memory (sharpening the brain’s ability to record and retain information)
- People Skills (increasing your ability to recognize faces, remember names and more)
- Intelligence (improving your comparative and decision making abilities)
- Navigation (increases your sense of location and direction)
#1 Shaping Up Your Attention
Tuning in and tuning out, whether active or passive, are things we do all day long. We give attention by focusing on things that impact and affect us, as well as filtering out the potentially overwhelming myriad of stimuli that are unimportant or of little or no consequence to our immediate state of well-being.
We have extremely short-term attention to give to the phone number on TV for ordering Ginsu Knives. And we have much more attention to give to long-term things, such as relationships. Attention is prioritizing your focus, whether consciously or subconsciously, all day long.
But if you find yourself easily distracted, unable to focus on a task or conversation, or forgetful of where you put your glasses all day long (check the top of your head), it may be that you could benefit from some cognitive exercises to increase your attention.
#2 Divided Attention
In Divided Attention, your brain is asked to focus on specific details while dismissing irrelevant data. You will be shown a pair of shapes and must identify similarities, such as color, while being able to ignore other irrelevant factors, such as both shapes being triangles. To generate additional flexibility in the brain, the criteria and detail you’re asked to identify changes throughout the exercise.
Divided Attention translates into daily life by helping filter out what you are not seeking, such as being able to find a particular cereal on a full shelf at the grocery or allowing you to recognize a familiar face in the crowd.
#3 Double Decision
Double Decision challenges your brain in speed and peripheral vision accuracy. A photo of a vehicle (center of the screen) and a Route 66 road sign (somewhere in the periphery) will flash briefly on the screen. You will then be presented with a selection of multiple vehicles in which you must correctly select the initial one. Next, you will be asked to choose the area in which the road sign appeared.
As you improve, the game changes and becomes more difficult. Just as in any exercise, the stronger you get, the more challenges you need to continue to progress. By challenging you to pay attention to both what is in front of you and what is around you, your brain is increasing its processing speed and improving your useful field of view.
Studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association (along with others) have proven repeatedly that speed training such as “Double Decision” –
- Improves cognitive function
- Enhances driving safety
- Reduces depression
- Helps retain independence
#4 Freeze Frame
Freeze Frame optimizes your level of alertness. After showing a target image, additional images will flash on the screen. If the image is the same you “freeze” and do not respond. If the flashing image is different from the target image, you respond. As you progress, the additional images become more similar to the target image; they also begin to flash more rapidly.
Optimizing your alertness helps you maintain both a relaxed and ready state, allowing you to both sustain focus on the task at hand, as well as rapidly shift your attention as needed.
#5 Mixed Signals
This exercise is based on the Stroop Task, a psychological experiment devised by John Ridley Stroop in which subjects see the word of a color, but must identify the color in which the word is written – not the actual word. This challenges the brain to focus on what is being asked and filter out what may be intuitive.
Mixed Signals not only uses the Stroop Task, but also incorporates letters, numbers and sounds. Challenging you to focus on specific information while filtering out competing data improves your attention to detail in daily life.
#6 Target Tracker
Whether you play a sport in which you must keep track of the ball or you are driving in busy traffic and must know the locations of other vehicles so that you can safely merge, being able to maintain awareness of multiple objects is an important part of attention. (This is also a very handy skill to have if you have or are responsible for more than one child!)
Target Tracker starts with a few target objects, all the same image. Then, distractors are added. These distractors are also the same image. (It’s very similar to a shell game.) Follow the original target objects as they move among the added distractors, then select the targets. As you progress, the number of targets increases, as does the number of distractors.
Want to Learn More About Brain Exercises?
To get more information on how brain training can help you with attention, call us at (888) 549-5519 or utilize our online chat feature located in the lower right corner.