Ask the Expert: Brain Fitness

What is Brain Fitness?

For years we have been encouraged to stay physically active to increase our chances of living longer and avoiding various diseases. Now, we are receiving similar recommendations about brain health and fortunately, there is a lot we can do to engage our brains on a daily basis.

Science is unlocking many of the mysteries of the brain and research is showing that the brain is continuously changing and improving itself. In fact, research is showing that physical brain change occurs every time we learn something new. This ability for continuous physical, chemical and functional brain change is known as “brain plasticity” or “neuroplasticity”. Brain plasticity, essentially describes the ability to reprogram the brain to bypass an area with an injury and learn new skills or relearn old ones, no matter the age of the person or disability. This means that rehabilitation is worthwhile and that those affected by a brain tumour may be able to improve their quality of life.

In our day-to-day lives, we rely on our memories for both simple and complex tasks but the ability to remember can change after undergoing brain tumour treatment. Working on Brain Fitness, may help enhance memory skills, concentration, organize information or help to compensate for memory impairments in daily life. Whether feeling the effects of “chemo brain” or experiencing difficulties with concentration and recall due to a benign brain tumour, there are some brain fitness tips that may help in coping with memory or cognitive changes:

Brain Fitness Tips

  • Exercise your brain: Try crossword puzzles, number games, brain teasers, visual illusions take up a new hobby or master a new skill
  • Stay organized: Use calendars or planners to keep on track, make lists or use a chart board/ wipe board in your kitchen to develop a system of reminders.
  • “Neurobics”: Use your brain in non-routine ways, for example, if you are right handed, try brushing your teeth with your lefthand every morning.
  • Understand what influences your memory problems: Schedule difficult tasks when you feel your best
  • Stress-relief techniques: Try visualizations, meditation, yoga or Pilates.
  • Food For Thought: Our brains work best when we eat well-balanced meals.
  • Have a good laugh: Read a new joke or watch a comedy.

Research shows that Brain Fitness activities and programs may be used to evaluate and combat a variety of conditions:

Brain Tumours                            Addiction
Physical Therapy MemoryPrevention Programs
Cognitive Evaluation Aging
Psychology Evaluations Multiple Sclerosis
Depression ALS

Stroke

Muscular Dystrophy
Driving Skills Alzheimer Disease and other dementias
Schizophrenia Neurology Evaluations
Impulsivity Attention Deficit Disorder
Traumatic Brain Injury Neuropsychological/Psychiatric Disorders
Loss of Memory Rehabilitation and Recovery
Autism Parkinson's Disease
Memory Improvement Unipolar and Bipolar Disorders

Consult a member of your rehabilitation team such as an Occupational Therapist for more information about incorporating brain fitness activities into your program.

For further information about brain health and brain fitness, visit this section of the Northey Family Library.
 

You can download this information as a Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Information Sheet (pdf).
Janic Gorayeb is the Health Information Specialist at  Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and has a degree in Sociology and a second degree in Gerontology. Janic recently attended Memory Training courses in Prague, Czech Republic hosted by the Czech Memory Training Centre.

 Return to Information Sheets here.

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