Eleven Insights Based on Think Smart.
When it comes to hiring your next business associate, the gym might not be such a bad place to look. This is just one of the many insights based upon the findings presented in Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance by Dr. Richard Restak. A leading neuroscientist, Dr. Restak has created an interesting book presenting some key insights.
Being in the creativity business, maintaining and improving mental performance are fascinating subjects for me. Dr. Restak’s presentation of diverse findings are compelling and more than a little surprising.
Though not listed as such in his book, and because I am a die-hard Spinal Tap fan, here are eleven recommendations based on the book’s findings.
1. Action Video Games are Better than Video Brain Games. – Though also proven to be potentially addictive if abused, action-oriented video games are proven to offer an opportunity for multiple brain centers to work together while maintaining the user’s interest and enhance the brain’s performance. Unlike such action-oriented games, there is no conclusive evidence supporting so-called brain training computer games. The author suggests the lack of compelling elements of simulated reality in such brain games might be the reason for the difference.
2. Calories Count. – Though I always enjoyed the detective adventures of Nero Wolfe, the rotund detective who never leaves his house, girth and mental prowess apparently do not go hand-in-hand. In fact, deliberate caloric reduction has been proven to improve mental performance.
3, Win Your Heart and Mind. – Not surprisingly, the brain’s performance is directly related to the heart’s performance. Hence, watching your cholesterol intact won’t just make you feel better, but think better as well.
4. There are Brain Foods. – Fish, blueberries, strawberries and walnuts are just a few of the foods shown to have a positive impact on mental performance.
5. Supplements are No Substitutes. – Don’t just reach for those Omega 3 tablets because you prefer steak over fish. If you want the health benefits of a food, eat that food. The lack of standardization and regulation in supplement industry and differences in the way your body absorbs such substances make eating the right food a far superior option.
6. Jocks aren’t So Dumb. - A healthy mind and body are connected; hence regular exercise is key to keeping your mind in good condition as well. This is particularly important when it comes to maintaining mental performance as one goes up in years. You might be brilliant today without exercise, but staying brilliant means getting on that treadmill!
7. Cat Naps are Your Friend. – Learning, productivity and mental performance are all proven to be enhanced by an hour nap each day. In fact, after multiple hours of practicing mentally complex tasks, a one-hour nap was proven more beneficial to mental performance than continuing to practice for that hour. However, napping more than an hour is likely to disturb your sleep pattern and be detrimental in the long run.
8. New Tricks could be Just the Trick! – Taking a class that interests you, learning a new skill or just forcing yourself to face a new situation has a way of kick starting your brain. As long as the topic interests you, the activity will likely both vitalize your short-term memory and improve your recall from long term memory.
9. Practice Makes Good—Experimentation Makes Perfect. – While a novice or skilled amateur is likely to do the same activity over and over again, true mastery is born of experimentation. For example, a skilled amateur piano player is likely to play the same favorites the same way; master performers are known for experimentation as they practice. This testing of limits doesn’t just make for a richer performance; it serves to create new synapses and neural pathways.
10. Get social. – Contrary to the stereotype of the genius who never leaves his room, for the long-term health of the brain and enhancement of mental performance, socialization is key. In short, while you may want to retreat to think of your best ideas, if you want to keep thinking up those great ideas, it pays to get out once and a while.
11. It’s Not the Size of Your Brain. It’s What You Do with It. – Okay, pardon the ribald pun, but it actually does apply. While much has been made over steadily losing brain cells as we go past our teen years, brain cells, neurons, are not nearly as important to creativity and other forms of mental performance as synapses, the chemical and electrical connections between these cells. Fortunately, we have the ability to encourage the production and maintenance of synapses throughout our lives using these and other suggestions you’ll find in the book. Hence, mental ability truly is a question of use it or lose it.
In closing, as with all areas of science, some of these finding might be questioned in years to come. Until then however, my family can look forward to regular breakfasts of blueberry and walnut croissants… because every little bit counts.