Friday, March 1, 2013

Train Your Brain for Better Memory and Cognition

Reposted from Life Extension

By Michael A. Smith, MD

As people hit middle age, they often start to notice that their memory and mental clarity are not what they used to be. It suddenly becomes harder to remember where we put the keys just a moment ago, an old acquaintance's name, or the name of an old rock band we used to love.

While seemingly innocent, this loss of mental focus can potentially have a detrimental impact on our professional, social, and personal well-being. So is there anything we can do about it or are we simply destined to suffer from slow reaction times and forgetfulness?

Your Brain Needs Exercise Too

Neuroscientists are increasingly finding that there's actually a lot that can be done. It turns out that the brain needs exercise in much the same way our muscles do, and the right mental workouts can significantly improve our basic cognitive functions.

Thinking is essentially a process of making neural connections in the brain. To a certain extent, our ability to excel in making the neural connections that drive intelligence is inherited. However, because these connections are made through effort and practice, scientists believe that intelligence can expand and fluctuate according to mental effort.

But there’s a problem. If your brain cells aren’t connecting to each other, your brain exercises will all be in vain. So let’s first increase the number and enhance the quality of brain cell connections. To do this, you need magnesium threonate.

Enhancing Nerve Cell Connections

Your brain consists of about 100 billion neurons. On average, each neuron is connected to other neurons through about 10,000 synapses. The theory is pretty straight forward: The more connections you have, the better your memory, the faster your brain processes information, and the better your attention and focus will be.

This is where magnesium comes into play, as it’s needed for all of those connections. Unfortunately, magnesium is one of the minerals most deficient in the American diet. And chronic deficiency has long been shown to negatively affect brain function. So you may be thinking that you need to start eating more magnesium-rich foods and supplementing with it. And you’d be right.

However, most magnesium supplements do not readily cross the blood-brain barrier. To overcome this obstacle, an innovative form of magnesium, called magnesium threonate, has been introduced. Threonate is a vitamin C metabolite that acts as a carrier to help magnesium enter the brain. Other forms like magnesium chloride, gluconate, and even citrate don’t cross into the brain very well at all.

In preclinical models, L-threonate boosted magnesium levels in spinal fluid by an impressive 15% compared to no increase with conventional magnesium.1 Even more compelling, animal models revealed improvements of 18% for short-term memory and 100% for long-term memory using the threonate form of magnesium.1
Now that you have new and improved nerve cell connections, exercises designed to enhance brain function can actually work — or at least work better. Below we’ll take a look at a few of these exercises.

Brain Building Games & Exercises

You may have heard the term “mind-body connection” as it applies to healing and health. But did you know there really is a physical connection between the brain and the rest of your body?

In some places, your brain connects with your muscles and in other places it connects with your skin and internal organs. There’s vast highway of communication lines that need to be repaired and serviced throughout your life.

A great way to repair and service your brain-body connections is through brain exercises or “brain games.” The brain games fall into 4 categories:

  1. Memory & Recall
  2. Attention & Focus
  3. Cognition & Problem Solving
  4. Speed & Spatial Reasoning
The most effective strategy for improving your brain power is to play one game in each category every day. By the way, this shouldn't cost you any money. You can find many simple yet effective brain games online for free.

Memory & Recall — Chess, Cards & Crosswords

That’s right, chess. Playing a game of chess every day is actually great for your short-term memory. A chess master can hold an unbelievable number of strategies in their short-term memory.

Crosswords or games that involve a lot of possible options for your brain to juggle are great as well. And card games like bridge and even blackjack (where you cheat by counting cards) can also help to enhance memory.

Attention & Focus — Read & Recognize

Okay, reading comprehension is really not a game but it does require concentration, attention and focus. Games that require you to memorize a pattern or picture and then recognize what’s missing on a new screen are awesome for attention. It’s important to realize that short-term memory is strongly linked to your attention span.

Cognition & Problem Solving — Arithmetic

The most popular problem solving games involve numbers. Here’s one example, it’s called Side By Side. The object of the game is to arrange seven numbers, so that no two side-by-side numbers add together to make another number in the row.

For example, if the row of numbers contains a seven, three and four, you cannot place the 4 and 3 side-by-side because they equal 7, one of the numbers included in the original list. There are literally thousands of free problem solving games on the internet. The Problem Site has several available. Have fun!

Speed & Reaction Times — Video Games

Yes, you can play video games especially if you want to improve reaction times. There’s no reason we older adults can’t use a joystick or controller with the same speed as a 21-year-old. We just need some practice.

Try out a Nintendo Wii. Armchair sports are great for anyone who wants to stay alert. All those new activities will help to speed up the transmission of neurons and improve your reaction times.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out our health protocol on age related cognitive decline.

What ideas do you have for improving your brain function? Please share them with us in the comments below!


  1. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77.