Simple tasks from opening your eyes, to doing your hair every morning, to driving to work requires using your brain and having prompt cognition.
“Cognition is really our thinking. The way our brain handles Information. it can include anything from attention and concentration, to being able to remember things, to making sense of information,” says Clinical Psychologist Lisa May of UPMC Western Behavioral Health at Safe Harbor.
Continuing to successfully perform these day-to-day operations and more requires keeping your brain sharp and functioning well.
Recently, it’s been proven that the isolation recommendations and mandates of the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative effect on the effectiveness of the brain and caused cognitive issues for many.
“When the pandemic has gone on this long, one of the positives about it is there’s some research being done. And there’s actually some research that’s been developed about social isolation and cognitive changes. And What they’re finding is that throughout social isolation whether it is self-imposed or imposed by someone else in this case a need to be safe in the community, it can result in some cognitive decline. For people that have had some minor cognitive decline, it can make that worse. For people that may not have experienced cognitive decline before, they can start to show some difficulty,” explains May.
Dr. Henry Mahncke , CEO of Posit Science says having an alert and quick functioning brain is important in any job or daily task.
” Just about everything we do at work is about speed and accuracy. If you’re working on a computer or sorting items at the grocery store. Studies have shown that by making the brain faster and more accurate with extensive brain training exercises, people actually get faster and more accurate with everyday tasks and all kinds of things you have to do in ordinary life, “explains Dr. Mahncke.
According to Mahncke, even Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Tom Brady agrees that having good cognition is important, which is why he adds brain training to his schedule through a program called BrainHQ.
“BrainHQ is a brain training program and it was designed by neuroscientists like me, and what its designed to do is make information processing in our brain faster and more accurate. People use it at any point in their lives to improve their brain performance and build a better brain,” said Dr. Mahncke.
Brain HQ offers a series of non-traditional exercises to train your brain.
“This kind of brain training is a new and different thing so it’s not if you’ve studied for a test – maybe you did a SAT prep test or something like that, it’s not like that. Or not teaching you facts or figures or not teaching you how to multiply in your head. What we’re doing is giving elemental operations – things you see and hear that you have to tell the difference between often and do that quickly.”
Mahncke says when he and his team found out that Brady uses the program, they met with him to discuss how it benefits his success in football. This is how Brady sees it in action:
“He [Brady] said ‘I’ve got about 3 1/2 seconds between when I get the snap to look down the field, remember what play we’re doing, spot my receivers, know which ones are open, figure out who’s moving, then throw the ball if it’s a passing play. Because after 3 or 3 1/2 seconds, there’s going to be someone on the defense who probably broke through the offensive line and I might get tackled. So, my brain has to be really fast and really accurate that I have to make decisions quickly and accurately to play well.”
Anyone can use the program. Check it out here on their website, or download it from the app store on your smart phone.
While BrainHQ is one way to keep your cognition up and your brain functioning properly, the lifestyle choices you make also plays a role.
“Making sure you’re getting enough rest and sleep, eating a healthy diet most of the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have pizza or cake again, but about 80% of the time eating pretty healthy and being able to treat yourself some of the other times. You may want to look at your medications with your physician and review medications, because sometimes they can have cognitive effects. Also reducing stress as much as possible is important. Getting some physical exercise and moving your body, and of course being socially connected,” explains May.
A combination of the two will help your mind and body. Again, Mahncke explains using Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady’s lifestyle as an example.
” I think one of the really interesting things about Tom Brady’s approach to his whole health is he’s the oldest quarterback in the league at this point, but obviously going to the Superbowl and still at his best. And it’s because he really takes a very comprehensive approach to his fitness, body, and mind. He works out, he eats a very careful diet so that helps his body and his brain, and he’s doing BrainHQ to keep his brain sharp. I think It really teaches us that there’s no magic pill, there’s no single sit up you can do that’s going to make you skinny, no single supplement you can eat that will make you healthy, there’s no single brain thing you can do that’s going to be perfect. But choosing to make the right choices all together can help keep any of us operating throughout our life and I think that’s really exciting.”
Both your body and mind count in training your brain to continue successfully carrying out daily tasks.