September 12, 2007
The Washington Post
Leslie Walker

To give workouts to the various parts of the brain by exposing them to new skills, entrepreneurs are teaming with neuroscientists to develop all kinds of computer exercises. Here’s a look at the many options people have for whipping their brains into shape:

Do aerobic exercise: This tops most lists of what scientists recommend for preserving brain cells. Aerobic exercise not only keeps the heart in shape, it also protects brain neurons by sending more blood to the brain to keep oxygen flowing.

Lose weight: One scary study found that people who are obese in middle age have twice the risk of developing dementia as those who maintain an ideal weight. Folks who have high blood pressure and high cholesterol also may be at higher risk of dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association reports.

Eat brain food: Chowing down foods rich in antioxidants helps because they cleanse the brain of so-called free radicals that corrode connections between brain neurons. Foods rich in antioxidants include leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, and fresh fruit such as strawberries, cranberries and blueberries. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as salmon and trout, and in pills sold over the counter, also help fight brain decay.

Computer exercises: There are many options for brain training on computers. Here are a few programs developed by brain specialists:.

Brain Fitness, from Posit Science. This is sold mainly to retirement communities but is also available to individuals for $395. The program features listening exercises that attempt to help elderly people overcome the difficulty many develop in understanding words and phrases in conversation.