Mark Miller
PBS
December 2, 2007

What we now know about brain function is that we begin to experience decline in most cognitive functions in our 30s and 40s. As we grow older, the rate of decline increases, and the cumulative effects become more noticeable. We have increasing difficulty remembering, paying close attention, responding rapidly, performing complex tasks and our coordination and movement and many other cognitive functions that once came easily are now more difficult. These are symptoms of elemental physical changes in an aging brain. The problem is more than just lapses in memory. There are three root causes of problems in the aging brain: (1) an increasing signal-to-noise problem in processing information collected by our senses, (2) a decline in the production of key brain chemicals and (3) a slowing in processing speed. These problems make it increasingly difficult to accurately receive, store, retrieve and manipulate information received from any of the 5 senses.

The good news is that we can change this! It is not inevitable that we will be in a state of dementia at the time of our death. We know that we need physical exercise to maintain our physical strength throughout our lives, our brain also needs to be exercised in order to retain our mental acuity throughout whatever our lifespan.

Over 50 neuroscientists have worked to create a system for strengthening the brain and making it perform with more agility, speed and comprehension. The Brain Fitness Program is based on neuro-plasticity — the ability of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself! The brain remains highly malleable or “plastic” throughout life and by presenting the brain with the proper stimuli scientists can drive beneficial physical and functional change. In the past 2 years, this global team of scientists has developed computer-based stimulus sets (or “exercises”) that drive beneficial changes in the brain. This methodology is being expanded to address auditory and visual processing and memory, dealing with complexity, and the neurological basis for difficulties in hand movement, posture, balance and mobility.

The Brain Fitness Program is a program to get your brain in better shape and it is designed to drive beneficial chemical, physical and functional change in the brain. Multiple studies have shown a scientifically valid average improvement of more than 10 years in auditory, memory and cognitive function.

Dr. Michael Merzenich of The University of California San Francisco and his colleagues around the world have been leading this effort so that we can bring the research findings, along with a scientifically-based set of brain exercises in this innovative and life-altering PBS pledge program.