Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Strain your brain

I've mentioned before that I believe the imagination is a muscle that can be strengthened by regular exercise. I think the brain can be built up in the same way. Watching my grandmother complete difficult crosswords and other puzzles at the age of 80 (she actually knew words like "syzygy") taught me that the best way to keep from losing my mind was to use it every day.

When I assert that I'm much smarter now than I was as a young woman, I am not referring to wisdom gained through experience, but to sheer brain power. For instance, I can figure percentages and do other calculations in my head that were beyond my ability during my school days. I enjoy reading nonfiction books, but although I'm not particularly good at retaining facts, considering all kinds of facts has taught me to process information more efficiently. (Yes, I believe memory can be strengthened in the same way as the rest of the brain, but I've never been sufficiently motivated to make any effort in that direction.)

Perhaps a "scientific study" performed by a television show isn't the most reliable evidence of the efficacy of straining our brains to increase intelligence, but I can't resist sharing a recent Guardian article, which begins:

It is not an intelligence-boosting formula likely to impress an Oxbridge don: watching Countdown, playing Sudoku, remembering telephone numbers and taking a shower with your eyes closed.

Yet doing 'brain exercises' such as these can make us all up to 40 per cent cleverer within seven days, according to research by a BBC programme this week.

The tests conducted for Get Smarter in a Week appear to bear out the growing belief among scientists that making simple changes to our lifestyle can lead to significant improvements in how well our brains function.

That "40 percent cleverer within 7 days" is an astounding claim, and one which the skeptic in me isn't buying for a minute. And yet I'm sure these people are onto something.

One of the things I love about being a writer is the knowledge that if I keep doing this, I'm bound to get better with age. And this middle-aged woman asks with a wry smile, how many activities can we say that about?


Chris said...

I know syzygy, but only because it was the title of an X-Files episode. Yep, that there's some edjumacational TV.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yea, yea, yea...I believe you...all I have to do is figure out where I left my coffee mug this morning.

Two days ago I found it in the freezer...go figure!

Susan Kaye said...

I have read much of this before, but I am particularly intrigued by the sightless showering!

I'm nearly blind without my glasses, but that doesn't seemed to have helped much.



Brenda Coulter said...

Chris, there's just no getting anything past you, is there?

Bonnie, I have done things like that much more often than I'm willing to admit here on the blog.

Sue, don't sweat it. You're probably smarter than the rest of us, anyway.