"To exercise the brain, the key is not always doing crosswords or sudokus"
As if it were a piece of clay, the human brain is, as the Spanish researcher Santiago Ramón y Cajal anticipated, a malleable, transformable and improvable organ, but neither he, nor we, can imagine how much.
How to invest in your brain is a guide prepared by the Spanish expert Álvaro Fernández Ibáñez and the Russian-born neuroscientist Eljonon Goldberg with which they intend, precisely, to make known all those possible guidelines that demolish the myths about the genetic immobility of the main one of our organs.
"Until very recently we thought that at 18 or 20 the brain was fixed or in decline, that it was all genetic and there was nothing we could do. And many people continue to think that," Fernández Ibáñez explained this week. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Spanish expert, considered by the World Economic Forum as a "young global leader", insists that it is necessary to flee from the routine to provide new stimuli to the brain so that it faces different challenges that make it develop those facets that may be more asleep.
"When people start to think about 'neuroplasticity', the first thing they think is: I'm going to do more crosswords or sudoku puzzles, or I'm going to play Nintendo (...) But that's not the fundamental thing (for brain development) it is learning new, complex, difficult things, because that is what forces us to exercise mental muscles ", he assures.
"Imagine that you go to the gym and that you always work with the same machine and always at the same level of difficulty, that does not lead to anything. And that is what we do many times in our life, we go to the same job, we continue going day after day And that's fine, it's entertaining, but it doesn't help us preserve our brains, "he adds.
The guide, available on Amazon and published by Sharpbrains, the neuroscience consultancy founded by its authors, makes it clear from the outset that there are no miracles, and offers the reader an analysis of the main findings of some of the neurological studies in recent years. years.
Knowing how to handle stress situations and aerobic exercise, along with the Mediterranean diet, are some of the key factors discovered by science, and that is that the brain generates several thousand neurons a day that increase with cardiovascular exercise but die in situations tensile.
Traveling is good for the brain; being unemployed, very bad
"Novelty, variety and challenge are basic ingredients, and we can integrate that in different ways. (...) We talk a lot about meditation, but we don't want everyone to go to the Himalayas either. It's not so much how to leave everything and do something different, but how we incorporate other practices into our lives ", insists the Spaniard, who even gives a twist to the so fashionable 'brain drain'.
"In his memoirs, Ramón y Cajal defended that traveling to a new city is great for neuroplasticity because you have to focus on adapting to another life. Now that people talk about the brain drain I think that more than a flight it is an investment in the brain, "he argues.
"There is nothing worse for a person than to be unemployed or underemployed in the same city all his life. If he has problems, it is great that he goes to Germany or Korea, or wherever," because he will return enriched, adds the Spanish.
The book starts with the fundamental concepts of the brain and the mind to familiarize the public, then analyzes the role of the different factors that influence brain conservation, and finally shows how to adapt scientific discoveries in a personalized way to the needs of each reader.
Fernández Ibáñez also insists that there are countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom in which they are already aware of the problem that Alzheimer's can pose in their societies and, since it is still unknown how to avoid the disease, they are working on how to delay it through " investment in the brain ".
"There are things that tend to continue to improve with age, such as vocabulary or pattern recognition, but there are very important things, such as working memory, that start to decline in the mid-30s," says the co-founder of Sharpbrains.
"The opportunity is to further improve working memory capacity today, since by increasing performance today, in the long term we will delay cognitive problems such as depression or Alzheimer's for five, ten or fifteen years," he underlines he.
Ramón y Cajal, Nobel Prize in medicine, who a century ago assured that every person "can become a sculptor of his own brain", today would be surprised to see that "even with more certainty what he proposed is true".
In addition, "we also have guidelines, not perfect but general, to know how to do it. That sculpting the brain is no longer a utopia," concludes the Spaniard.