From New Scientist magazine comes an article all about that clump of neurons you call your noggin. Is it new information? Not really, but it does lend some authority to the sort of common-knowledge things we knew before.

It’s comprised of 11 different areas (the article, not the brain), and a few stood out to me.

But it isn’t simply a matter of getting some calories down. According to research published in 2003, kids breakfasting on fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention. Beans on toast is a far better combination, as Barbara Stewart from the University of Ulster, UK, discovered. Toast alone boosted children’s scores on a variety of cognitive tests, but when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high-protein beans worked best. Beans are also a good source of fibre, and other research has shown a link between a high-fibre diet and improved cognition. If you can’t stomach beans before midday, wholemeal toast with Marmite makes a great alternative. The yeast extract is packed with B vitamins, whose brain-boosting powers have been demonstrated in many studies.

And here I thought my mom was shitting me when she said that protein was brain food. Well, hats off, Ma. But wait… beans? Marmite? Maybe not. Something tells me that we won’t see anybody eating the right breakfasts anytime soon. Hell, most people can’t abstain from eating junk when it involves their weight or health. No one’s going to give a damn about test scores.

Don’t stop now, there’s more:

IT’S a dream come true for those who hate studying. Simply walking sedately for half an hour three times a week can improve abilities such as learning, concentration and abstract reasoning by 15 per cent. The effects are particularly noticeable in older people. Senior citizens who walk regularly perform better on memory tests than their sedentary peers. What’s more, over several years their scores on a variety of cognitive tests show far less decline than those of non-walkers. Every extra mile a week has measurable benefits. […] There’s another reason why your brain loves physical exercise: it promotes the growth of new brain cells.

Noooooo! First it’s a good diet, now it’s exercise. And exercise is more important than ever, on many fronts (pandemic obesity, prevalent heart disease, &c.)

SKIMPING on sleep does awful things to your brain. Planning, problem-solving, learning, concentration,working memory and alertness all take a hit. IQ scores tumble. “If you have been awake for 21 hours straight, your abilities are equivalent to someone who is legally drunk,” says Sean Drummond from the University of California, San Diego. And you don’t need to pull an all-nighter to suffer the effects: two or three late nights and early mornings on the trot have the same effect.

I know this one. Take a look for yourself at the entire article, since there are a few data there that you might not know (it takes 15 minutes to regain a state of deep concentration after a phone call), but overwhelming it seems that anything which helps the body also helps the brain. A sensible diet, exercise, a normal sleep schedule, and the incorporation of music and reading into one’s everyday activities. In other words, general wellness.

Unfortunately, what I think is perhaps the most important and the most discouraging piece of information in the piece is that about pending pharmaceuticals that may stave off Alzheimers, &c. It’s important because these medicines may be a godsend, but it’s dangerous because the quick-fix solution (treating symptoms) fails to address the real reason we are so sick in the first place: we take horrible care of ourselves. Dietwise, a viewing of Supersize Me! will let you know just how bad we (Americans especially) are.

On a semi-related note, I can just see this sort of brain-strengthening advice become a new cult for the crazed parents of overachieving children. Poor Timmy gets toast and beans every morning so his GPA stays high.

§626 · May 26, 2005 · Tags: , ·

3 Comments to “Braaaaaains…”

  1. Andy says:

    Let’s see… protein, sleep and exercise? It’s a wonder you can string a sentence together.

  2. Ben says:

    Maybe if I had decent habits, I could be a certified genius. Or not.

  3. […] ng is a humble enterprise anyway. However, I do have a comment to make: As I learned from Heliologue the other day, being awake for 21 hours straight is equivalent to being legally dru […]

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