What Are Neurobics?
Neurobics is what you get when you combine neurology with aerobics. Neurobics are mental exercises you can perform to enhance the endurance and power of your brain.
The term “neurobics” was coined by Lawrence Katz in a 1998 book called Keep Your Brain alive. Katz was an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he worked as a neurobiologist. Keep Your Brain Alive described dozens of exercises anyone could use to keep their brain strong and healthy – even as they aged.
How Do Neurobics Work?
Neurobics is based on the idea that unusual sensory stimulation encourages healthy brain activity.
When our bodies perform “non-routine” actions and think non-routine thoughts, it encourages the brain to produce more neurochemicals. These chemicals encourage the growth of new dendrites and neurons in the brain, which ultimately slows the effect of aging.
Essentially, you’re opening new “neural pathways” and stimulating the production of natural cognitive growth hormones called neurotrophins. Supporters of neurobics say this is like “doing a mental sit-up”.
An example of a neurobics exercise would be brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or trying to perform tasks with your eyes closed.
These activities are suggested to stimulate brain activity because they require more effect than routine actions and thoughts. When our bodies perform the same actions and think the same thoughts every day, these processes become automatic. Eventually, they become so automatic that the brain unconsciously performs them, which ultimately leads to greater cognitive decline.
Limited Scientific Evidence
Katz claims that his neurobics were backed by real science. However, modern neuroscience has disputed many of the claims.
To date, there have been no scientific peer-reviewed studies on the effectiveness of Katz’s neurobics exercises.
Despite the lack of concrete scientific evidence, some neurobiologists echo Katz’s argument and claim that neurobics are an effective way to reduce the effects of mental aging in the brain.
If the lack of scientific evidence doesn’t dissuade you, then keep reading.
Popular Neurobics Exercises
Neurobics exercises vary widely in terms of complexity. Some neurobics exercises are as simple as eating outside or driving to a grocery store in a different part of town. Here are some of the most popular neurobics practiced today:
— Start A New Hobby: Take up knitting. Build a model. Play chess against a challenging computer. Go horseback riding, hiking, or try something you’ve never done before.
— Read A New Newspaper Or Magazine: Changing up your daily reading can give you a new perspective on life and force your brain to adapt to new ideas and concepts.
— Shop At A New Store: Drive to the other side of town and shop at a different supermarket. Your brain will have to remember new routines, new parking lots, new aisles, and other new stimuli.
— Listen To Different Music: After listening to the same songs for a while, our brains begin to automatically process that aural information. Switch it up by listening to a new band, new songs, or best of all, a new genre of music.
— Get Rid Of Your GPS: Do you rely on your satellite navigation system when you drive? Turn it off to stimulate your neural activity.
— Mentally Rotate An Item In Your Brain: The next time you see an item, mentally rotate that item around your brain. This is a crucial spatial skill humans need when reading maps and engaging in other activities.
You can find neurobics-style games online today. The popular cognitive training website Lumosity, for example, is based on ideas similar to neurobics.
Conclusion: Who Should Try Neurobics?
Neurobics isn’t some type of plan you join or subscribe to. Instead, it’s a philosophy on life: by mentally stimulating yourself every day and performing new activities, you may be able to boost brain activity and reduce cognitive decline.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, many people around the world love the idea of “working out” their brains by performing the basic cognitive exercises known as neurobics.