Curious about brain training programs? Is there anything to them besides smoke and mirrors? I have been using four of them, and I like them, but here is information from two University of Michigan researchers who offer an e-book which draws on their professional expertise to explain in a humorous way that brain fitness is certainly something we can cultivate. Everything starts in the brain.

After all, thoughts are things. They are electrical and chemical pulses that change your brain by their very existence. Brain fitness training can give you the tools to change your brain for the better and achieve life-long brain health and fitness.”

Thoughts about your perceptions do change your life, and fast. You change your hormonal bath with a thought twice as fast as you can blink your eyes.

(You may have dated your significant other for a long time, and when you made the words “I love you”, your life changed didn’t it)?

Brainfit for Life-Find Out How Right Here

What Happens in Brain Training Programs, Anyway? According to Evans and Burghardt, our brains are constantly engaging in an internal recalibration. Our brains use about 20% of our bodies daily fuel requirement, and in an attempt to use it wisely, our brains are constantly building and dismantling circuits inside our heads, the circuits being neurons that fire together when a certain task is undertaken.

For example, I took piano lessons when I was a little kid, and formed some circuits, but not many, while I practiced that skill, but I have not played a piano in 50 years (half a century!), so my brain Synapse xt has most certainly dismantled those connections. I does not serve me as an organism to keep those circuits and other unused circuits fueled and idling, prepared for action on the off chance that I will resume playing, which is lucky for people within earshot of my piano playing. That kind of idling is a waste of energy, so as circuits fall into disuse, they are dismantled.

So the synapses that once fired together in a piano playing circuit fell into disuse, which means that the neurons closed up the neurotransmitter receptors on the neurons involved in piano playing. Or involved them in another task.

However, had I continued playing, the neurons would have opened more receptors on the neurons involved in piano playing, strengthening the ability of those neurons to coordinate activity, and those neurons would have both invited other neurons into the circuit and sprouted dendrites which increase the number of connections (synapses touching) neurons have with

“….each other (a process called synaptogenesis, literally meaning’synapse creation’). Think of this as multiple bridges over a river to increase the connectivity between the two sides. If one bridge fails or undergoes repairs, others can pick up the traffic.

Third, neurons can make synapses with other neurons they weren’t originally talking to and recruit more brain cells into the circuit. Again, all of these increase the odds that the signal will not get dropped. Importantly, these strategies also increase the stability of the brain circuit, making it less likely to degenerate or get dismantled as you age.

Your brain is constantly employing all of these tactics,all of the time. It is continually testing out new connections to see how useful they are. It then stabilizes the ones that work….”

Brain training programs take one of three forms, broadly speaking.

One is performance enhancement, another can be characterized as damage control, or recovery of lost function, and the third is prevention of cognitive decline.

From Evans and Burghardt, “…Approaches to improve, maintain or recover cognitive function come in many forms. Some are tools you use for the explicit purposes of improving specific skills, like memory, reaction speed, vocabulary, pattern recognition, creativity or reasoning. This is the crux of the emerging brain fitness software industry, which is putting out more and more tools, attempting to help improve these specific skill sets.

Other approaches include daily experiences, educational level, commitments to life-long learning or social support networks.

You may engage in these without the expressed goal of improving cognitive function, but many of them will have that beneficial effect anyway!”

Evans and Burghardt go on to talk about a number of key factors, actually lifestyle factors, that impact the three main kinds of brain training, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, social activity, and learning.