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How to improve brain performance?
July 22, 2012 1:20 PM   Subscribe

How to improve brain performance?

I'm trying to put together a list of all proven methods of improving cognitive and memory performance, but I'm finding myself wading through a lot of unrelated journal articles, etc. I was hoping the hive mind could help.

- legal and available ways to improve one's brain performance
- backed up by multiple double-blind clinical studies / trials

E.g., "exercise" would be an unhelpful answer.

"Exercising for 30 minutes at least twice a week has been shown to improve cognitive function," would be a good answer.

"Exercising for 30 minutes at least twice a week as published in article X. See this link for more info," would be a very helpful and greatly appreciated answer!

Thanks.
posted by blahtsk to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you looking for things that have been proven to improve cognitive function from some assumed healthy baseline level, or are things like "get sufficient sleep" and "don't be drunk all the time" valid improvements, provided they are backed by studies showing that doing the reverse degrades cognitive performance?
posted by contraption at 1:38 PM on July 22, 2012


Spark is a good book about the positive relationship between exercise and the brain, that would be a good place to start.
posted by jpeacock at 2:08 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Google "dual n-back" For improving fluid intelligence.

I'm on a phone, difficult to link to studies.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:25 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also check out the wiki page for "nootropics" which are smart drugs.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:28 PM on July 22, 2012


There's a book called Brain Rules, by Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist. He has 12 rules, which divide the book into 12 chapters. The rules do go into specifics such as how much exercise is optimal, or how many times a memory needs to be repeated to be stored in the long term.

You don't have to go out and buy his book, as the his website seems to provide good basic coverage of the contents of the book. He also has this series of short video clips on the book's website that covers the rules. In the intro video, he lays out that the research for each of his brain rules is backed by a peer reviewed study and successfully replicated. The references he uses in his book are here.
posted by FJT at 2:50 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dual n-back as mentioned above, and a faq about it.
posted by Listener at 8:34 PM on July 22, 2012


I was given a Nintendo DS with brain training - Big Brain Academy - utterly fabulous. Works so well.
posted by mattoxic at 10:02 PM on July 22, 2012


Despite improvements on both the dual n-back and visual search tasks
with practice, and despite a high level of statistical power, there was no positive transfer
to any of the cognitive ability tests.


You don't improve brain performance, you improve on the tasks that you practice using your brain. If you want to learn to do math well or write brilliant essays, you should spend time practicing math or reading and writing essays. "Brain Games" are much hyped, but there's very little evidence that they do anything more than make you good at playing brain games.
posted by j03 at 4:18 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't give you any references off the top of my head, but you might want to look at literature in the area of post-stroke rehab or in cognitive decline in older people. I know I've read research papers on social interaction improving cognitive skills and looking at the effects of stimulant drugs on rehab.

You're almost certainly not going to find RCTs though. They tend to happen fairly late on with stuff like this.
posted by kadia_a at 9:29 AM on July 23, 2012


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