October 7th 2013
When it comes to preserving brain function, the benefits of reading are important for adults as well as children.
Not just for kids
Reading to children develops their language skills. Adult brains profit too; reading maintains brain vitality throughout life. Neuroplasticity refers to the brains capacity to form and alter neural pathways thus increasing cognitive abilities. This process occurs most rapidly in young children. Adult brains also have this ability to learn new information and improve memory at any age.
Research published recently in Neurology, Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that activities involving reading, writing, and solving puzzles, are important for brain health throughout life.
People who participated in mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life experienced slower rates of decline in memory compared to those who did not participate in such activities across their lifetime. After adjusting for differing levels of plaques and tangles in the brain, mental activity accounted for nearly 15 percent of the difference in decline. Rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared to people with average mental activity, while the rate of decline of those with infrequent activity was 48 percent faster than those with average activity. Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents, says Robert S. Wilson, the studys author.
Here are a few practical tips for adults as well as children.
Dont skimp on sleep
When you are sleep-deprived creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills are compromised.
Memory consolidation occurs during the deepest stages of sleep.
Play well with others
We already understand that play is the work of children but studies show that filling our lives with friends and fun brings cognitive benefits at every age. Relationships stimulate our brains. In a study at Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.
Dont worry, be happy
Stress is one of the brains worst enemies. Chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones. Telling and listening to jokes activates areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity.
Push the envelope
By adulthood, your brain has developed millions of neural pathways that process information quickly and execute familiar tasks with a minimum of mental effort. Doing what you have always done doesnt give your brain the stimulation it needs. Drive a new route, try a new hobby, and read different kinds of books.
Here are some interesting correlates between powerful teaching techniques and useful strategies adults use to preserve brain functions related to memory.
Give yourself time
During CRF-DAC parent training classes, we stress the importance of giving children time to think. As a rule of thumb we recommend silently counting to eight after asking a question to give the child time to process information and formulate a response.
About eight seconds of intense focus is the amount of time an adult usually needs to process information into the memory.
Short spurts of practice over time set new information in young brains. For grown-ups frequent intervals of rehearsal are more effective than cramming.
Explaining how to do something provides practice for children and memory backup for adults.
Use your senses
Involve as many senses as possible. Relating information to actions, sounds, colors, textures, smells, and tastes helps imprint information on the brains of children as well as adults. Songs, rhymes and rhythms provide essential practice with language. Children love to hear the same stories read over and over again and that repetition of linguistic patterns prepares them for reading. Adults can speed the processing of new information by singing it to themselves.