The idea of doing physical exercise to reap the benefits of becoming fitter and healthy is taken as given. However, few people realize that training our grey matter can be just as important. When it comes to cognitive training, a growing body of research is showing that benefits can be reaped with even small amounts of mental exercise. And with new cognitive technologies and applications becoming available for everyone, there’s never been a better time to start working out your body’s most important organ. Using some examples with NeuroTracker, here we’ll see how flexing some mental muscle can improve 5 different aspects of our everyday lives.
1. Brain Health
Neuroplasticity is a remarkable feature of your brain. In a nutshell, your neurons are built to be able to rapidly adapt to the demands placed on them. By growing new neural networks and speeding up important connections, a mental training program can measurably and sustainably enhance brain activity. It can also trigger the growth of new neurons, even into old age. Research with NeuroTracker has demonstrated that just 3 hours of distributed training sustainably boosts brainwaves in ways that show increased neuroplasticity, alongside clear gains in cognitive abilities.
So, what’s the relevance to brain health? Neuroscience research across many different medical conditions is building up a picture which shows neuroplasticity at the center of cognitive health. Reductions in neuroplasticity are either a causative factor of neurogenerative diseases, or a solution for preventing or mitigating the effects of diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and mild cognitive impairment.
2. Safer Driving
Though most people take it for granted, the skills required for safe driving are actually very demanding. Firstly, it involves motor-skills to control the car. Secondly, it requires situational awareness to monitor the changing environment and pay attention to the dashboard. And thirdly, driving involves making immediate and potentially life-threatening decisions in emergency situations. For these reasons it has been found that when most drivers are involved in accidents their mental capacities become overwhelmed, causing peripheral vision to collapse, which in turn impairs situational awareness and decision-making.
Three driving studies with NeuroTracker have showed that people with lower scores, and hence lower cognitive abilities, have a significantly increased chance of being in an accident and crashing. The lesson learned, is that sharpening up your mental skills with occasional, but regular training, could have life changing consequences on the road.
3. Sports Performance
Aside from playing sports for the related health benefits, or even just for the fun of it, people who compete also want to win. These days it’s not enough to be just fitter or faster – true game shape involves honing abilities that reside between the ears. This is why there is a revolution going on in professional sports – top players train their brain to gain the advantage over their opponents.
As we’ve seen in NeuroTracker research, even a small amount of perceptual-cognitive training transfers to better decisions on the field. In fact, a soccer study showed that after just 3 hours of 3D multiple object tracking training, soccer players’ experienced a dramatic reduction in passing errors, from an error rate of 47%, down to just 28%. This is a reason why top pro-athletes like Steph Curry, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady are all fans of cognitive training.
Matt Ryan sharpening up his quarter-back skills on NeuroTracker
4. Career Performance
As well as providing wealth, jobs are what take up most of our waking life. For most people, how well we do in our careers is the number one influence on our self-esteem. As we’ve covered previously, the digital revolution is rapidly changing the nature of the workplace into a space where information processing is king. For these reasons, it makes more sense than ever to invest a little time and effort into developing career performance.
The advantage of training programs like NeuroTracker, is that they enhance high-level cognitive functions. These play a central part in determining how well we can perform in practically any job role. A good example is the US Airforce, who now uses the technology to speed up the training of new recruits, with the aim of making them better pilots throughout their aviation careers. Another example is NeuroStreet, a company which trains-up financial traders to process trading information more efficiently and accurately, increasing their earnings. Whatever the career, cognitive training can make a tangible difference to daily performance.
5. Mental Wellbeing
A healthier brain is one thing, but most of us would choose a happier brain given the choice. As well as being used by companies to improve the wellbeing of employees at work, on-going research is seeing if NeuroTracker training can alleviate the symptoms and conditions of depression. Problems with wellbeing most commonly stem from stress, anxiety or burnout. These are all connected with reduced neuroplasticity and deficits in high-level cognitive abilities, such as executive functions, working memory, attention and processing speed.
By recovering and building-up these high-level functions, the brain is able to be more robust to stress related influences. It’s expected that such training effects will also reduce the actual symptoms associated with conditions like depression – a sharper brain is a more resilient brain!