We’re on the cusp of the most exciting times in the field of brain research in history. Finding practical ways to boost intelligence, strengthen memory, enhance analytical skills, and bolster artistic vision – and all forms of cognitive function – is entering a golden age.
What’s truly intriguing is that cognitive enhancement methods are coming home to the common man and woman in all new ways. That means everything from high-tech devices, nutritional supplements, and “brain exercise” methodologies. Better yet, many of these are DIY devices and systems anyone can find and start using right away. There’s so much going on in this field that it’s difficult to find a place to start, but let’s take a look at five ways readers can boost their cognitive function.
1. Brain Synchronization Technology
The theory behind this cognitive enhancement tool is to train the left hemisphere of the brain to work in greater synchronicity (or more efficiently) with the right half of the brain. Neural scientists have long known that the two halves of the brain handle different types of mental functions. In short, the left half of the brain is the analytic, numbers-oriented, linear thinking side while the right hemisphere is where the creative, imaginative, artistic, and nonlinear types of thought are dominant.
Most people are either right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant. But what if a person could bring both sides up to a maximum performance by getting them to cooperate more efficiently? Several companies today offer audio programs that purport to “entrain” the two sides of the brain using sounds based on the concept of binaural beats. This is when tones of two different frequencies are played into each ear.
The theory is that the brain naturally endeavors to combine these sounds to form a singular pattern. This process teaches the left brain and the right brain to cooperate more efficiently. That brings benefits to cognitive abilities.
Without wading too far into the technical weeds, neuromodulation is an electrical technique that can manipulate how nerves behave in the body and brain. Information flows along nerves via electrical currents and biochemical transmitters (neurotransmitters). By helping poorly functioning nerves “fire” more efficiently, many functions of the mind and body can be improved.
What’s exciting today is that several leading-edge firms offer simple-to-use neuromodulation devices that can be used at home. Several outcomes are possible, from blocking pain, calming feelings of anxiety, lifting depressive moods, and more. Another benefit of neuromodulation is the improvement of sleep and the treatment of insomnia.
We all know what regular feedback is. For example, when you complete a task at work, your supervisor may give you “feedback” to evaluate your performance. Then you can make course corrections and improve if so needed. Now brain researchers say the same concept can be applied to cognitive function. One of the hottest kinds of brain enhancement gadgets on the market today are neurofeedback devices that anyone easily uses at home or the office.
Most of them work by monitoring EEG-type brainwaves. In one case, the user wears a set of glasses while performing a complex task, such as reading a difficult report at work. If the reader’s attention begins to drift and wander, the lens of the glasses slowly darkens their tint. This is instant neurofeedback that symbolically tells the user they’re losing focus. When the reader gets back on track, the lens goes clear again. This helps train the brain to stay sharply focused. Note that there are many different types of neurofeedback devices that work in different ways to provide sensory feedback to the brain.
4. Improved Communication
One way to enhance cognition is to bolster speech and communication skills. Again, tech companies are offering wearable electronic devices that assist the brain in getting better at speaking and listening.
In one case, the user puts on a headset with an attached microphone and hearing enhancement plugs. But the devices are also able to enhance the way the brain receives sound by enlisting the way sounds vibrate through the temporal bones in the head. Other ways of improving speech and communication are also pathways to overall improved cognition.
5. Natural Methods
It’s important to note that not all cognitive enhancement methodologies involve high-tech gadgets. Neurologists and researchers at the prestigious Mayo Clinic recommend these five activities to maintain and/or improve cognitive function:
• Exercise regularly.
• Get enough sleep but do not oversleep.
• Favor a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and seafood.
• Stay mentally active by challenging your brain with difficult tasks, games, and problem-solving.
• Maintain a socially active and engaged lifestyle within your society.
The Research Goes Continues
This article has barely scratched the surface of what has emerged as among the hottest medical research –- and product development -– realms in our culture today. For example, a simple search on neurofeedback devices will return an embarrassment of riches in terms of products to choose from. As always, use common sense and apply some healthy skepticism because not all products and methods are created equal. However, exploring the many ways to boost your brain today is fascinating, fun –- and may just work to make you smarter.