Intellectual engagement is keeping your brain sharp by learning throughout your life. Sharing what you have learned will not only consolidate this in your own mind but help others to grow and reach their potential. Spending time in self-reflection and critical thinking also sharpens the brain.
Did you know?
The majority of the neurons in the brain are formed in the womb. However, the brain is able to generate new neurons throughout life in the hippocampus – the memory centre – and the forebrain that receives stimulus from odours (Phillips 2017) - a marker of brain decline (Tebrugge et al 2108).
Being intellectually engaged, through academic, cultural, community, artistic and skill-based activities and learning, throughout life will enhance your well-being and give you a satisfying and purposeful life.2,6
Older adults who intentionally engage in aerobic exercise, have a healthy diet and practice caloric restriction/intermittent fasting5 may prevent cognitive decline, by stimulating new neurons and reducing inflammation, oxidative damage, and amyloid build-up5
Engaging in stimulating intellectual activities strengthens the neural networks within the brain. Brains exhibiting loss of neurons are more likely to progress to Alzheimers disease from mild cognitive impairment.9
Recent research would suggest that acquiring intellectual gain over the lifetime can reduce the cognitive decline that comes with ageing.8
What can we do about it
Engage in complex brain activities to improve your intellectual wellness (ISU 2014):
Be physically active and eat a whole-foods plant based diet (Phillips 2017).
Practice a form of intermittent fasting that suits you e.g. 12-16 hour overnight fast every day or a 5-2 day fast,every week for enhanced brain function and longevity (Mattson et al. 2018)
Seek opportunities to learn something new today and then share what you have learned.
1 Clemenson GD, Stark CEL. Virtual Environmental Enrichment through Video Games Improves Hippocampal-Associated Memory. Journal of Neuroscience. 2015; 35 (49): 16116-25; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2580-15.2015
2 ISU. 2017. Inciting your intellectual wellness. Illinois State University. Accessed 2/04/2019. https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2017/01/inciting-intellectual-wellness/
3 Lin W, Tong T, Gao Q, Guo D, Du X, Yang Y, Guo G, Xiao M, Du M, Qu X and The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Convolutional Neural Networks-Based MRI Image Analysis for the Alzheimer’s Disease Prediction From Mild Cognitive Impairment.
4 Mattson MP, Moehi K, Ghena N, Schmaedick M, Cheng A. Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. 2018; 19(2): 63-80. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2017.156
5 Phillips C. Lifestyle Modulators of Neuroplasticity: How Physical Activity, Mental Engagement, and Diet Promote CognitiveHealth during Aging. Neural plascticity. 2017; Article ID 3589271. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/358927
6 PU 2019. Intellectual Wellness. Accessed 2/04/2019. Prineton University. https://umatter.princeton.edu/action-matters/caring-yourself/wellness-wheel-assessment/intellectual-wellness
7 Spalding KL, Bergmann O, Alkass K, Bernard S, Salehpour M, Huttner HB, Bostrom E, Westerlund I, Vial C, Bucholz BA, Possnert G, Mash DC, Druid H, Frisen J. Dynamics of hippocampal neurogenesis in adult humans. Cell. 2013; 153(6): 1219-27. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.002
8 Staff RT, Hogan MJ, Williams DS, Whalley LJ. Intellectual engagement and cognitive ability in later life (the “use it or lose it” conjecture): longitudinal, prospective study. British Medical Journal 2018; 363. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4925
9 Strout KA, Howard EP. Five dimensions of wellness and predictors of cognitive health protection in community-dwelling older adults: A historical COLLAGE cohort study. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 2015; 33: 6–18. doi:10.1177/0898010114540322
10 Tebrugge S, Winkler A, Gerards D, Weimar C, Moebus S, Jockel KH, Erbel R, Jokisch M, Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study Investigative Group. Olfactory Function is Associated with Cognitive Performance: Results of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.. 2018; 63(1): 319-29. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-170863
11 Underwood E. Study undercuts claims of new neurons in adult brains. Science. 2018; 359(6380): 1083. DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6380.1083
12 Makin S. The amyloid hypothesis on trial. Nature. 2018; 559, S4-S7. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-05719-4