By Dr. Michael Colgan
For the last three years I have been urging folk to adopt a double approach to improve brain function. First, supplement the brain with the best nutrients to provide optimum brain nutrition—both nutrients shown in controlled trials to increase neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells) and neuroplasticity (the growth of new interconnections between brain cells) (1).
Second, adopt a daily habit of using computerized brain exercises to provide the essential stimulation for brain growth. Research into this topic has just hit the big time. The September issue of a top science journal, Nature, featured a brain stimulation exercise on its cover with the title “GAME CHANGER” (2).
The exercise, NeuroRacer, which requires multi-tasking while driving accurately, was developed by a colleague of mine, Dr. Adam Gazzaley and his team of neuroscientists at the University of California, San Francisco. A four-year study on the effects of the exercise is published in Nature.
Even people in their 20s showed a 26 percent reduction in driving performance when required to identify road signs while driving, whereas people over 60 showed a 64 percent reduction in driving performance. After training on the exercise, however, the older folks became more proficient than people in their 20s.
Measurements of older brain function confirmed the findings. To quote Dr. Gazzaley, “We made the activity in older adults’ prefrontal cortex look like the activity in younger adults’ prefrontal cortex.” Tested 6 months later, they had retained the improvement, indicating a sustained enhancement of brain function.
More important, the improvement in overall cognition also improved scores on attention and memory tests. Thus, researchers saw a broad improvement in various cognitive abilities.
Since the introduction of Isagenix Brain and Sleep Support System in 2012, we have been following more than 300 individuals using the product. We have plotted the curves of brain improvement in these folks in five areas of cognition measured by Lumosity (an online brain developing tool similar to NeuroRacer): brain speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving. In those who had been using Lumosity prior to using the Brain and Sleep Support, we found a significant upswing in the curves, indicating greater improvement in brain function after using the supplement compared to using Lumosity exercises alone.
We have not published these results previously because they are of individual cases, and it is not a controlled study with the safeguards that can only be obtained by a prospective trial. Nevertheless, the results of the four-year controlled trial published in Nature, and highlighted on its cover, are very encouraging for the concept of rewiring older brains to operate as if they were young again.
One pertinent caution: Most computer exercises offered on the Internet are not standardized and do not work to improve brain function. There are numerous criteria that have to be fulfilled to create a successful exercise, as I described in my paper in 2009 (3). As Dr Gazzaley describes it, “The tools people use must have scientific rigor behind them in the same way that training of great athletes requires a regimen.”
This research is a game changer for human cognition. In the average person, memory and attention processes show a progressive decline starting at about age 35 (4). To be able to reverse declines that have already occurred–and thus maintain brain function into advanced old age–is a dream that has been sought since the time of Ancient Greece. This is the first real step towards that dream.
- Colgan. Save Your Brain: Expand Your Mind. American Fork, UT: Sound Concepts, 2012.
- Anguera, et al. Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults. Nature. 2013:105;97-0101. doi:10.1038/nature12486
- Colgan, et al. Combined chemical and brain stimulation induced neurogenesis in head-blow brain trauma and cognitive degeneration of aging. Invited paper presented to the SENS 4 Conference, Cambridge University, Sept 2009.
- Colgan. Save Your Brain. Vancouver: Science Books, 2007.