Yes, you can exercise your brain to dramatically improve cognitive performance

According to the results of a study, if a group of participants is instructed to perform “an effective strategy for a working memory training task,” they are able to immediately improve their performance similarly to individuals who have taken part in a typical working memory training without strategy instructions for a month or longer.

Based on the study, which was spearheaded by researchers from Abo Akademi University, the relevance of these strategies was highlighted by the controls who weren’t given any strategy advice, yet were able to generate strategies that were connected to better working memory task performance at post-test.

The study’s results imply that a substantial part of working memory training effects is due to the rapid development of certain task-specific strategies while training instead of any improvement in working memory capacity as was previously speculated.

The researchers believe that this is the reason why the significant effects of typical working memory training are restricted to the trained task and its associated untrained variants. While there are several commercial working memory training programs on hand, their training effects do not significantly generalize beyond the tasks that are like the trained ones. (Related: Maintaining mental health as you age: When you quit working, workout more – study finds memory declines rapidly after retirement.)

For the study, which was published in the peer-reviewed open access journal Scientific Reports, the researchers observed 116 Finnish adults who were randomized into three groups. The participants in the first group were given a short strategy instruction and they trained a working memory updating task for 30 minutes.

Participants in the second group underwent the same computerized training session without receiving any strategy advice. Meanwhile, the third group only performed the pre- and post-test.

The self-generated strategies were then analyzed through questionnaires that were accomplished at the post-test.

How to boost cognitive function

To boost and protect your cognitive function, try some of the tips below:

  • Exercise — Exercise increases blood flow to the part of the brain responsible for memory called the hippocampus. People who are in good physical shape have better cognitive functioning, and exercise can boost learning abilities.
  • Minimize stress — Individuals who have high stress levels have a higher risk of developing cognitive problems. Try to address the cause of your stress in a natural way, such as through exercise, individual counseling, meditation, relaxing hobbies, and other methods.
  • Solve puzzles — Puzzles can help build new connections in the brain. Aside from crosswords, you can work on acrostics, cryptograms, and other word-oriented brain puzzles. Try several puzzles to keep challenging your brain.
  • Start a new hobby — You can boost cognitive function by trying new hobbies where you are required to learn new skills such as carpentry/woodworking, playing a new instrument, or signing up for a foreign language class. These learning activities create new neural connections that help cancel out cell loss caused by aging or disease.
  • Watch educational TV shows and read “actively” — Watching an informative science show can be “cognitively enriching,” especially if you take the time to understand what you’re watching. The same can be said for reading instructive books or magazines. Once you’re done watching or reading something educational, review the things you’ve learned to improve your retention.

You can learn more about brain function and how to boost your mental health at

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