In order to help you lead a brain-healthy summer, let's debunk these nine myths about the brain and brain health that remain surprisingly popular.
MYTH 1. Genes are the most important factor that determine the fate of our brains and minds.
-- Fact: Lifelong brain plasticity means that our lifestyles and behaviors play a significant role in how our brains (and therefore our minds) evolve as we get older.
MYTH 2. We are what we eat.
-- Fact: Yes, nutrition plays a role, especially following the Mediterranean Diet, but we are what we do, think, and feel, more than what we eat.
MYTH 3. Medication is the main hope to improve brain health and brain fitness.
-- Fact: Lifestyle interventions such as aerobic exercise and meditation can have comparable and more durable benefits, and free of side effects.
MYTH 4. There's nothing we can do to beat Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline.
-- Fact: While nothing has been proven to prevent the pathology of Alzheimer's disease, there is abundant research showing we can delay the onset of symptoms for years.
MYTH 5. There is only one "it" in "Use it or Lose it".
-- Fact: The brain presents many neural circuits supporting a variety of importantcognitive, emotional, and executive functions. Not just one. (Which is one of the reasons we should stop thinking about magic pills and silver bullets)
MYTH 6. There is a scientific consensus that brain training doesn't work.
-- Fact: A group of scientists did issue such a statement, which was promptlycontradicted by a larger group of scientists. Consensus...that is certainly not. Brain training, when it meets certain conditions, has been shown to transfer into real-world outcomes.
MYTH 7. Brain training is primarily about videogames.
-- Fact: Evidence-based brain training includes some forms of meditation, cognitive therapy, cognitive training, and bio/neurofeedback. Interactive media such as videogames can make those interventions more engaging and scalable, but it is important to distinguish the means from the end, as obviously not all videogames are the same.
MYTH 8. Heart health equals brain health.
-- Fact: While heart health contributes significantly to brain health, and vice versa, the heart and the brain are separate organs, with their respective functions and properties. We need to pay much more systematic attention to brain health on its own.
MYTH 9. As long as my brain is working fine, why should I even pay attention to it?
-- Fact: For the same reasons you add gas to your car, and change the oil regularly- so that it works well, and for a long period of time.
I hope this brief article gives you some good ideas to try this summer! Yes, our body is very important...but let's not forget that unique asset we all have, a beautiful and unique human brain.
Alvaro Fernandez is the co-author of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. SharpBrains.com is a popular blog tracking the latest brain fitness and brain health tips, and offering fun brain teasers for adults to test and improve concentration and memory.