Toning up your brain

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —February 8, 2009
Filed in Communication

For years the field of neuroscience, much like the field of management, has been held back by a metaphor: the brain is a computer (machine) with each part playing a specific role. If one part of the machine (your brain) is destroyed it’s impossible to fix. The Brain That Changes Itself (by Norman Doige) is the remarkable story of how a handful of pioneering neuroscientists challenged and eventually overturned the machine metaphor and clearly showed how the that brain is changeable throughout your life.

One of the featured scientists is Michael Merzenich. He obviously has an entrepreneurial flair because he’s started a couple of businesses to apply his research findings. A recent business venture is called Posit Science which focusses on helping elderly people improve and maintain their brain function. And by elderly Merzenich points out that by the time we get to our 40s we have established a pattern of doing things to the point that are thinking is automatic. This autopilot ossifies our brain connections and new ones are less likely to form. To keep our brains nimble we need to keep learning. Apparently crosswords don’t do too much for our brains, so forget that as a strategy.

Here are 7 things you can do today to keep your brain in tip top fitness. There are a part of a list of 14 provided on the Posit Science site. Follow the links to find the reasoning for each suggestion.

  1. Visit a museum. Take a guided tour. Listen carefully to what the guide said and when you get home recall what you learned
  2. Memorise a song. Pick a song you don’t know. Listen to it enough times to get all the lyrics down. Then learn the song off by heart. Sing it to some friends.
  3. Learn to play a new instrument. Maybe it’s a good time for me to take up the harmonica.
  4. Do a jigsaw puzzle. At least 500 pieces.
  5. Step it up a notch. Take something you do regularly and increase the level of difficulty. Yachtmen are now getting their yachts towed to speed far greater than winds will take then so they can speed up their reactions to better cope with normal conditions.
  6. Turn down your TV. Turn down the volume to a point you have to concentrate to hear it. When you can keep track turn it down again.
  7. Eat dark chocolate. This one is for your Nancy White (also known as choconancy)

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Nancy White says:

    I will FOR SURE follow the chocolate advice. Yoga is also a great way to tune up your brain because of both the mental and physical aspects brought into one practice. I find it easier to write after my yoga practice. (Even if my muscles are saying “WOW, I’M TIRED!)

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