What Prices the Brain


The brain is probably the least talked about subject or organ.  Maybe it conjures up complexities that most people want to avoid due to lack of knowledge, understanding and interest are probably the contributing reasons.  (After all for many it is not an exciting topic.)  Who could blame them?  It was not until fairly recent, as far as science is concerned, that astounding research findings are available about how the brain works.  Even then, there leaves much to be discovered.

But that is what science is about.  One is never sure if what we learn today is true because another research paper published by another renowned scientist shortly after may disprove it.  Whatever the case may be, what we know now is what we can go by.  When in doubt, choose to believe what gives hope.  So there are exciting times ahead if you follow the developments on neuroscience that will change the way you perceive things around you.  For one thing, you will value your brain more, I hope.

What is strange to me, and may be not so strange, that people will be willing to pay sums amounting to thousand of dollars (I am referring to the Singapore currency) for facials, spas, health & fitness and holidays but when it comes to training the brain, they think it is too expensive and may be something fishy is going on.  Honestly I would be the same had I not been infected by the neuroscience bug.

Lack of awareness is the root to the mistrust.  Most people associate the brain with disorders such as stress, brain damage, Alzheimers, old age, learning disabilities, etc.and therefore psychiatrists and psychologists – all very negative.  It is not common knowledge that a new field has sprung up in the last decade called “Positive Psychology” so coined by Martin Seligman, a psychologist, who is considered by many to be the founding father of this field.  Instead of just focusing on how-to-cure, there may be more value in how-to-prevent.  The premise of this field is to study what makes people happy and of positive stimuli that perhaps is the antidotal prevention and solution to brain degeneration and diseases.

The brain is priceless really.  After all you cannot have a brain transplant (although there are ongoing experiments on this area), can you?  Since you can have only one brain and the only chance of maintaining and improving our quality of life you must so treasured, shouldn’t we try to learn as much as possible about our brains to preserve it better?

Yes, the brain is complexed but there are many free resources in the Internet that are simplified to educate the public.  But what would this serve?  For starters, understanding how the brain works would help us use it better to improve our lives.  For example, do you know that new brain cells continue to grow throughout our lives?  True, brain cells die but they are replaced –  maybe not in the same rate as they are lost.  Still, science has proven that we may have the quality of life we want if we take care of our brain by exercising it consistently just as you would go to the gym for cardio exercises.

Hmm…that is the issue.  How many people really exercise their brain by really thinking?  And by thinking I mean really challenging it and not just making simple decisions like where should I go for holiday next?

The numbers who have chosen to challenge their brains are actually fewer than we believe or hope to see.  So you have courses popping up helping you to think better, brain teasers and games (for which the non-believers would doubt their effectiveness alluding them to pure play or for old folks and maybe children), etc.  Fact is, we should train our brains more to stay healthy and even smarter.  Going for a course is not going to help unless you practise using it continuously.

All of us have lots of potential – more than we give ourselves credit for – but many think they are too old to learn, perhaps out of pure laziness to stretch their brains.   This certainly is a very convenient excuse especially for the uninitiated.  While our brain cells continue to grow, their lifespan is short.  The two-week window is all you have to use it or lose it!

I often hold these great leaders of the world like Mahatama Gandhi, Mao Zedong, Deng XiaoPing and amongst the living are Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir Mohamad, the 14th Dalai Lama for example.  They are still active and continue to learn in spite their age.  Some quipped that these are super intelligent people so how can we compare?  But there again many unnamed ordinary people continue to live into their ripe old age mentally fit and they do not necessary have high IQ either, although they could have intelligence in other areas that you might have too.  Just flip the newspapers and you read many touching stories of those common people who are ultra-achievers.  Continuing to exercise your brain is probably one of  the more effective solutions in preventing dementia.

In reality, we will never know how effective that is until we try using our brains more.  Even if we don’t reach the level of achievements of these icons, we still can have our own yardstick to measure by.  At least we could be better than we are now.  Wouldn’t that be enough of an incentive?

Many stop actively learning when they reach adulthood – a time when they considered having bagged enough knowledge to live by.  So they spend their time mostly in the pursuit of pleasure that does not enhance their brain muscles.  Then they wonder why they lose their memory and they get stressed from not being able to catch up with the young, etc.  So besides being mentally-abled for a longer time to come, it is also a matter of survival – having enough value to keep your job.

The good news is the “disease” is curable if you put your attention to it before it becomes too late, that is, when you are already more than half degenerated brain-wise.  Yes, working your brain takes a lot of effort but it can also be very exhilarating, stimulating and rewarding.  Be willing to invest in yourself to improve your brain and see what happens.  You may be surprised by what you can achieve!

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