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Mind in Motion: The Science Behind Cognitive Health

Researchers have made remarkable strides in understanding the intricate workings of the brain, and this knowledge can empower us to take proactive steps in preserving and enhancing our brain health. Learn from experts in the fields of neurology, psychology, and neuroplasticity as they explain the most important things we can do to care for our brains. Not only do these tips help in the short-term—decreased stress and anxiety, improved mood and sleep quality—but they compound over a lifetime, strengthening our defenses against cognitive decline and dementia.

  • September 14th 2023

The Power of Exercise

What's the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today? Get moving! Physical activity has immediate and long-lasting benefits for your brain that will last a lifetime.

"Every single time you move your body—including walking—you are giving your brain a bubble bath of neurochemicals," says NYU Dean of the College of Arts and Science and neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. When you exercise regularly, you stimulate growth of brand-new cells in the hippocampus, a brain area with a major role in learning and memory. Over the long haul, exercise strengthens the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, staving off age-related cognitive decline.

Exercise won't reverse aging or cure dementia, but by improving the function of those critical brain areas, you're essentially giving yourself armor for your brain. In fact, new research shows that a daily walk at a brisk pace may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by nearly half.

Watch Dr. Suzuki explain the brain-transforming benefits of exercise:

Food For Thought

Nutrition is the most important internal environment that we create, says Ayesha Sherzai, co-director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Program at Loma Linda University. Every meal that you eat either creates an environment for your brain to thrive, or one where you're always in damage control mode.

Similar to exercise, nutrition gives you both immediate and long-term cognitive benefits. One dietary pattern in particular has been associated with better brain health and reduced risk of Alzheimer's. Watch Dr. Sherzai explain the components of the MIND diet:

Get Some Rest

During sleep, the brain consolidates memories, processes and organizes information, and cleanses itself of toxins through the glymphatic system. "Those seven or eight hours of sleep are probably the most important time for our brain, more than going to school and more than interacting with everybody else," emphasizes Ayesha Sherzai.

With skyrocketing screentime and endless entertainment, bad sleep habits are easy to come by, and sleep is often the first thing to be sacrificed when we're busy or stressed. But restorative sleep is as foundational to our health as food and water.

Watch Dr. Sherzai explain the components of sleep hygiene, what happens to our brain when we're asleep, and why being able to function on a couple hours of sleep isn't something to brag about:

Up For a Challenge?

Hobbies aren't just extraneous additions to our lives, but are actually critical for the growth and plasticity of our brains. "Complexity, purpose, and challenge. Those are key ingredients to engaging different parts of your brain," says Dean Sherzai, co-director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Program with Ayesha Sherzai.

It's a no-brainer: Dr. Sherzai's research revealed that when people live around the things and people that make them happy, doing activities they find meaningful and challenging, their brains are healthier.

Watch Dr. Sherzai explain how learning a skill like playing guitar lights up regions across the brain:

Watch the Full Sessions

wendy suzuki
The Astonishing Effects of Exercise on the Brain

  • Wendy Suzuki
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Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential: Science, Lifestyle, and Longevity

  • Ayesha Sherzai
  • Dean Sherzai

by Maya Kobe-Rundio, Associate Digital Editor, Aspen Ideas

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