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A Workout For Your Brain

We all know that exercise does the body good, but few may realize the health benefits associated with exercising our brains.

Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin maintain in their new book, Keep Your Brain Alive, that certain "neurobic" exercises may actually help prevent memory loss and increase mental fitness. Katz explains the rationale on CBS This Morning.

Although there is no firm scientific proof yet, many scientists think exercises can help the brain stay young. Using all your senses may a factor in keeping the brain strong.
Keep Your Brain Alive
"The five senses provide a vast amount of information and understanding about the world," says Katz.

"Using them more fully taps into the full power of your brain and enhances its nerve connections," he adds.

Contrary to what many think, brain cells do not die off as people age. Instead the branches of brain cells, known as dendrites, thin out, thereby becoming less effective, Katz explains.

Basically, brain cells learn by making new connections with one another - through growing dendrites. But as the brain ages, these dendrites may thin out, he says.

Katz suggests, though, that mental exercises - or neurobics - can actually encourage the growth of new dendrites.

"You want to do routine activities in a nonroutine way," says Katz. For example, you can keep your brain flexible by incorporating changes in your daily life such as brushing your teeth with your left hand if you are right-handed, he says.

"When you're a right-handed person, you use the left side of your brain to control your right hand. When you simply change which hand you're using, you're bringing online underused brain pathways and exercising them," he explains.

And there are exercises to do at the office as well. By simply changing around the things at your desk, you can provide flexibility to new or old brain pathways, Katz says.

"If you rearrange things, it may be an aggravation, but that's remapping in your brain what kinds of things you're going to use during the day and it's amazing to realize how routine your everyday activities are," he says.

Katz works at the Neurobiology Lab and Department at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and serves as an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md.

For more information, visit the Keep Your Brain Alive Web site.

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