Weekly Brain Challenge: One of These Things is not Like the Others

23 Dec

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! How about a quick puzzle in the spirit of the season? Find a change in one of the nine photos in each set of pictures.
OTTLNOMon5 OTTLNOMon1 OTTLNOMon2 OTTLNOMon3 Snowman on the Lawn

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Weekly Brain Challenge: One of These Things is Not like the Others

25 Nov

Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with a lot of wonderful food, family, and fun! Here are some fun puzzles in celebration of the upcoming holiday. Thanksgiving StuffingDelicious Whoopie PiesFamily DinnerScrumptious SaladMaking Fried Chicken
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Veterans Day

11 Nov

Today is Veterans Day, an important day to honor all those who have fought for our country. Instead of solving a puzzle, we suggest  that you reflect on the men and women who have bravely faced war to uphold the morals and liberties we believe in. Have a nice day!

“Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Veteran CemeteryGroup of Marines

Chicken Soup, Sense of Smell, and Memory: Day 5 NaBloPoMo

5 Nov

I both absolutely love and hate waking up to the smell of chicken soup wafting from the kitchen into my room.   The comforting aroma brings a rush of nonstop memories and wildly varying bitter-sweet emotions.

Thanksgiving San Diego TurkeyDid you ever notice that memories tied to smell are strong, deeply emotional, and enduring?   Think of a strong aroma.   What image did it bring up for you?  Chances are you remembered the first significant time you experienced that smell.

The sense of smell is one of the most powerful “memory” senses.  The brain forges a strong link between scent and specific, usually vivid, memories.

Here is the science behind what is happening:

  • The olfactory nerve is “geographically” very close to both the amygdala, the area that processes emotions and emotional memories, and the hippocampus, which plays a huge role in the memory process.
  • Because the olfactory nerve is close to these brain regions, some researchers believe there is a direct link between smells and memory.   Other sensory information has to go somewhere else before it arrives at the hippocampus for memory processing.   Shorter route, stronger bond, more immediate connection.
  • Some say that “olfaction” is the first sense to fully mature in humans.  It is absolutely over ridden later by other senses but those early memories often will have an aroma associated with them.

There are some incredible brain boosting, memory exercises in Keep Your Brain Alive:  83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness.  The authors actually suggest that it is possible to activate your memory by pairing an odor with a specific task.   There is one particular cool exercise that uses the sense of smell to establish and solidify strong memories.

mintYou can use an herb plant like sage, cilantro, or mint.  Pick a leaf off the plant, rub I between your fingers, and take a big whiff.  Immediately study something you want to remember (a phone number, an address, a date, etc.).   Pairing the odor with the “fact” will allow you to have another sense to tap when you want to recall.   Later in the day pick a leaf, rub it between your fingers, take a big whiff and see if it triggers remembering.

I put drops of essential oils on sponge pieces and sealed them in jars and tried this exercise.  I had some success but finding novel smells, things not previously associated with a fully fleshed out memory, is tough and makes this task even more challenging.

I’ve been told that my chicken soup has magical properties so… I make it every time it is “needed”.   Recently, when I wake up to that wonderful, magical smell, it means that someone in my life really needs it.   Maybe next time I will make chicken soup just because so I can sweeten that bitter-sweet feeling the bouquet of that awesome brew brings.

If you want a deeper look into the process of the sense of smell, the American Psychological Association published a great piece:   Scents and Sensibility.

 

Weekly Brain Challenge: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

4 Nov

Here is a new game you can try! Find all the things wrong with this image. There are five idiosyncrasies!
People at the Zoo
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30 Days of Everyday Brain Health: Day 1

1 Nov

One a Day for the Month of November

In October, I spoke a lot about a new study that pretty clearly says it is not just enough to be active if we want to take advantage of our brains’ natural power to heal and grow — we all need to challenge ourselves with tasks that make us reach outside our comfort zones. NaBloPoMo November 2013

So here is my stretch. In response to a challenge thrown out by one of my favorite bloggers, Lois Alter Mark from Midlife at the Oasis, I am joining a group of pretty cool bloggers who are posting every day in the month of November.

Tasks like this are tough for “niche” writers who try to stay on mission — Cranium Crunches is all about brain health and supporting those caring for people with brain challenges — but it makes sense for me accept this challenge this month.  November is National Family Caregiver  Month. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.   November is the month I am going to finally knock something new off my Dream Inventory — something that will move me way outside my comfort zone and make me learn so many new things while giving back (more on that later)! On top of those really on-mission topics, there are so many things that each of us can do every day to build a better brain.  And, besides, everyone is just a bit more focused on giving, being grateful, and being present in November.    So…. here we go…

Learning a new task keeps your brain’s circuitry active. All of those things associated with learning activate parts of your brain that doing familiar tasks just doesn’t. Maintaining and enhancing your brain health is really about keeping your brain nourished with good chemical and electrical activity — all in the right balance and in the healthy doses. The process of learning sets those nourishing chemical and electrical activities in motion and allows you maintain.

Putting things in logical categories

Putting things in logical categories

You can kick that up a notch and move from just maintaining the right balance to building by opening new neural pathways. Learning a new multi-layered task fires up chemicals and electricity in those new pathways and allows you to nourish your brain in a more profound way. Learn to knit or sew using detailed patterns. Learn to play a musical instrument by reading music. Pick up a camera and try to master both the camera and taking photographs. Start to learn a language. Master a new gadget like a phone or a tablet and use it until your are proficient. Research an area of the world, find a recipe, locate the unique ingredients and cook for your friends.

**In general, challenges are better when you tackle them with others.   We feel a deeper sense of commitment and accountability. Make a commitment to learn something new this month that really challenges you — something that makes you engage in life more fully and activate multiple brain processes.

What challenge do you choose for November?

 

World Series Themed Word Game

30 Oct

It’s World Series time, so today’s word challenge is a combination of a few games with a baseball twist.  This game will force you to use multiple brain processes to succeed.   As in baseball, there will be some easy ones that will feel like big fat pitches right across the middle of the plate; some curve balls that might make you feel silly swinging for the fence but missing by a mile; and some straight out heat that will blow by you at the speed of light!  In all cases, you will sharpen your recall, practice your verbal memory skills, and hopefully exercise your smile muscles in the process.

The game is Category Builders.   We give you a category and you must supply a word that fits in the category.   Here is the twist.   You must supply words that starts with the letters in OBSTRUCTION, in honor of the controversial call from a few nights ago in the bottom of the 9th that allowed the winning run to cross the plate.

For example, if your category was Cities with Sports Teams you might answer Omaha, Boston,  San Diego, Tucson, Urbanna, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Orlando, and New Orleans.    Ready?

Your first category is Sports Equipment.  Go…

Catcher contemplationO

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You second category is Team Names/Mascots.  Go!

OP1030088

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Final categories is Names of Famous Athletes (first or last name works).  Go!

Otodd bobblehead

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The goal is to stretch your thinking so be creative!   It is never enough to do just one type of exercise or play one type of game.   Stretch, challenge, and better yourself by varying activities and making sure that you are doing things that make you think and work harder!

Live well and play often!

 

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