Intellectual detail
Insight

Intellectually Engaged

Intellectual engagement is keeping your brain sharp by learning throughout your life. Sharing what you have learned will not only consolidate this in your own mind but help others to grow and reach their potential. Spending time in self-reflection and critical thinking also sharpens the brain.


DID YOU KNOW?

The majority of the neurons in the brain are formed in the womb. However, the brain is able to generate new neurons throughout life in the hippocampus – the memory centre – and the forebrain that receives stimulus from odours (Phillips 2017) - a marker of brain decline (Tebrugge et al 2108).


THE FACTS!

1

Being intellectually engaged, through academic, cultural, community, artistic and skill-based activities and learning, throughout life will enhance your well-being and give you a satisfying and purposeful life (UIS 2014, PU 2019).

2

Older adults who intentionally engage in aerobic exercise, have a healthy diet and practice caloric restriction/intermittent fasting (Phillips 2017, Bettio et al. 2017) may prevent cognitive decline, by stimulating new neurons and reducing inflammation, oxidative damage, and amyloid build-up (Phillips 2017, Bettio et al. 2017)

3

Engaging in stimulating intellectual activities strengthens the neural networks within the brain. Brains exhibiting loss of neurons are more likely to progress to Alzheimers disease from mild cognitive impairment (Strout & Howard 2015, Lin et al. 2018).

4

Recent research would suggest that acquiring intellectual gain over the lifetime can reduce the cognitive decline that comes with ageing (Staff et al. 2019).

Engaging in complex activities over the lifetime, such as, problem solving, reading complex novels and practising a musical instrument provides a higher starting point to protect from falling below the threshold for cognitive impairment.


WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

Engage in complex brain activities to improve your intellectual wellness (ISU 2014):

Reading for fun can stretch your mind in directions other than reading for work.

Debating an issue with a friend, and choosing the viewpoint opposite the one you hold will expand your reasoning and critical thinking.

Explore things you have never done before.

Be creative.

Learn a foreign language.

Playing a game of any kind and/or musical instrument extends your brains processing ability.

Write down your thoughts or journal frequently to express and consolidate your feelings.

Do crossword or other puzzles to keep your brain stimulated.

Attend conferences, talks and programs to expand your knowledge (PU 2019).

Learn practical skills that you or a friend may need.

Be physically active and eat a whole-foods plant based diet (Phillips 2017).

Practice a form of intermittent fasting that suits you e.g. 12-16 hour overnight fast every day or a 5-2 day fast,every week for enhanced brain function and longevity (Mattson et al. 2018)

Seek opportunities to learn something new today and then share what you have learned.


References:

Clemenson GD, Stark CEL. Virtual Environmental Enrichment through Video Games Improves Hippocampal-Associated Memory. Journal of Neuroscience. 2015; 35 (49): 16116-25; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2580-15.2015

ISU. 2017. Inciting your intellectual wellness. Illinois State University. Accessed 2/04/2019. https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2017/01/inciting-intellectual-wellness/

Lin W, Tong T, Gao Q, Guo D, Du X, Yang Y, Guo G, Xiao M, Du M, Qu X and The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Convolutional Neural Networks-Based MRI Image Analysis for the Alzheimer’s Disease Prediction From Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Mattson MP, Moehi K, Ghena N, Schmaedick M, Cheng A. Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. 2018; 19(2): 63-80. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2017.156

Phillips C. Lifestyle Modulators of Neuroplasticity: How Physical Activity, Mental Engagement, and Diet Promote CognitiveHealth during Aging. Neural plascticity. 2017; Article ID 3589271. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/358927

PU 2019. Intellectual Wellness. Accessed 2/04/2019. Prineton University. https://umatter.princeton.edu/action-matters/caring-yourself/wellness-wheel-assessment/intellectual-wellness

Spalding KL, Bergmann O, Alkass K, Bernard S, Salehpour M, Huttner HB, Bostrom E, Westerlund I, Vial C, Bucholz BA, Possnert G, Mash DC, Druid H, Frisen J. Dynamics of hippocampal neurogenesis in adult humans. Cell. 2013; 153(6): 1219-27. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.002

Staff RT, Hogan MJ, Williams DS, Whalley LJ. Intellectual engagement and cognitive ability in later life (the “use it or lose it” conjecture): longitudinal, prospective study. British Medical Journal 2018; 363. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4925

Strout KA, Howard EP. Five dimensions of wellness and predictors of cognitive health protection in community-dwelling older adults: A historical COLLAGE cohort study. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 2015; 33: 6–18. doi:10.1177/0898010114540322

Tebrugge S, Winkler A, Gerards D, Weimar C, Moebus S, Jockel KH, Erbel R, Jokisch M, Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study Investigative Group. Olfactory Function is Associated with Cognitive Performance: Results of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.. 2018; 63(1): 319-29. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-170863

Underwood E. Study undercuts claims of new neurons in adult brains. Science. 2018; 359(6380): 1083. DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6380.1083

Makin S. The amyloid hypothesis on trial. Nature. 2018; 559, S4-S7. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-05719-4