10 Common Brain Health and Brain Training Myths, Debunked

Given all the interest in -- and confusion around -- the topics of brain training, neuroplasticity and brain health, let's debunk ten myths that remain surprisingly popular.
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This young boy has thought of the next big idea.
This young boy has thought of the next big idea.

Given all the interest in--and confusion around---the topics of brain training, neuroplasticity and brain health, let's debunk ten myths that remain surprisingly popular.

MYTH 1. Genes determine the fate of our brains.

Fact: Lifelong brain plasticity means that our lifestyles and behaviors play a significant role in how our brains (and therefore our minds) evolve physically and functionally as we get older.

MYTH 2. Medication is the main hope for brain health and enhancement.

Fact: Non-invasive interventions such as aerobic exercise and meditation can have comparable and more durable benefits, and free of side effects.

MYTH 3. There's nothing we can do to beat Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline.

Fact: While nothing has been proven to prevent the pathology of Alzheimer's disease, there is abundant research showing we can reduce the risks and delay the onset of symptoms for years.

MYTH 4. There is only one "it" in "Use it or Lose it".

Fact: The brain presents many neural circuits supporting a variety of important cognitive, emotional, and executive functions. Not just one. (Which is one of the reasons we should stop thinking about magic pills and silver bullets)

MYTH 5. We are what we eat (often interpreted as "I need to take brain supplements").

Fact: We are what we do, think, and feel, much more than what we eat. Those brain supplements? Unless taken as directed by a doctor to address a known deficiency, they don't seem to work.

MYTH 6. Intervention XYZ can help reverse your brain age 10, 20, or 30 years.

Fact: The concept of "brain age" is a fiction. Some brain functions tend to improve, and some to decline, as we get older. Nothing can be said to "reverse brain age" in a general sense.

MYTH 7. There is a scientific consensus that brain training doesn't work.

Fact: A group of scientists did issue such a statement, which was promptly contradicted by a larger group of scientists. Consensus...that is certainly not. Brain training, when it meets certain conditions, has been shown to transfer into real-world outcomes.

MYTH 8. Brain training is primarily about videogames.

Fact: Evidence-based brain training includes some forms of meditation, cognitive therapy, cognitive training, and bio/neurofeedback. Interactive media such as videogames can make those interventions more engaging and scalable, but it is important to distinguish the means from the end, as obviously not all videogames are the same.

MYTH 9. Heart health equals brain health.

Fact: While heart health contributes significantly to brain health, and vice versa, the heart and the brain are separate organs, with their respective functions and relevant interventions. What we need is to pay much more systematic attention to brain health, so it can advance as much as cardiovascular health already has.

MYTH 10. As long as my brain is working fine, why should I even pay attention to it?

Fact: For the same reasons you add gas to your car, and change the oil regularly-- so that it works well, and for a long period of time.

--> If you are interested in learning more, please take a look at this virtual lecture on Thursday April 21st with UCLA's Dr. Bob Bilder, Emotiv's Tan Le, and myself. (HuffPo readers can get 20%-off using discount code: SB20)

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