Exercise Your Brain, or Else You’ll … Uh

Article: Hafner, K. (2008). “Exercise Your Brain, or Else You’ll…Uh..” The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May, 2008.


This article refers to our brain plasticity and interferences that can occur in our long term and working memories.

Plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neural pathways based on new experiences, in other words, the ability of the brain to change with learning (Hoiland, 2008).

According to the article, our brains contain more plasticity than originally thought. The argument is that if we do not exercise our brains, the lack of their use can lead to interferences in long term or working memories. For example: forgetting a good friends name or even our address.

– According to Werby the working memory can be defined as, the thinking space [of the brain]- writing requires the author to keep in mind and monitor words spelling, rules of composition etc. The long term memory is defined as, the vast storage of information that we accumulate throughout our lives, and it includes data, procedures, algorithms, and anything else we can think of. This is the type of memory we usually speak of when we refer to our memory (Werby, 2008)

This new insight has been noticed by the consumer products industry which now provides anxious baby boomers with all sorts of applications in all shapes and sizes for brain gymnastics. Capitalising on the fears of consumers, computer games such as Nintendo, health supplements and specialised website subscriptions have all jumped on the bandwagon which has resulted in the United States so-called neurosoftware which has been valued at approximately $225 million. In comparison the physical fitness industry brings in $16 billion a year in health club memberships alone. But it is argued that the fitness software industry is still in its infancy and is expected to grow to $2 billion by 2015.

The reasons for the baby boomer s worry according to the article are the increases in Alzheimer s disease. By 2050 according to the Alzheimer s Association, 11 million to 16 million Americans will have the disease. While there has been no link to temporary forgetfulness and Alzheimer s one respondent comments: When you misplace your keys when you re 25, you don t pay much attention to it, but when you do the identical thing at 50 or older, you raise an eyebrow.

Dr. Gene Cohen, the director of the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University says that some people can overreact by attributing absent-minded actions to failing brains, when it is actually simple distractibility which is to blame.

Most interestingly, according to Dr. Cohen, the plasticity of the brain is directly related to the production of new dendrites, the branched, tree-like neural projections that carry electrical signals to through the brain Every time you challenge your brain it will actually modify the brain. We can indeed form new brain cells, despite a century of being told it s impossible (Hafner, 2008).

Additional Bibliography:

Holland, E. (2008). “Brain Plasticity: What is It?” Neuroscience for Kids. Retrieved 3 May 2008.


Werby, O. (2008). Interface.com: Cognitive Tools for Product Designers. San Francisco: Pipsqueak Productions.

  1 comment for “Exercise Your Brain, or Else You’ll … Uh

  1. April 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    User Group: Older population seeking to ward off affects of aging through brain exercising. Anxiety due to memory under performance.

    What are the implications for product development?

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