Our eyes, ears, and other sensory organs are constantly sending information to the brain. Our brains use this information to construct our experiences and memories. The better we absorb this information, the better we can respond to it. That’s what mental sharpness is all about— having strong brain function that supports a variety of cognitive skills.

As the brain grows older, it gradually loses speed, accuracy and recording strength for processing the information received from our senses. These changes that begin when we are in our 20s, accelerate after age 50 and the result is a progressive loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. Here is how it happens:

1. Speed: Slower processing
Our brains gradually slow down, but the speed of information coming in from the senses does not. Over time, the brain begins to miss details, making it more difficult to react to or remember what we experienced.

2. Accuracy: “Fuzzier” processing
Like the grooves of an old record, the brain’s neural pathways often get scratchier or even distorted. When the brain records static along with the important sensory information, memories become fuzzier and more difficult to process in higher cognitive functions.

3. Recording: Fewer neuromodulators
The brain uses chemicals called neuromodulators to determine what information is important to record and process. With each passing decade, our brains produce fewer neuromodulators. A deficit of neuromodulators hinders the brain’s ability to record new information—in other words, its ability to learn and remember
At first, people don’t notice problems in the moment because they unknowingly compensate and use context clues to fill in what they miss. As the years pass, the gaps can become too big for context fill in. When this occurs, it can be hard to catch and respond to the information even at the moment.

Visual information processing is of no exception. Vision is one of the most important senses in telling our brains about what is going on in the world around us. Let’s take an essential ability in cognitive function known as “useful field of view” (the area from which you can take in information with a single glance). Useful field of view tends to decrease with age, meaning that we take in less of the visual field in front of us. Adding to it the slower speed of processing that information, it means that if a bicycle, truck, or skateboarder comes at us from the side, we might not spot it in time to slam on the brakes.

The same cognitive system that declines has been shown to be plastic and can be improved through specifically designed cognitive exercises. For example seventeen peer-reviewed published studies have shown that BrainHQ exercises are great tools for assessing and improving useful field of view and driving safety.

Among other things, these studies have shown that after training, drivers on average:

● Increase visual processing speed by 300%
● Double the size of “useful field of view,” so drivers see more of the road with each glance
● Decrease reaction time, so drivers can stop 22 feet sooner at 90 km/h
● Decrease unsafe driving maneuvers by 38%
● Cut at-fault crash risk by 50%
● Improve driving at night and in difficult conditions

The exercises do this by speeding up visual processing, expanding useful field of view, and training users to keep track of multiple moving objects at once. And this can make the difference between a near miss and a bad crash!

Do you know what your crash risk is? Find out and try a free exercise too.



DynamicBrain is the Canadian partner of Posit Science Corporation providing brain fitness program, BrainHQ, in English and French.
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