Concussion Prevention Via Training Your “Whole” Brain

Written By: David Burns

weigh brainOur brain is ultimately only as strong as it’s weakest link.

If I’m good at X and I’m not so good at Y. What is the probable outcome? In all likelihood, I will choose to do a lot of X and avoid doing Y.

Herein lies the problem, by avoiding Y the “muscles” that are required to perform this task will become progressively weaker. This is true for both body and brain.

“I like leg extensions but boy do I hate doing leg curls and working my hamstrings.” So what do I end up doing, a lot of leg extensions. I push for that one extra set, a little more weight and I give a little extra. On the other hand I hate doing curls so I go through the motions or maybe avoid them all together. What are the results of this asymmetry in my work out program? I end up with great looking, functional quads and relatively tiny little hamstrings.

All too often we stick with what we love and avoid what we hate. Let’s imagine that I feel good about my quads. Others point out how great they look; further validating my opinion of my quads. My reward pathways are firing; my emotional centers are pinging. So what do I tend to want to do? I want to hit the gym again and work out those “awesome quads”.

The opposite is true for my hamstrings. I don’t get any positive comments about my hamstring, consequently no reward and very little drive to change that reality. Worse still I start to think and say “I’ve just never had good hamstrings, it’s just me, and it’s the way I am”. Here is the real problem. From a functional standpoint your quads depend on your hamstrings to perform in the real world.

It is easy to imagine a scenario of an individual with an asymmetric development in body muscle. We have all seen those guys with huge upper bodies and tiny little legs. If you’ve worked with a personal trainer they likely did NOT just say “What muscles do you like to work on?” “Great let’s do that!” Rather they probably did some sort of analyses of your strengths and weaknesses. They probably looked at your muscle mass and set up a program to work on your weaker areas.

Just like physical exercises for our body we tend to migrate to the “brain” things we like to do because we are good at them. We avoid the things that make us uncomfortable or that we are not good at. Worse still we comfort ourselves with the notion that “that’s just me”, “I’m a great writer and I’m just not very good at math, I never have been”. The problem is the same as it is for our bodies. That is, an asymmetry in brain development.

Just like our bodies, our brain “muscles” don’t function in isolation they depend on adjacent and remote brain “muscles”. Worse still because our nervous system is one big network, the weaker areas will begin to affect the areas that they are connected to. That’s right; one brain “muscle’s” health is dependent on all the “muscles” it is connected to. Weaker areas will eventually drag down our “strong” brain muscles.

We need to treat our brains like a bodybuilder treats their body when preparing for competition. A bodybuidler analyses each muscle and compares it to the adjacent muscle and to the same muscle on the opposite side. She looks to perfect the development of each and every muscle.

Now, just like a personal trainer, a “Brain Coach” should evaluate your brain from a functional, comprehensive standpoint. Ideally, a brain coach first provides an evaluates of all the various “brain” muscles and quantifies their level of function. This information can than be used to create an exercise program that challenges the weakest brain areas. Taking this approach would facilitate the strength, health and function of your brain.

A comprehensive evaluation that can measure various areas of the brain and track progression is the idea behind Brain Centers NW’s “Comprehensive Brain Evaluation”. By evaluating the whole brain and looking at all the “muscles” you have a better chance of developing the healthiest, strongest most functional brain that will serve you in many arenas. So just like training your body your brain can be evaluated and brain “muscle” exercises can be appropriatly prescribed.

To help promote and challenge all aspects of brain and body Brain Centers NW’s Kids Club and Body Brain Boot Camp have been developed.

Do yourself a favor this week and do the things you hate to do. And discover what brain muscles you need to work on to give you the best chance of success for sports, academics and for life.

Brain Tip:

Did you know that if you practice visualizing yourself floating outside of your body, you can exercise an aspect of your right brain?

Is this your weak muscle?

Visualizing Out-of-Body Experience in the Brain: Dirk De Ridder, M.D., Ph.D., Koen Van Laere, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., Patrick Dupont, Ph.D., Tomas Menovsky, M.D., Ph.D., and Paul Van de Heyning, M.D., Ph.D. N Engl J Med 2007; 357:1829-1833November 1, 2007

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