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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine May 1997

Are You Mentally Fit? How Brain Exercises And Nutrients Can Keep Your Mind Sharp And Incisive

By Saul Kent
President, Life Extension Foundation

A Built-In Computerized 'BrainTrainer'

THINKfast contains more than brain exercises to help improve your mental abilities. It also has a built-in computerized mental trainer called Mentor, which monitors every one of your six-game THINKfast sessions to compile a record of your results. Mentor uses these results to guide you in using the brain exercises to train your brain in optimal fashion.

After you've taken the six-game series of brain exercises four times, THINKfast establishes a database of your average scores. Thereafter, each time you play the games, the Mentor function will provide you with an evaluation of your current mental condition. It will even speak to you; Mentor's favorite word when your scores are really off is "break." You may be advised to do some stretching exercises, meditate, or take a "power-nap." Mentor's comments on your performance shouldn't be taken literally, but should be used to help you perform better, or as a stimulus to activate your feelings and/or judgement about your performance.

Accessing Your Performance History

Whenever you want to see how your current mental performance compares with your past performance, you can access data on past performances by clicking on History in the main menu or on the data screen above the record of your current performance. History displays your performance patterns over days, weeks or months. It also tracks your responses on the Mood Scale option presented before you start playing.

THINKfast enables you to review the history of your performances according to speed, errors efficiency and total performance. You can look at the history of any one game or all six games. The program also allows you to zoom to any portion of any graph in the history section. Accessing your performance history will enable you to evaluate the effects of mood, diet, supplements, physical workouts or any other factor on your ability to perform.

The history section also enables you to compare your performances with the scores of others. Up to 20 users can play the THINKfast brain exercise games and record their personal histories on the same computer.

Evaluating The Acute Effects Of Brain Nutrients

One way you can use THINKfast is to evaluate the acute effects of brain nutrients on cognitive function. Studies have demonstrated that brain nutrients can improve mental function as measured by standard cognitive tests; now, you can determine if your performance on the THINKfast games can be improved after taking supplemental brain nutrients.

The degree of improvement may be difficult to determine because the games themselves are designed to improve cognitive ability. If you improve significantly after taking brain-boosting supplements, it may be hard to separate the effects of the nutrients from the effects of exercising your brain regularly.

One meaningful exercise is to see if you can detect significant cognitive benefits shortly after taking a high dose of one or more "smart" nutrients or drugs. An example of this would be to take a high dose of several grams of choline upon rising in the morning, and then play the THINKfast games an hour or two afterward. If your scores are significantly higher than your previous scores, it's likely the choline contributed to the higher scores.

Another experiment would be to test yourself on THINKfast after taking several grams of a multinutrient brain formula such as Cognitex with Pregnenolone, which contains choline, an acetylcholine (Ach) precursor (Ach is a brain neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory); pantothenic acid, which helps to convert choline to acetylcholine; phosphatidylcholine, which boosts Ach levels and stabilizes cell membranes; phosphatidylserine, which stabilizes cell membranes and strengthens neurons; and the "memory-enhancing hormone" pregnenolone alone, which synchronizes cognitive function.

The purpose of discovering whether an acute dose of a brain nutrient or nutrient formula, or perhaps several high doses, can boost your THINKfast scores significantly is to determine the optimal dose of the right brain nutrients and drugs to take prior to an important test if you are in school, or an important meeting at work. If your brain is performing faster and more efficiently while taking a test or at a business meeting, it's likely that your performance will be better.

Evaluating The Chronic Effects Of Brain Nutrients

High doses of brain-boosting nutrients should only be taken before an important test, business meeting or other special event. For long-term use, considerably lower doses of brain-boosting nutrients and drugs should be used. The purpose of taking chronic doses of brain-boosters is to help prevent or reverse the progressive decline in mental function that occurs as we grow older and our brains deteriorate. THINKfast can help to evaluate both the acute and chronic benefits of brain nutrients because it provides you with instant access to your performance history.

There have been no studies in recent years to assess the effects on aging of brain-boosting nutrients, but an important study was performed by Dr. Raymond Bartus, as reported in the first issue of The Foundation's Anti-Aging News in 1980. Dr. Bartus found that long-term (4½ months) dietary enrichment with choline-ranging from 2.7 to 15 times the amount of choline in the normal diet-greatly improved the ability of C57Bl/6 mice to repeat learned behavior. When tested five days after learning, 13-month-old, choline-enriched mice performed 58 percent better than mice of the same age on a normal diet. They also performed slightly better than young, vigorous 3-month-old mice, and more than three times better than choline-deficient 13-month-old mice. (Science, 209 [4453] 301-3, July 11, 1980).

The hottest new brain-boosting nutrient is gingko biloba, an herb that scientists are finding has potent cognitive-enhancing effects.

In order to evaluate the effects of brain nutrients on the cognitive decline of aging, it would be necessary to play the THINKfast games regularly for at least several years and, if possible, to compare your results with THINKfast users of your age who have not been taking supplements. If you are 60 years of age, for example, you can expect a gradual decline in cognitive function as you grow older. If your THINKfast scores show no decline with advancing age or, even better, if you show improvement in your scores, it will suggest that your brain-boosting regimen may be slowing, or reversing, neurologic aging.

Optimal Cognitive Function: A New Approach

THINKfast makes it possible to combine simple, easy-to-engage-in brain exercises with a brain-food enriched diet, brain-boosting supplements, physical exercise and stress reduction aimed at the achievement of optimal cognitive function. It provides another piece of the puzzle in our quest for a longer, healthier lifespan in which our minds remain sharp and incisive regardless of our age.