I’ve had an interesting couple of months recently. In my time consulting for an International High Performance firm in the US, it has dawned on me just how many Australian employees (feel free to replace employees with students, housewives, any type of humans for that matter) are happy to neglect the health and performance levels of their most vital computer…and I’m not talking about your sleek new MacBook!
With 24/7 news and social media waging a constant war on our attention and brain capacity, combined with our jobs trending towards higher demands, less resources, and uncertainty throughout the majority of markets, being able to increase your brain agility and overall cognitive performance is the new critical skill.
High Performing Brains and Bradley Cooper
A little while ago I came across the work of Dr. John Ratey through his book ‘SPARK’. Ratey, a Harvard Professor and international expert in Neuropsychiatry, explains that neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) is not only possible, but is a regular occurrence. What grabbed my attention the most is that one of the best possible ways of kick-starting nearogenesis (and improved synaptic connectivity) was via, you guessed it….EXERCISE!
Ratey explains that a massive body of research has shown that exercise elevates a protein named Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and that it “nourishes neurons (brain cells) like fertilizer.” When researchers sprinkled BDNF onto neurons in the lab petri dish, the cells spontaneously sprout new branches, producing the same structural growth required for learning, causing Ratey to rightly refer to BDNF as Miracle-Gro (Australian’s think Seasol) for the brain.
Originally this work led to breakthroughs in the research areas of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, however from a Performance Coaching point of view, the potential impact on learning is intriguing for top executives and high performers from any field.
This is yet again, another compelling reason to move more throughout your workday and break up long periods of sitting. Brain imagery technology shows that we when move we engage both sides of our brain, our analytical and creative sides, and therefore can revisit problems with renewed creativity that may have been previously stuck in the brain-fog.
With the risk of using a fictional movie to help my case here, it is interesting that Cooper’s character when taking the new and untested brain drug, has an increased desire for exercise, learning exotic languages and trying new and exciting things…all skills that by themselves, even without the drug, would result in neurogenesis.
The drug for a high performing brain is out there, it just doesn’t look like what you want it to.