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APR 2000

83 Neurobic Exercises
to Help Prevent Memory Loss and
Increase Mental Fitness

Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D.
& Manning Rubin

Illustrations by David Suter

3 1150007903129
Workman Publishing Company, New York
Copyright © 1999 by Lawrence C. Katz and Manning Rubin

Illustrations copyright © David Suter

Cover and book design: Elaine Tom

W e both thank Peter Workman for being our match-
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced”mechanically,
maker, and our editor, Ruth Sullivan, for her steadfast
electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying”without
written permission of the publisher. Published simultaneously in
faith in the project and her relentless pursuit of clarity and
Canada by Thomas Alien 8c Son Limited.
simplicity in the writing and organization of the material.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Larry Katz wishes to thank Doris larovici, his spouse, for
Katz, Lawrence, 1956-
Keep your brain alive: the neurobic exercise program/by Lawrence C. Katz
her critical insights, advice, and editorial assistance, and Bonnie
and Manning Rubin.
Kissell, for unflagging administrative support of this project.
p. cm.
ISBN 0-7611-1052-6
Manning Rubin thanks Jane Rubin, for bearing the brunt
1. Cognition”Age factors. 2. Cognition”Problems, exercises, etc. 3. Memory”Age
factors. 4. Cognition”Problems, exercises, etc. 5. Aging”Psychological aspects.
of his burying himself in the research, writing, and rewriting
I. Rubin, Manning. II. Tide.
he has been obsessed with for two years, and for her level-
BF724.55.C63K38 1998
153”dc21 98-18888
headed observations that helped the book. And he thanks
Larry for the voluminous work he has produced in keeping
Workman books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk
this book alive.
for premiums and sales promotions as well as for fund-raising or educational use.
Special editions or book excerpts can also be created to specification.
For details, contact the Special Sales Director at the address below.

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
708 Broadway
New York, NY 10003-9555

Printed in the United States of America

First printing May 1999
10 9 8 7 6
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ix
Neurobics: The New Science of Brain Exercise . . . . . . . . . . 1
How the Brain Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
How Neurobics W o r k s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1
Starting and Ending the Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41
Commuting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53
At Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 - 7
At the M a r k e t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .87
At Mealtimes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99
At Leisure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117
A s the population of over 76 million Baby Boomers ap-
proaches middle age and beyond, the issue of preserving
mental powers throughout greatly increased life spans has
reached an almost fever pitch. There is a growing interest
in”and optimism about”preserving and enhancing the
brain's capabilities into senior years. With the help of power-
ful new tools of molecular biology and brain imaging, neuro-
scientists around the world have literally been looking into
the mind as it thinks. Almost daily, they are discovering that
many of the negative myths about the aging brain are, in-
deed, only myths: "Older and wiser" is not just a hopeful
cliche but can be the reality. In much the same way that you
can maintain your physical well-being, you can take charge of
your mental health and fitness.
Although new and therefore not yet proved by a large
body of tests, Neurobics is based on solid scientific ground; it
is an exciting synthesis of substantial findings about the brain
that provides a concrete strategy for keeping the brain fit and
flexible as you grow older.

done all this simply by looking around. Today was different. She
From Theory to Practice
could see nothing.
Jane reached into her pocketbook and fished inside for the
But Jane had not suddenly gone blind. At age 50, she was
keys to her apartment. Usually they were in the out-
introducing a lifestyle strategy called Neurobics into her daily
side flap pocket but not today. "Did I forget them?!
activities. Based on recent discoveries in brain science, Neu-
No. ..here they are." She felt their shapes to figure
robics is a new form of brain exercise designed to help keep
out which one would open the top lock. It took her
the brain agile and healthy. By breaking her usual homecom-
two tries until she heard the welcome click of the
ing routine, Jane had placed her brains attentional circuits in
lock opening. Inside the door she reached to
high gear. With her eyes closed, she had to rely on her senses
the left for the light switch... but why
of touch, smell, hearing, and spatial memory to do something
bother? Her husband would do that
they rarely did”navigate through her apartment. And she
later. Touching the wall lightly with her
was involving her emotional sense by feeling the stresses of
fingertips, she moved to the closet on the right,
not being able to see. All these actions created new and dif-
found it, and hung up her coat. She turned slowly and visualized
ferent patterns of neuron activity in her brain”which is how
in her mind the location of the table holding her telephone and an-
Neurobics works.
swering machine. Carefully she headed in that direction, guided
This book will explain the principles behind Neurobics
by the feel of the leather armchair and the scent of a vase of birth-
and how the exercises enhance the overall health of your
day roses, anxious to avoid the sharp edge of the coffee table and
brain as you grow older.
hoping to have some messages from her family waiting.
The table. The answering machine. She reached out and
brushed her fingers across what she believed to be the play button.
"What if I push the delete button?" she thought, and again checked
to make sure she was right. Yesterday it was so easy. She could have
The New Science of
Brain Exercise
˜\ Tf "That was the name of that actor who was in all the early
V V Woody Alien films? You know... curly brown hair... ?"
The first time you forget the name of a person you should
know, a movie title, or an important meeting, you're likely to
exclaim”only half-jokingly”"I'm losing it! My brain is
turning to Jell-O." Reinforced by messages and images in the
mass media, you equate mild forgetfulness with the first
stages of accelerating mental decline.
". ..He was just in a Broadway show with, um, what's-her-name.
Oh, God, you know who I mean."
And maybe they do remember it's Tony Roberts. But if they
don't, you become frustrated and preoccupied trying to recall
this buried name. Usually beginning in your forties or fifties”
sometimes even in your thirties”you start to notice these
small lapses: not remembering where you put the car keys or

new technologies, the traditional view of the way the brain
what was on the grocery list you left at home.. .or being unable
ages is being rapidly revised. Evidence clearly shows that the
to understand the instructions for a new VCR or com-
brain doesn't have to go into a steep decline as we get older.
puter. . .or forgetting where the car is parked because you left
In fact, in 1998, a team of American and Swedish scientists
the mall through a different door.
Even though these small lapses don't actually interfere demonstrated for the first time that new brain cells are gener-
ated in adult humans.1
much with daily life, the anxiety they provoke can. You worry
that you'll become just like your Aunt Harriet, who can re- Also contrary to popular belief, the mental decline most
people experience is not due to the steady death of nerve cells.2
member details of events from the Depression but not what she
Instead, it usually results from the thinning out of the number
did yesterday. Firsthand experiences with people who have dif-
and complexity of dendrites, the branches on nerve cells that di-
ficulty with perception and memory as they age can make you
rectly receive and process information from other
anxious when you suddenly forget something ordinary. No
nerve cells that forms the basis of memory. Den-
wonder you jump to the conclusion that aging is an inevitable
drites receive information across connections called
slide into forgetfulness, confusion, or even the first stages of
synapses. If connections aren't regularly
Alzheimer's disease.
switched on, the dendrites can atro- ^ ^
The good news, however, is that mild forgetfulness is not
phy. This reduces the brains ability i L J 'F need *° I**
a disease like Alzheimer's and action can be taken to combat
•r •• ^ry' '• I communicat-
it. Recent brain research points to new approaches that can to put new information into memory ^> .' ;/˜\y •_- to «»-„
be incorporated into everyday activities to develop and main- as well as to retrieve old information. \ healthy.
Growing dendrites was long thought to be possible only
tain brain connections. By adopting these strategies, you may
in the brains of children. But more recent work has shown
actually enhance your brain's ability to deal with declines in
that old neurons can grow dendrites to compensate for losses?
mental agility.
There are numerous myths about the aging brain that Other experiments show that neural circuits in adult
brains have the capacity to undergo dramatic changes”an
neuroscientists are disproving daily. With the help of exciting

ability scientists thought was lost after childhood. The aging
Neurobic exercises use the five senses in novel ways to en-
brain, however, continues to have a remarkable ability to grow,
hance the brain's natural drive to form associations between
adapt, and change patterns of connections."
different types of information. Associations (putting a name
Discoveries like these are the basis of a new theory of
together with a face, or a smell with a food, for example) are
brain exercise. Just as cross training helps you maintain over-
the building blocks of memory and the basis of how we learn.
all physical fitness, Neurobics can help you take charge of
Deliberately creating new associative patterns is a central part
your overall mental fitness. of the Neurobic program.
Putting together the neuroscience findings (pages 6-7)
Neurobics aims to help you maintain a continuing level of
with what scientists already know about our senses led di-
mental fitness, strength, and flexibility as you age.
rectly to our concept of using the associative power of the five
The exercise program calls for presenting the brain with
senses to harness the brain's ability to create its own natural
nonroutine or unexpected experiences using various combina-
nutrients. In short, with Neurobics you can grow your own
tions of your physical senses”vision, smell, touch, taste, and
brain food”without drugs or diet.
hearing”as well as your emotional "sense." It stimulates pat-
The word Neurobics is a deliberate allusion to physical exer-
terns of neural activity that create more connections between
cise. Just as the ideal forms of physical exercise emphasize using
different brain areas and causes nerve cells to produce natural
many different muscle groups to enhance coordination and flexi-
brain nutrients, called neurotrophins, that can dramatically in-
bility, the ideal brain exercises involve
crease the size and complexity of nerve cell dendrites.5 Neu-
activating many different brain areas
rotrophins also make surrounding cells stronger and more
in novel ways to increase the range
resistant to the effects of aging.
of mental motion. For example, an
Neurobics is very different from other types of brain exer-
exercise like swimming makes the
cise, which usually involve logic puzzles, memory exercises,
body more fit overall and capable
and solitary practice sessions that resemble tests. Instead,
of taking on any exercise. Similarly,

Neurobics rests on much more than a single breakthrough 3. The brain is richly endowed with specific molecules--lihe
finding. It is a synthesis of important new information neurotrophins”which are produced and secreted by
about the organization of the brain, how it acquires and nerve cells to act as a kind of brain nutrient that actually
maintains memories, and how certain brain activities pro- promotes the health of these nerve cells as well as the
duce natural brain nutrients. These findings include: health of their neighbors and the synapses tjetweea .tib«opu*.
1. The cerebral cortex, the seat of higher learning in the 4. The amount of neurotrophins produced by neiw c^Hs-^
brain, consists of an unexpectedly large number of dif- and how well nerve cells respond to n
ferent areas, each specialized to receive, interpret, and made by other nerve cells”is regulated by howr
store information from the senses. What you experience those nerve cells are. In other words, the
through the senses doesn't all end up in one place in the brain cells are, the. more growtii-sisteBuJating 'i^i^i^
brain. they produce and die better they .respond/-
2. Connecting the areas of the cerebral cortex are hundreds 5. Specific kinds of sensory stimulation, especially lumwo"*
of different neural pathways, which can store memories tine experiences that produce novel activity pattsfn$ in
in almost limitless combinations. Because the system is nerve cell circuits, can produce greater quantities'•>*
these growth-stimulating molecules.8
so complex and the number of possible combinations of
brairt pathways so vast, we employ only a small fraction
of the possible combinations.

Neurobics makes the brain more agile and flexible overall so it
can take on any mental challenge, whether it be memory, task

performance, or creativity. That's because Neurobics uses an
approach based on how the brain works, not simply on how to
work the brain.

T he brain receives, organizes, and distributes information to
guide our actions and also stores important information
for future use. The problems we associate with getting older”
forgetfulness, not feeling "sharp," or having difficulty learning
new things”involve the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus.

Motor Cortex muscle control and coordination
Somatosensory Cortex
Premotor Cortex
muscle coordination

Prefrontal Cortex
social behavior,
Visual Cortex
abstract reasoning,
higher cognitive
Auditory Cortex

the seat of higher brain function

Corpus Callosum
brain areas involved in processing emotions
Most pictures of the brain usually show the deeply grooved
bridge of nerve tissue
connecting the left and
and folded cerebral cortex: a thin sheet of cells (no thicker
right hemispheres
Cerebral Cortex
than twenty pages of this book) wrapped around the other
involved in sensory
processing, abstract
"core" parts of the brain like a rind on a grapefruit. Although
reasoning, and
sensory messages to
storing and
thin, the cortex is very large (spread out it would cover the
the brain are sorted
retrieving memories
in the thalmus and
front page of a newspaper) and contains an astounding num-
routed to the proper
receiving centers in
ber of nerve cells”about one hundred million in every square
the cortex
inch. And while the cortex may look like a uniform sheet, it
critical in forming and
retrieving memory and
actually consists of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of smaller, spe-
in creating mental maps
Olfactory Bulbs
cialized regions (some as small as a fingernail, others as large
information from the olfactory
bulbs connects directly to the
as a credit card). Each of the senses has its own dedicated
cortex, the amygdala
(emotional center), and the
portions of cortical real estate”for example, there are at least
hippocampus (memory). This
handles physical
may account for the strong
thirty specialized areas just for vision.
memories and emotions that
can be evoked by smells
Processing information as it comes in from the senses in-
volves a network of many smaller regions. In addition, other re-
The cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for our
gions of the cortex specialize in integrating information from
unique human abilities of memory, language, and abstract
two or more different senses (so, for example, when you hear a
thought. The hippocampus coordinates incoming sensory in-

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