Do brain focus supplements work?
Brain Health

Do brain focus supplements work?

There are times when we all struggle to concentrate. Whether it’s grappling with something particularly taxing at work, trying to do your best in an exam or just feeling overwhelmed by everything on the to-do list and thus not knowing where to start. Times like this may have you searching for something to give your brain a boost. 
Covid 19 and Brain Health - how a global pandemic has impacted brain health.
Brain Health

Covid 19 and Brain Health - how a global pandemic has impacted brain health.

The Global Council on Brain Health has published its report on some of the impacts that Covid 19 has had on brain health AND what we can do to look after the brain health of the most vulnerable as we move into the next stage of this pandemic. Looking after our brain health has never been so important.
Brain Healthy Choices
Brain Health

Brain Healthy Choices

On this International Women's Day, I choose to challenge that we have to accept the brains we have... For us at Noggin TBP, Brain Health is personal.
Ways to keep your brain busy in Winter
Brain Health

Ways to keep your brain busy in Winter

Keeping our brains busy with new hobbies can help our well being. Whether it is playing music, writing or trying a different place to go for yet another walk, small things can make a difference to how we feel. Here's why.
How Are You Feeling?
Brain Health

How Are You Feeling?

Seriously. how do you feel? This Children's Mental Health Week, we want to think about answering this question. Mindfulness and some brain health basics can help us recognise and support each other's emotional health.
The Power of a Simple Hug on Brain Health
Brain Health

The Power of a Simple Hug on Brain Health

We’ve blogged before on the importance of giving your brain a break and when it comes to simple ways to feel better hugs can really do the trick. Here at Noggin, we love hugging and we miss the physical contact with friends and family and hugging is one simple act which many of us are unable to do presently, due to Covid. Read on to understand how a simple act can change your brain and physical chemistry. When it comes to hugs, the chemical we need to know about is Oxytocin. Oxytocin the so-called "love hormone" is being increasingly shown to trigger a wide variety of physical and psychological effects in humans. The hormone's influence on our behaviour and physiology originates in the brain, where it's produced by the by a structure called the hypothalamus, and then transfers to the pituitary gland which releases into the bloodstream. The presence of oxytocin actually speeds the physical healing of wounds. Studies  have shown that even a brief touch of the hand from someone who cares can start your oxytocin pumping which is a good sign. When you offer a comforting hug to someone in pain, or you’re on the receiving end of one, you not only begin the healing process,  you also allow your body to shut down memories of the painful stimulus.  Oxytocin encourages us to warm up to others and creates a sense of safety. A number of scientific studies have conveyed positive findings on the benefit of both giving and receiving hugs, especially when there has been a conflict. Oxytocin production ramps up when we're touched by another caring human. This is because our bodies are made to provide and respond to physical comfort, so next time you see someone in pain or feel as if the world is crumbling around you, open yourself to a hug. A 2018 study of 400 people over a two-week period found that that receiving a hug following a conflict can help with squelching those bad feelings.  We know 2020 has been the cause of hug deficiency for many of us but better times are ahead - for now, hug your pet, those close to you, or even hug a tree - it works! Keep Well Dr Clara Russell
Give a Fig about your Brain Health this Festive Season
Brain Health

Give a Fig about your Brain Health this Festive Season

The big figs of brain health – four foods you might not associate with brain health. With winter upon us, it’s so tempting to reach for comfort foods to snack on and big carb laden dinners to feel cosy with and  if you feel the need to balance out any food indulgence over the coming weeks during the festive period, try some of these recommendations. You can enjoy them on their own or cook or bake with them. Figs Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fibre, rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A and K that contribute to health and wellness. So whether you enjoy them paired with cheese or tossed in salad, figs are a surprising health booster. Unsure how to prep, store or consume them? The BBC has this helpful page dedicated to figs and I think we’ll be having the healthy winter salad soon here at Noggin HQ. Bananas The banana is a food genius and we’ve blogged about our love of bananas before. The average banana has about 100 calories and is loaded with potassium and fibre and contains zero fat. Bananas also boast tryptophan and 30 percent of your day’s vitamin B6, which helps the brain produce mellowing serotonin so you get through the day with less stress. Avocadoes Whilst we are raving about bananas, let’s also respect the avocado. This creamy fruit contains 60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas and is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They’re rich in plant sterols, which have been shown to lower cholesterol.  Pop some avocado in your green juice and blend for a creamy consistency or why not try this recipe for chocolate mousse, made with avocadoes. Finally, if you add some avocado slices to a sandwich, the fat will slow the digestion of the bread, which will in turn ease the impact it has on your blood sugar levels.  Celery Low in calories and high on the chew factor, celery is a good source of potassium, a mineral that aids muscle function and offsets some of sodium’s damaging effects on blood pressure. And phytochemicals in celery help destroy benzopyrene, a carcinogen that occurs in foods cooked at a high temperature. You can also add celery to your green juices and to soups and bolognaise sauces. Keep Well Dr Clara Russell
How to add life to your years and years to your life.
Brain Health

How to add life to your years and years to your life.

Every Little Helps The new WHO guidelines and key facts released on 26th November, on physical activity, suggest that every little bit of physical activity helps with our wellbeing. We’ve blogged about the brain health benefits of walking and regular exercise and the latest guidelines from WHO state that physical activity is beneficial and can be done as part of our work, sport and leisure or transport and  this includes dance, play and everyday household tasks such as gardening, cleaning and a visit to the shops. The new guidelines recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults. Women are encouraged to maintain regular exercise throughout pregnancy and post-delivery and people living with physical disabilities should also maintain a level of physical activity Older adults – those people aged 65 years or older, are advised to add activities which emphasise balance and coordination, as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health. “Being physically active is critical for health and well-being – it can help to add years to life and life to years,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all move every day – safely and creatively.”  “Physical activity of any type, and any duration can improve health and wellbeing, but more is always better,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion, World Health Organization, “and if you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour.” “These new guidelines highlight how important being active is for our hearts, bodies and minds, and how the favourable outcomes benefit everyone, of all ages and abilities”, said Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the Physical Activity Unit which led the development of the new WHO guidelines. Regular physical activity is key to preventing and helping to manage heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer, as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, reducing cognitive decline, improving memory and boosting brain health. So whether its open water swimming, yoga, tai chi or walking, every little helps! Keep Well ( and moving) , Dr Clara Russell
"Chess is the gymnasium of the mind"
Brain Health

"Chess is the gymnasium of the mind"

So said Blaise Pascal, child prodigy and subsequent mathematician, inventor and physicist. And we can understand why. Chess is often seen as a brain game for intellectually gifted people, rightly so, as it is exercises the brain. Thanks to the runaway success of The Queen’s Gambit, the TV miniseries on Netflix, chess is enjoying a new found popularity and is widely played by young and old people. Chess is what we could call a cerebral game and with it comes benefits for brain health. It’s also a game you can play online or via an app if you’re unable to play a physical game with an opponent sat opposite you. Here are some top line benefits of playing chess. Stimulates brain growth Chess and other brain-games challenges the brain and stimulates the neurons to form connections across the brain.  More connections mean that neural communication within the brain becomes faster at an optimal state.  Chess is an ideal example of how interaction with people can stimulate neural connections. Promotes creativity Playing chess activates the right side of the brain responsible for creativity, which unleashes originality among players. One study that lasted four years focused on identifying the activity that fosters the most growth in creative thinking. They had students from grades 7 to 9 to play chess, use computers, and engage in other activities once a week for 32 weeks. The results showed that the students who played chess scored higher in all measures of creativity and interestingly, their biggest area of gain proved to be originality.  Improves memory Playing chess can improve your memory because of its complex rules which players have to remember when playing. When it comes to making your next move your brain also uses your memory recall function to help you avoid previous mistakes or help you remember the playing style of your opponent.  Good chess players have an excellent memory and it can significantly improve a person’s memory and verbal skills. Improves problem-solving skills When playing a game of chess, players must think fast, and their problem-solving skills must be first rate because the opponent constantly changes the parameters as the game evolves.  It’s a game of combinations and players must be adept at understanding what can be at times, complex rules. According to a 1992 study in New Brunswick conducted on 450 fifth-grade students, those who played chess have significantly higher scores on tests than those who did not play chess. Increases IQ A study of 4,000 students from Venezuela showed that playing chess can significantly increase the IQ scores of both boys and girls after four months of playing the brain-game. That means that it is possible to increase IQ by playing brain-games such as chess. Exercises both hemispheres of the brain A study in Germany found that both left and right hemispheres are activated when chess players are asked to identify chess positions and geometric shapes. Children also benefit from learning to play chess at an early age. And for those of you who’ve not watched the Netflix series and are wondering what the title refers to, it’s a chess move.  Specifically, "The Queen's Gambit refers to a move in chess, the oldest opening move in its history. It dates back to the 15th century, and sees white move their Queen's pawn to the middle of the board, then sacrificing its adjacent pawn in the next move”.
Keeping It Simple - 5 ways to nurture your Noggin
Brain Health

Keeping It Simple - 5 ways to nurture your Noggin

Looking after your brain health needn’t be taxing or expensive. In fact, there are things you can do on a daily basis which will support good brain health. Here are 5 simple ways to support your brain health as of this moment and one of them involves the use of social media. Do tweet me @DrClaraR with the ways in which you’re taking positive steps to improve your brain health, it’s a great way to stay connected and I’m interested in  what steps you are taking to maintain good brain health. Drink Water Simple and free and easy to do but sometimes we forget to drink water. Drinking water is great for improving concentration and cognition.  Hydration also helps balance your mood, maintain a good mood and prevent headaches. Staying hydrated also helps manage and reduce stress. Aim to drink at least one litre of water per day if you can. Sleep Sleep plays a central role in our brain health it also plays a key role in memory. Studies have found that sleep rinses the toxins from our brain which in turn enhances our attention, creativity and ability to solve problems. We’ve blogged before on the power of a nap which can be beneficial for brain health. Chess If you’ve not watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, we highly recommend it.  It’s a colourful, stylish drama based on a book by Walter Tevis who also wrote books which went onto become hugely successful films.  This includes The Hustler, The Colour of Money and The Man Who Fell To Earth.  The Queen’s Gambit is a fictitious tale set in the US in the 1960s and it may well encourage you to get into chess, which is a good thing.  Games such as draughts or chess can improve creativity, problem solving, memory concentration and decision making. Give a Hug Many of us are missing hugging friends and family due to Covid restrictions to if you’re able to hug your partner or your pet we recommend this. Hugging lowers cortisol levels and boosts oxytocin levels and can also relieve pain. In 2010, The New York Times reported on a study that found that athletes performed better when they showed physical camaraderie such as hugging.  The study found that teams that showed the most touch-bonding were among the highest ranking and best performing. Social Media There are many pitfalls to spending too much time on social media - doomscrolling.  However, social media can help us stay connected with friends and family especiallyduring times of tighter Covid restrictions.  Whether its  WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook You Tube, Zoom, Skype, Google hang outs or FaceTime, just one of these apps can help you stay connected with the wider world. This study extols the benefits of social media and like everything else we suggest you consume and use it in a balanced way. Keep well, Dr Clara Russell
How do you describe how you feel in one word?
Brain Health

How do you describe how you feel in one word?

The language of 2020 2020 has brought into our vocabulary phrases that we would never have imagined a mere year ago. ‘Social distancing’, ‘where did you get your mask?’ “ shall we just zoom? and of course ‘in these unprecedented times’. Why feelings and emotions matter to our brain health As Marc Brackett PhD tells us in his book Permission to Feel, “Labelling emotions accurately increases self awareness and helps us to communicate emotions and therefore aids social interactions and relationships”.  Whilst there may not be a single word or phrase to sum up all that this year has brought us, there are many countries that have their own way of describing ways of living or groups of feelings that we might be aspiring to as a new year looms. Purpose Ikigai was not just a hugely successful book but is the description of the Japanese way of being that prioritises having a sense of purpose with other aspects of healthy lives Hygge describes the Danish concept of living cosily and mindfully, enjoying life’s simple pleasures International Language of everything The Positive Lexicography project, compiled by Dr Tim Lomas, looks at these international untranslatable concepts in more detail.  Our favourites include - Sisu-Finnish- describes a psychological strength that helps people deal with challenges Heimat- German- deep rooted fondness towards a place which one feels a sense of belonging  Dadirri- Australian aboriginal- a deep spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening  Currently we may be engaging in Koselig - essentially coziness and craving comfort - we can look ahead to the date next year when we can relax in Utepils ( Norwegian, a beer that is enjoyed outside on the first hot day of the year)  Perhaps we might be able to indulge in Gigil ( the irresistible urge to squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished, also known as an untranslatable word for pure joy)  Keep well, Dr Clara Russell 
Brain Health Cheat Sheet
Brain Health

Brain Health Cheat Sheet

With so much going on right now, let's get back to basics for looking after your noggin 4 Simple Ways To Look After Your Brain Changes to your body and brain are normal as we age and what we do today will impact our health in the future. There are some things we can do to help slow any decline in brain health and memory and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.  Exercise Regular exercise has many benefits, and it appears that regular physical activity benefits the brain.  Multiple research studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Aim for 30–60 minutes exercise each week, whether that’s waling, swimming, tennis or any  other moderate aerobic activity which increases your heart rate. Eat a Mediterranean Diet Plant-based foods, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil are all part of a healthier diet and focuses on more fish than red meat. Research from 2018 found that eating a Mediterranean diet slows some changes in the brain that may indicate early Alzheimer’s disease. The results point to a lifestyle change that could help reduce the risk of this type of age-related dementia. Get Plenty of Quality Sleep Sleep plays a very important role in your brain health and there are some theories that sleep helps clear or rinse the brain of abnormal proteins in your brain and consolidates memories, which boosts your overall memory and brain health. Try to maintain a regular sleep pattern in terms of the amount of deep sleep you’re aiming for. Consecutive sleep gives your brain the time to consolidate and store your memories effectively.  Stay Socially and Mentally Active Your brain is similar to a muscle —  use it or you lose it. Whether it’s reading, knitting, Soduku, dancing, crocheting, playing music, painting, gardening - hobbies are important because they help us switch off and also learn new skills - both good for brian health. Social interaction helps to ward off depression and stress.Look for opportunities to connect with loved ones, friends and others, especially if you live alone. There is research that links solitary confinement to brain atrophy, so remaining socially active may have the opposite effect and strengthen the health of your brain.