This year, the Swedish Academy gave the Nobel Prize in Medicine to three neuroscientists who, for under a decade, have been researching the workings of our inner “GPS”, in other words, the way in which our brain operates to spatially orient us.

Among other achievements, John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I Moser discovered the place and grid cells, which, in rat brains, proved to be especially active when the rodents found themselves in unknown places. If this is already surprising, research also shows that the same cells were activated when the rats slept and dreamt about the new route.

The team’s findings are important because, taking them to the human brain, they offer clues as to the way in which we represent the space we inhabit, both in a mediate dimension —for example, our neighbourhood or the streets we move through to get to school or work—, as well as an immediate one —the objects that surround us, the rooms in our home, etc.

For now, however, we do not want to gloss O’Keefe and company’s work, but retake a view we could consider pragmatic. Beyond the awe that his studies might provoke, could we take advantage of their knowledge in our everyday life?

Yes, we can, at least from John O’Keefe’s. On the occasion of his award, a few days ago The Guardian published a series of advice the neuroscientist gave to keep a healthy brain.

Use it or lose it

This is his first recommendation. It may, perhaps, seem obvious, but it is not always practiced. There is an ever-growing number of studies that show a relationship between degenerative diseases like Alzheimer, or disorders like dementia, and the few challenges we impose on our brains.

Staying physically, mentally and socially active means that even if your brain scan looks as ropey as that of a less active person, you will function better. No one can confirm the benefits, but there is at least no downside to daily sudoku, crosswords, reading, walks and talks.

Avoiding damage

Currently, we have a fairly accurate notion of the substances that harm our brain. Alcohol, nicotine, some medicines, pesticides; as well as some industrial chemicals with which objects we use on a daily basis are made of. There is plenty information available online concerning this, supported by both governmental agencies and independent organizations.

Keep the blood flowing

A good blood flow is vital to the brain’s health. What can you do? Run, swim, cycle. Yoga and meditation also help. Eat plenty of iron rich foods. What should you avoid? Smoking and getting used to a diet which will surely lead to obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels or hypertension.

Effects of diet

One of the most important Hippocratic principles recommended making our food our first medicine. This means: have our daily diet contain our main source of health. The brain particularly benefits from:

Fatty omega-3 acids (found in blue fish like tuna, anchovies and salmon)

Antioxidants (found in fresh berries, tea, coffee and egg)

Vitamin C (citric fruits like oranges or strawberries; vegetables such as cauliflower and spinach)

Vitamin E (especially in vegetable oils, nuts, avocado and asparagus)

The suggestions are simple and easily adaptable to our everyday life: Some exercise, a healthy diet and a good amount of everyday activities for our brain, which is, after all, the main organ in charge of how we experience reality.

This year, the Swedish Academy gave the Nobel Prize in Medicine to three neuroscientists who, for under a decade, have been researching the workings of our inner “GPS”, in other words, the way in which our brain operates to spatially orient us.

Among other achievements, John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I Moser discovered the place and grid cells, which, in rat brains, proved to be especially active when the rodents found themselves in unknown places. If this is already surprising, research also shows that the same cells were activated when the rats slept and dreamt about the new route.

The team’s findings are important because, taking them to the human brain, they offer clues as to the way in which we represent the space we inhabit, both in a mediate dimension —for example, our neighbourhood or the streets we move through to get to school or work—, as well as an immediate one —the objects that surround us, the rooms in our home, etc.

For now, however, we do not want to gloss O’Keefe and company’s work, but retake a view we could consider pragmatic. Beyond the awe that his studies might provoke, could we take advantage of their knowledge in our everyday life?

Yes, we can, at least from John O’Keefe’s. On the occasion of his award, a few days ago The Guardian published a series of advice the neuroscientist gave to keep a healthy brain.

Use it or lose it

This is his first recommendation. It may, perhaps, seem obvious, but it is not always practiced. There is an ever-growing number of studies that show a relationship between degenerative diseases like Alzheimer, or disorders like dementia, and the few challenges we impose on our brains.

Staying physically, mentally and socially active means that even if your brain scan looks as ropey as that of a less active person, you will function better. No one can confirm the benefits, but there is at least no downside to daily sudoku, crosswords, reading, walks and talks.

Avoiding damage

Currently, we have a fairly accurate notion of the substances that harm our brain. Alcohol, nicotine, some medicines, pesticides; as well as some industrial chemicals with which objects we use on a daily basis are made of. There is plenty information available online concerning this, supported by both governmental agencies and independent organizations.

Keep the blood flowing

A good blood flow is vital to the brain’s health. What can you do? Run, swim, cycle. Yoga and meditation also help. Eat plenty of iron rich foods. What should you avoid? Smoking and getting used to a diet which will surely lead to obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels or hypertension.

Effects of diet

One of the most important Hippocratic principles recommended making our food our first medicine. This means: have our daily diet contain our main source of health. The brain particularly benefits from:

Fatty omega-3 acids (found in blue fish like tuna, anchovies and salmon)

Antioxidants (found in fresh berries, tea, coffee and egg)

Vitamin C (citric fruits like oranges or strawberries; vegetables such as cauliflower and spinach)

Vitamin E (especially in vegetable oils, nuts, avocado and asparagus)

The suggestions are simple and easily adaptable to our everyday life: Some exercise, a healthy diet and a good amount of everyday activities for our brain, which is, after all, the main organ in charge of how we experience reality.

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