The Brain Hungers For Novelty

The human brain is evolutionarily primed to seek out and respond to what is unexpected or novel—new information coming in from the outside world that is different from what it expects. It's what turns the brain on. In response to novelty, cortical activity is increased in more and varied brain areas.3 This strengthens synaptic connections, links different areas together in new patterns, and pumps up production of neurotrophins.

First Exposure Routine Novel

First Exposure Routine Novel

PET scans of three vertical slices of the brain show that significantly more pathways are activated (shown in cross-hatching) when the brain processes a Novel task than when it perfoims a Routine one. During the routine task (middle column) there is no increased activity in the anterior cortex, cerebellum, or frontal cortex.

PET scans of three vertical slices of the brain show that significantly more pathways are activated (shown in cross-hatching) when the brain processes a Novel task than when it perfoims a Routine one. During the routine task (middle column) there is no increased activity in the anterior cortex, cerebellum, or frontal cortex.

But if it is simply more activity in the brain that leads to increased neurotrophin production, then listening to more music (even noise), or watching more TV, or getting a massage—all of which stimulate the sense organs—would lead to better brain health. Such passive stimulation of the senses, however, doesn't work as a brain exercise and neither does repeatedly doing the same routine activities. Neurobics is neither passive nor routine. It uses the senses in novel ways to break out of everyday routines.

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