All that we make, create, think and dream originates from the most sophisticated mechanism on the planet - the human brain. Weighing about three pounds (or a bag of granulated sugar), the brain resembles an overgrown, convoluted fungus. Yet this uninspiring mushroom is home to our personality, our passions, motivations, memories and experience. In short, the sum total of who we are! So, how can we get the most of this amazing organ? Read on to find out...
See also: Eight ways to keep your brain sharp
See also: Five medical issues that can be mistaken for dementia
1. Eat your fish
If you want to boost your brain power eat oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, at least twice a week. Oily fish is high in omega-3-oils, which help form healthy cell membranes and nerve tissue. Omega-3 is also known to improve communication between nerve cells, thereby improving memory performance. Eating oily fish may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and arthritis, and can help alleviate stress and depression. Don't like fish? Try taking a fish oil supplement, or adding flaxseed and hemp oil to your diet, or eating leafy green vegetables and walnuts.
2. Music maestro
When we repeatedly perform an activity, the neuro-pathway in our brain is strengthened to encourage more learning to take place. According to neurological research, musicians have 25 per cent more of their auditory cortex given over to the processing of music than non-musicians. Practice really does make perfect! Don't play an instrument? You could always listen to Mozart's sonata for two pianos K448. Researchers at the University of California found that listening to the piece increased IQ scores by nine points – although the effect only lasts for about 15 minutes.
3. Flex your brain
Doing 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise each day will help improve your alertness and concentration - but giving your brain a good workout is also important. Studies have shown that regular brain training can improve cognitive processes such as memory, language and problem solving, and help prevent degenerative diseases like Alzhimer's. Flex your mental muscles by doing the crossword, sodoku, or solving a brainteaser.
4. Get some shut-eye
Researchers at The City University of New York found that having a nap improved people's memory performance. Volunteers were told to memorise pairs of words. When they were tested straight afterwards and six hours later, those who had been allowed a sleep of up to one hour before the retest achieved 15 per cent higher scores than the volunteers who had not been allowed to go to sleep. Traditionally, time devoted to daytime napping has been considered counterproductive but now it seems that sleep is an important mechanism for memory formation.
5. Feeling fruity
Blueberries may be small but they're positively bursting with goodness. The combination of nutrients, rather than a high concentration of any single one, makes the blueberry extra special. Blueberries pack a big punch, cramming in vitamin C, folic acid, fibre and carotenoids. Research has shown that blueberries can help reverse short-term memory loss, lower cholesterol levels and improve eyesight, as well as reverse age-related declines in balance and coordination.