Brainpower: Is it Nature or Nurture?

 Dr Liron Jacobson on where our BRAINPOWER comes from …


Have you ever looked at a friend, colleague or public figure and marvelled at how intelligent they are? Why is it that some people can work out complex calculations, come up with creative ideas and explain themselves clearly and make it all look effortless, while for others, even tying our shoelaces feels like a challenge before we’ve had our morning coffee? As the adverts say, maybe she’s born with it? In a bid to answer all our brain power questions, we asked Dr Liron Jacobson, head of neuroscience at Peak Labs to give us some insights.

One of our biggest questions is around where our brain power comes from, and if some of us are naturally just born “clever.” It seems this may be partly true, as Dr Jacobson explains “Brain power probably relies on both nature and nurture. The way the brain works is controlled by our DNA, but if we do not invest in developing it properly we are unlikely to ever achieve its potential.”

As we talk about how different things affect our brains, the key term that keeps coming up is ‘Neuroplasticity.’ Liron explains that “the term refers to the fact that our brain is not static; it strengthens and weakens over time, so therefore it can be affected by the challenges we set it.”

A simple example Liron gives is that, “as humans our brains have the capacity to allow us to speak, read and write, as opposed to other creatures. But this potential will not be fulfilled unless we are exposed to a language.” So, it seems then that the things we expose our brains to could be the key to fulfilling our individual potential.

Liron explains that “Neuronal changes among kids are much more rapid and significant than in adults. This is the reason why kids can acquire a new language much more quickly than adults. As we get older it becomes harder to increase brain power, but it is still possible, depending on the age and other elements.”

While it might have been easier to develop our brains when we were children, that doesn’t mean we should neglect our brains as we age. Liron explains that “brain power could be increased as adults as well, up to a certain point, and things we do as adults can also affect the level of cognitive decline which happens naturally as we get older. Things like healthy habits, challenging your brain through puzzles or brain games like Peak, educational challenges and learning new skills might all have a positive cognitive impact.”

So, while we may not be able to measure our “brain power” fully, it seems clear we should be trying to nurture it. Dr Jacobson finishes explaining that “our brains change throughout our lifespan, as a result of many variables; what we do with our brains and what we expose ourselves to is a really important factor in directing this change.”

Dr Liron Jacobson is the head of Neuroscience and a product manager whose work provides the solid scientific background behind the Peak brain training app.

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