Classic cartoons depict a whack on the head as a humorous and harmless gesture, causing nothing more than a few birds to fly around, followed by an immediate recovery. Unfortunately, this is not the way it works in real life. Concussions and head injuries are a serious matter that can have severe effects on the body and brain.

A. Nonny Mouse Writes Again! By J. Preslutsky, 1993

What Brain Up! is All About

Brain Up! is a comprehensive brain education program brought to you by the Winter Park Health Foundation. It was developed in response to recent research that revealed fascinating new truths about our brains. We have long believed that the human brain is hard-wired and immutable. The latest findings prove otherwise. The scientific community can now agree that the human brain has plasticity, that brain function is shaped by environmental input and lifestyle and that brains can and will continue to develop and express late in life – but we have to work on them now.

That’s why we have created Brain Up!

  • To promote public understanding of brain health.
  • To raise awareness of how important it is to become brain healthy.
  • To inspire people of all ages to engage in and commit to a brain healthy lifestyle.

Current Brain Champions

Who is your Brain Champion?

Nominate yourself or a friend or colleague to be our next Brain Champion. A Brain Health Champion must be active in at least two of the six Brain Health Commandments.

The right foods will keep your brain running strong.

Flexing those muscles also strengthens your brain.

Lowering your stress levels sends brain activity soaring.

  • Meditation and Breathing Exercises Can Sharpen Your Mind

    It has long been claimed by Yogis and Buddhists that meditation and ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, strengthen our ability to focus on tasks. A new study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin explains for the first time the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

Great brains love great company.

  • Brain science to improve your relationships

    On the surface, your own brain may be your furthest consideration when you are trying to improve your relationships. Yet it is the very place that processes where you perceive, understand, remember, evaluate, desire, and respond to people.

    The somewhat bizarre fact of life is that the people who are in our lives are not simply who they actually are. They are some interesting mix of who they are and what we make of them in our brains. If we understand the ways in which relationships impact our brains, we can likely change our brains to alter the ways in which we interact with others too.

    Transference

    Transference is a psychological phenomenon in which conversational or relational partners activate earlier memories. As a result, we may unconsciously repeat conflicts from the past that have nothing to do with the current relationship.

    For instance, you may be having an off day and may be a little short with a colleague. The colleague may snap at you in a way that is out of proportion to your actual interaction, since your manner may remind them of a conflictual and bossy relationship earlier in their lives. These kinds of knee-jerk responses occur in the brain due to the brain’s propensity to make non-conscious predictions based on early life experiences. They may be unwarranted, but we are usually not aware of them.

    What you can do? You can prevent this kind of situation. Introduce new self-reflections, and possibly even points of discussion when you find yourself engaged in a conflict. Ask yourself, “Am I responding to this person, or am I mixing them up with someone from the past?” This can also make for an interesting discussion when you are trying to resolve a conflict.

    Emotional contagion

    Our emotions can be easily transferred to another person without us even knowing about this. This can also happen through large-scale social networks without in-person interactions or nonverbal cues.

    Interact with a disgruntled group online, and you are likely to feel disgruntled as well. On the other hand, interacting with a positive group will probably make you feel more positive. Often, our negative emotions such as anger are transferred more easily than positive ones. It’s meant to be to our evolutionary advantage to be able to pick up emotions that quickly, but sometimes it can interfere with relationship dynamics. The culprits responsible for this contagion in the brain are called mirror neurons. They are specialized to automatically pick up the emotions of others.

    What you can do? When you are interacting online, ensure that you know that whatever content you are consuming is likely to impact your mood. Be judicious about this depending on what you want to feel.

    In interactions with friends, colleagues, or romantic partners, be aware that their negative emotions could throw you into a negative state, even if you do not actually feel negative. Many a fearful dating partner has turned off the other person automatically because they somehow start to feel afraid as well.

    Be aware when your partner or colleague “makes” you angry. You may not actually be angry with them, but instead, mistaking their anger for yours when your brain reflects their feeling states.

    Cognitive empathy

    When you are trying to negotiate with someone, you may think it helpful to reflect their emotions, but this emotional empathy could backfire. In most instances, it’s far more effective to use cognitive empathy instead. When you use cognitive empathy, the other person becomes less defensive and feels heard too. While there is some overlap, cognitive empathy activates a mentalizing network in the brain, which differs from the emotional mirroring mechanisms of emotional empathy.

    What you can do? When trying to resolve a conflict, try using cognitive empathy rather than emotional empathy to resolve the conflict. This means that you reflect on what they are saying, and then neutrally paraphrase what they are saying or intending. Paraphrasingcan actually decrease their anger and reactivity. It’s a form of cognitive empathy, indicating that you are able to walk in their shoes.

    Changing your own brain’s automatic reactions can help you navigate relationships more effectively. By knowing when to examine and explore transference, emotional empathy, and cognitive empathy in different situations, relationships have the potential to deepen too.

    Article adapted from: Pillay, S. (2018, September 27). Brain science to improve your relationships. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/brain-science-to-improve-your-relationships-2018100414922

A happy brain is a hard-working brain.

Living a meaningful life keeps your brain engaged and active.

Sign the Brainifesto

CALLING ALL BRAIN OWNERS!

Get ready to rev your MENTAL ENGINES, fire up those neurons and learn tips and tricks for keeping your brain strong all life-long. Show the world that you’re serious about being brain healthy. Sign your name to The Brainifesto today, and kick off your commitment to lifelong learning, growth and development.

Download a PDF of the Brainifesto.

In The News

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Youth tackle football will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now I would know — I’m a CTE expert and former college football player.

Chris Nowinski, the featured speaker at Brain Up's BrainFest knows first-hand about the dangers of concussions and CTE. This football player and professional wrestler was forced to retire his athletic career because of repetitive concussions. He earned his Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience at Boston University School of Medicine and is co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the sports concussion crisis through education, policy, and research.

©2016 Brain Up! is a program of the Winter Park Health Foundation