Katy Barnard/Mustang News

Spring — a season that can represent sunshine, flowers and new beginnings for some; while for others, signifies a time of stress, allergies and senioritis.

Whatever your spring quarter may hold, let it be a season of learning what activities affect your brain, for better or for worse.

Get enough sleep

The speed at which you process thoughts slows down significantly after one night of insufficient sleep, according to a study by University of Pennsylvania neurocognitive doctors Jeffrey S. Durmer and David F. Dinges. This is because poor sleep inhibits the neural pathways through which information travels.

Lack of sleep also alters levels of the hormone ghrelin, which increases hunger and can cause people to gain weight. The prefrontal cortex is affected, causing one to be continually distracted and have delayed reaction time.

Chronic sleep deprivation can kill brain cells or clog the cells with proteins, which leads to permanent brain damage related to processing information and attention. Lack of sleep can also turn on genes in the brain that activate depression.

Manage your stress

Science, health and technology journalist Madhumita Murgia has found that undergoing long-term stress releases a chemical called cortisol in the brain. In excess, cortisol can be severely https://modafiniladviser.com/modafinil-vs-adderall/ damaging to the brain. Cortisol deteriorates the creation of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning, memories and stress-control. These abilities are impaired by cortisol, as well as the shrinking of the prefrontal cortex, which affects decision making, concentration, judgment and social interaction.

Cortisol also increases the amount of neural connections in the amygdala, the area of the brain that processes fear; long-term stress diminishes one’s ability to manage stress in general.


A highly encouraged strategy to combat such stress is through exercise. Aerobic exercise, indicative of sweat and increased heart rate, has been found to increase the size of the hippocampus.

This is possible by the release of hormones that foster an environment nourishing to brain cell growth. Exercising also decreases the release of stress hormones, increases the retention of new information and increases serotonin, which regulates and elevates mood, according to a Harvard Health Publication

Nourish your body

The relationship between eating well and health should be a given. However, certain nutrients can particularly help the brain when it comes to tasks like learning and memory. As discussed by dietician Joy Bauer, folic acid — found in green vegetables and certain fruits — can aid memory. In the form of carbohydrates, it aids in alertness and concentration.

In order for your brain to stay energized, consume B vitamins and iron, which aid in the metabolism of cellular energy. To provide adequate flow of oxygen in the brain, iron consumption is recommended, primarily from animal meats such as poultry.

Monica Reinagel — “the Nutrition Diva” — is a licensed nutritionist and talkshow personality. In a nutrition podcast, she stated “Throughout life, you need tyrosine — which is found in protein foods — and vitamin C to produce the neurotransmitters that carry signals between brain cells. Antioxidants and essential fatty acids also help to protect your brain cells from everyday damage and age-related decline.”


It’s a common consensus that college students dislike reading; according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 42 percent of college students will not read a book after graduation. But reading is paramount in brain health and function. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis has found that reading can be incredibly stress-relieving, as participants in his study decreased their stress level 68 percent by reading, while listening to music relieved their stress by 61 percent and taking a walk by 42 percent.

This stress-relieving affect works because reading requires focusing attention, which activates parts of the brain associated with positive moods. Additionally, according to a study from Emory University, reading has been found to increase levels of emotional intelligence, empathy and brain connectivity.

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