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The Doctors' orders: Mind Games

Doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles can keep your brain sharp by creating new neural connections.

(May we suggest Stickdoku and Frame Games!?)


How the brain develops

A gestating fetus develops 250,000 neurons, or brain cells, per minute. By the time the baby is born, he or she will have close to 100 billion neurons that will create approximately 10,000 neural connections – each. These neural connections create networks that allow electrical impulses and chemical interactions to occur. As the child grows, so does the brain. By the time a child can walk, those 100 billion neurons will have created 1,000 trillion connections and by age 5, the overall structure of the brain is complete.

If parents find themselves perplexed by their teenaged children, there’s a reason for that. The frontal cortex, the area responsible for judgment and rational thought, is the last part of the brain to develop. “The ability to think about things before you act hasn’t fully developed in many teenagers,” Dr. Gupta explains.

Additionally, the amygdala, considered the emotional center of the brain, is fully developed in adolescents; so many teenagers will act on emotion rather than rational thought. “Teenagers will tend to think out of fear or irrational thought, out of emotion instead of just good judgment,” Dr. Gupta explains.


If a learned behavior, language or skill is not utilized, the human brain will begin to prune itself. “They will lose that function at some point,” Dr. Gupta explains. “Things you stop doing, you lose. Things you keep doing, you gain and even get better at.”

The aging brain

The brain can be affected by changes in hormone levels. This phenomenon can help explain">hot flashes that women experience during menopause, a time when hormones are in flux.

Another phenomenon that affects changes to the brain is the amount of blood flow it receives. People who suffer illnesses such as dementia and">Alzheimer’s have a decreased blood flow to their brains.">Keeping your brain active can help keep your brain healthy as you age. “It goes back to that whole thing with pruning,” Dr. Gupta says. “If you use [your brain], you can really maintain it. Learning some new activity or hobby makes a huge difference.”

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The Doctors

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check for local listings.