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Activities spark brain function

 

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

JUDY JUSKEY, right, of Mercer, Wis., and Andrea Newby, family living agent for the Iron County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, share information about themselves through their "dendrites" during the first session of Breakfast for Your Brain at the Mercer Community Center, Tuesday.

MERCER, Wis. - Local residents worked out their minds Tuesday, during the first session of Breakfast for Your Brain in Mercer.

The event is put together by Andrea Newby, family living agent for the Iron County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, and will feature classes once a month.

"The first session went really great, and it was a lot of fun," Newby said.

There will be a total of 20 sessions, including different brain-building activities to help improve memory, thought processes and other brain functions. Breakfast items are served to help tie in the importance of good nutrition with brain health.

Eight participants attended Tuesday's class, and Newby "congratulated" them.

"Congratulations, you have made the choice to improve your memory, thinking and cognitive skills," Newby said.

To get started, the group learned about brain functions, including neurons and dendrites that help the flow of information.

When dendrites in the brain touch, an electric charge or chemical passes from one dendrite to the other at a synaptic contact, similar to a spark. Neurons interact with thousands of other cells, and 30,000 neurons can fit in the space the size of a pin head, according to Newby.

"There are more neurons in the brain than there are stars in the Milky Way," Newby said.

Each attendee acted as a neuron and made dendrites out of pipe cleaners. Then the dendrites were matched with other people's and they shared information, including their name and favorite animal.

After the project was done, the participants tried to remember as many of the animals mentioned as they could.

Participants also learned the difference between right- and left-brained dominate people, what the different parts of the brain are and debunked commons myths about brain power.

"Many people believe that brains lose power over time, like a battery, but that is not true," Newby said. "Brain power can actually increase and grow stronger and physically larger with more use."

A discussion was also had on how different prescriptions or over-the-counter medications can have side affects of memory loss or confusion. Deficiencies in vitamins, minerals or dietary needs can also cause confusion or forgetfulness.

Mental activity can also have lasting effects.

"It's been shown that 10 hours of mental aerobics can have a lasting effect five years later," Newby said.

The next Breakfast for Your Brain is scheduled for Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. at the Mercer Community Center.

"If you want to have fun, learn something new and improve function, come and participate," Newby said. "It's a lot of fun."