Professional athletes hire personal trainers and learn as much as possible about getting the most out of their bodies. They study things such as exercise’s effect on muscles, the vitamins and minerals they’ll need to rebuild muscle, and how much water they’ll need to drink to stay hydrated while working out. Students can use the same approach by learning about biopsychology and learning - related biopsychology research to get their brains in tiptop shape. This article will teach you a few things about biopsychology so you can get your brain ready for maximum learning.
What is Your Brain Made Of?
About 70% of our brain is made up of fatty acids. (The other 30% is made up of protein.) This is because the cell membranes of neurons, the cells that make up our brain, are created by a double layer of fatty acids. The cell membrane holds all the cell’s contents and gives neurons their shape. So, when you see a picture of your brain, you are looking at the cell membranes of millions of neurons.
However, we need specific fatty acids to build healthy cell membranes. A steady dose of omega – 3 and omega – 6 fatty acids are needed for healthy neurons. Since your body cannot make these fats, you have to get them from foods you eat. To ensure your brain is getting what it needs to function, you should eat foods like flax seeds, green leafy vegetables, and “cold water” fish like salmon and trout for omega – 3’s. To get essential omega – 6’s, you need to eat sunflower, corn, and sesame oils in your diet.
Your brain uses the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to create two, “long chain” fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). These fats become the basic building blocks of cell membranes. Without them, cell walls weaken, which causes problems like memory loss, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have also shown that low levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids leads to mental disorders like brain allergies, Schizophrenia, and hyperactivity.
To get your brain in shape for maximum learning, eat foods that are high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids like the ones mentioned in the paragraphs above. This will ensure brain cells have what they need to make strong, healthy cell walls. Healthy cell walls are flexible and allow cellular waste to leave the cell easily where it is filtered by the liver and kidneys.
The Effects of Eating “Bad Fats” on Your Brain
We’ve all heard about “trans-fats” and how unhealthy they are for us. This is because these fatty acids are man-made. Eating high “trans-fat” foods affects the neurons in our brain by changing the shape and make up of cell membranes.
If we eat high trans-fat foods (like spread such as margarine or butter, fast food, packaged foods like cake mixes, doughnuts, and potato chips), our bodies still extract them just as they do with omega 3’s and 6’s. These fats go into the building of neurons in our brain, too. This causes problems because trans-fats are thicker and sticky.
The man-made nature of trans-fats causes two main problems for our brains. First, eating trans-fats leads to thicker cell membrane in neurons, making it harder for cellular waste to pass through and decreasing the cell’s flexibility. Neurons need flexible cell walls to fit tightly against one another so they can communicate properly. Second, trans-fats are thick, which reduces the neuron’s ability to receive very tiny electrical pulses from nearby cells. This slows cell communication and hurts your brain’s ability to learn.
Finally, trans-fats clog all blood vessels – not just arteries. As human brains have evolved to cope with our modern world, they have grown in size. Blood vessels in the brain (about 100 square feet of capillary surface exists in the brain alone) are needed to cool it. If blood vessels become clogged by trans-fat residue, blood flow slows. The brain will start to decline as cells overheat and die.
Students can use this information to maximize their ability to learn new information. Reduce or eliminate trans-fats from your diet so neuronal cells will keep their natural shape, flexibility, and electrical conductivity. This will also improve blood flow to your brain, which will prevent cell death due to overheating.
Students can use biopsychology the way athletes use information about nutrition and muscle growth. This is especially true where neurons (the name given to brain cells) are concerned. Humans need to eat foods high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to promote the brain’s creation of docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid (known as DHA and AA). These fatty acids are used to build healthy, flexible, conductive cell membranes that fit tightly together, allowing electrical pulses to pass between then easily for cellular communication. Modern diets are high in trans-fats – man-made fats that are thicker and stickier than natural fats. Trans-fats cause cell membranes to be thick and less flexible. This makes it harder for neurons to eliminate cell waste material. It also hurts the neuron’s ability to receive electrical pulses from nearby cells, which slows down cell communication and makes learning much more difficult.
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