How to Improve Cognitive Function (Evidence-Based Methods)

Updated on October 19, 2022
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)

We look at what cognitive function is and how it declines with age and other factors. We then also explore how to improve cognitive function with evidence-based methods.

Cognitive function encompasses reasoning, attention, memory, language, and other factors which influence knowledge. It is the driving force behind your brain and every decision you make throughout the day. As it is so important, finding ways to improve cognitive function is vital.

Our evidence-based methods in this article work on improving brain structure and connectivity and can be fit into your everyday routine. As we age, our brain’s ability to function declines and this makes it harder to learn new information and stay sharp and focused. This article reminds you why therefore exercising the mind and keeping your brain healthy is so important.

What is Cognitive Function?

How to Improve Cognitive Function (Evidence-Based Methods)

Your brain is a part of the body that is always at work. Whether you realize it or not, your brain processes information, whilst also organizing and remembering this information on a 24/7 basis. As you live your life, you might not always notice this, but it’s one of the most vital and complex organs in the human body.

The brain not only processes information, but also controls thought, emotion, touch, vision, motor skills, temperature, breathing, and everything else which regulates our body. This is why it is so important to keep it healthy and constantly improve our cognitive function.

Being able to think, learn fast, remember more, make decisions, solve problems, concentrate and focus on hard tasks are what are known as core mental abilities. This is known as your cognitive function. Cognitive function encompasses reasoning, attention, memory, language, and other factors which influence knowledge.

As soon as you wake in the morning, cognitive skills get to work, whether that’s socializing with someone, picking up the phone, or simply reading a morning email.

In the workplace, cognitive skills can help you with interpreting data, remembering team goals, paying attention during important meetings, and simply working on big projects. It might help you reach the company or individual goals and help retain new information for you to improve on the job.

In recent years, cognitive health is increasingly being recognized as a key component to overall health and wellness and therefore effort should be put into maintaining a healthy cognitive function in the brain.

To keep cognitive function, methods often include a healthy lifestyle which can improve brain structure and connectivity. As you age, the brain ages too and your capacity to learn new things, whilst also retaining them and applying them to everyday life becomes harder. This is what is known as cognitive decline and is the primary cause of premature aging.

As cognitive function is the core of our thinking and information processing abilities, factors such as environment, mood, stress, and physical health can have a major impact. To respond to a stimulus, neuron networks connect the brain to that incentive and therefore a healthy cognitive function needs healthy neurons for smooth transmissions.

As these cognitive functions are not fixed, it becomes even more important to improve them and this article will provide you with some evidence-based methods to do so, whilst also increasing overall lifespan.

Before we move on to those methods, it’s important to note what executive decisions are too. These are higher-level cognitive skills that ensure you live your life efficiently. They help you organize, plan, and put plans into action.

Visuospatial skills are also vital to your ability to function properly and these are skills that help your brain identify what you see. You also use these skills to interpret words you read.

Cognitive Disorders

Cognitive function can be interrupted and disrupted by a variety of factors. The most common and well-known factor is natural aging. As we age, neurons die in the brain and your brain struggles to replace them. This is called cognitive decline.

However, age is not the only reason people suffer from cognitive decline, and factors such as brain injuries can also damage cognitive function and may result in an entire change of personality.

Evidence-Based Methods to Improve Cognitive Function

How to Improve Cognitive Function (Evidence-Based Methods)

The methods we have provided below are evidence-based and designed to improve cognitive function. However, they might also increase lifespan and promise to exercise your brain to keep it healthy. A healthy brain will increase executive functions and keep cognitive abilities not in constant use in good condition too.

Evidence-based methods include:

Adding Exercise Into Your Routine

Adding regular exercise into your routine can be a great way to not only work out your body but also your brain.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain as well as keeps the brain well oxygenated and helps the brain reduce the production of stress hormones whilst increasing the production of chemicals in the brain, which facilitates the growth of new neural connections.

Exercise facilitates blood flow to the hippocampus and this is the part of your brain which deals with memory and therefore can be beneficial to cognitive function and remembering new information.

Exercise not only improves cognitive function but can help deal with other health conditions such as diabetes and other cardiovascular complications. It can also help clear your mind and reduce fatigue.

A study involving a group of elderly women on a strength training program for three months showed promising results. Not only did these women show improved cognitive performance but also increased levels of balance and strength.

Get Enough Sleep

Research shows that getting the right amount of hours of sleep at night can help maintain a healthy cognitive function. If sleep quality is poor, you could find cognitive skills disappearing and this can include executive function and memory.

Research also suggests disturbances in sleep could link to physical changes in your brain which can be damaging to your cognitive function.

Lack of sleep also activates the sympathetic nervous system which can lead to a rise in blood pressure and increased secretion of cortisol. This is known as the stress hormone. People, therefore, are more irritable and stressed when they lose sleep, which can result in cognitive decline.

Reduce Stress and Depression

When you are stressed out, you can’t think clearly and you can’t think straight. Stress causes your brain to seize up during important events such as exams, job interviews, and first dates.

Emotional intensity is one of the leading causes of cognitive decline and if it is not addressed, it only gets worse by the day. Worry and stress destroy brain cells which lead to increased memory loss and a decline in cognitive function.

Reducing stress can also lower levels of depression and other mental health disorders. Depression can increase cognitive problems in people as they age and therefore working on reducing this stress can slower overall cognitive decline.

Furthermore, when stress leads to chronic headaches, fatigue, and brain fog these are all factors that can affect cognitive function.

Try to establish a connection with yourself and the environment around you to free yourself of worry, stress, and depression and focus your thoughts on the outside world. Meditate, take a walk or meet a friend to help lower levels of stress and get you thinking clearly again.

Keep Your Brain Active

The brain is the intelligence center in the body and is key to everyday functioning. Keeping the mind alert through simple, fun tasks helps with sensory stimulation and can help with how to brain responds to environmental stimuli by building neuron connections based on the response the external environment needs.

As we age, neuroplasticity shuts down and as we reach our sixth decade, the brain starts to shut down the production of serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. These are the chemicals we need for high cognitive potential.

By keeping the brain active through mental exercises, we can delay the cognitive decline that comes with the lower production of chemicals and stay mentally alert.

The exercises include learning a new language, listening or making music, playing cards, board games or electronic games, and playing puzzles. To stimulate your brain, it’s also a good idea to dive into some cultural consumption and travel.

Travel can expose people to new sights, experiences, and sounds and can build new connections in the ‘place cells’ in the brain’s memory circuits.

If travel is not an option, however, explore some new films, plays, museum tours or dine in some cultural cuisine. Seeing a foreign film, or visiting a new museum can be challenging and stimulating for your brain and you will be able to establish a new connection between neurons.

Culture can wire and rewire the brain throughout our lives to keep it healthy for as long as possible during aging.

Socializing

Dr. Kathryn Papp from Harvard University has recognized that frequent social engagements improve overall mentality and mental clarity. It can therefore improve cognitive function, especially as we age.

Socializing helps to fend off depression and social isolation that comes with loneliness and has been associated with a decline in cognitive abilities. Social life also helps people deal with stressful situations and reduce overall stress levels. This can lower the risk of dementia.

Connections can relieve the pressure of daily life to improve brain functioning and increase cognitive abilities. This can be as simple as a coffee in the park to a week-long camping trip with friends, but keeping socially engaged is one of the best ways to keep cognitive functions.

Increase Omega-3 Intake

A healthy diet has been linked to improving cognitive function and in this diet, including Omega-3 Fatty acids is vital. Research shows that Omega-3 Fatty acids have a significant role in cognitive functions that are related to aging, dementia, and neurological complications.

Omega-3 plays a vital role in the movement of calcium and other important nutrients in and out of the cells, contraction, and relaxation of muscles, secretion of digestive enzymes and hormones, regulation of clotting, fertility, growth, and cell division. It also plays an important role in brain development and this is why including enough in your diet can help with cognitive function.

Omega-3 is present in a lot of simple foods we consume each day. These include foods such as fish, walnuts, wheat germ, spinach, seafood, and soybeans. You're also able to buy Omega-3 in the form of a dietary supplement.

Use Caffeine

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that can speed up cognitive function. It can also improve mental processing speed and mental accuracy. If you need an extra boost in brainpower, it’s very common to drink a cup of coffee or energy drink in the morning to boost caffeine levels, however, you can also find the drug in supplement form.

It’s important to note, however, that consuming too much caffeine can be counter-productive and can increase stress levels, anxiety, insomnia, and can affect your ability to think long-term.

Check Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D levels are important for maintaining cognitive function and Vitamin D deficiency is more common than you might think. Vitamin D deficiency affects over 1 billion people across the globe and low levels have been linked to slower thinking skills and a decline in cognitive function.

Unless you take supplements or spend 24 hours a day in the sun, the likelihood of you having low vitamin D levels is high. You can talk to your doctor about these levels to check how low they are or order a vitamin D testing kit yourself.

Try Yoga

Yoga has been associated with not only physical fitness but also mental fitness. Scientific evidence surrounding the ancient practice has meant doctors are now recommending yoga to their patients as a form of therapy.

Regular yoga practice has been shown to improve cognitive functions concerning memory retention, delaying the onset of dementia and helping you think clearly. It can also help combat stress levels, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. It can even reduce migraines, improve sexual performance and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Therefore, with so many health benefits as well as the ability to boost cognitive function, it’s highly recommended by healthcare professionals everywhere.

Treat Yourself to a Massage

Treating yourself to a massage isn’t going to take too much convincing. It can help you feel relaxed, improve focus throughout the rest of the day and clear your mind of any everyday stress.

Research shows that as the massage is the language of touch, it can communicate with the body to have a positive effect on cognitive function and emotion. Therapeutic massages enhance mental well-being and a relaxed mind can remember, reason, and coordinate efficiently for smooth cognitive functioning.

Supplements to Improve Cognitive Function

Nootropics and supplements are a great way to increase cognitive function. You will be able to find these either online or at local health food stores and they are designed to enhance memory, increase creativity and keep users mentally alert.

Some common cognitive enhancer supplements people use include adaptogens, metabolics, and stimulants.

Mind Lab Pro® Universal Nootropic™

If you are looking for a supplement that is recommended by us to boost cognitive function, look no further than Mind Lab Pro which we have linked above. It has been voted as the world’s best nootropic and can improve focus, mental clarity, memory, and improve overall brain health.

When cognitive function starts to decrease, you might not feel as on top of your game as you once were. Mid Lab Pro promises to fix this and bring you back to your most productive and sharpest self. It will keep you mentally alert throughout the day and increase confidence and creativity despite the decline in cognitive function.

Add Mind Lab Pro to your daily routine to get you back on track and since it has been scientifically proven to work, you are guaranteed to see the results you want. Take just 2-4 capsules a day and expect to feel the effects in just 30 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions answered.

What are the 5 Cognitive Skills?

Cognitive skills are related to the way our brain processes and retain new information. There are 5 primary cognitive skills and these include reading, remembering, logical reasoning, reading, and attention span.

What are the Three Theories of Cognitive Development?

The three main cognitive theories are Piaget’s, Vygotsky’s, and information processing. These theories emphasize thinking, reasoning, language, and a range of other cognitive processes.

How Can I Improve My Cognitive Function?

To recap, evidence-based methods of improving cognitive function include exercise, reducing stress levels, challenging your brain, socializing, getting enough sleep, adding Omega-3 Fatty acids to your diet, keeping Vitamin D levels up, going for a massage, or to yoga class, and taking supplements.

Conclusion

To conclude, cognitive function encompasses basic brain activity such as being able to think clearly, learn fast, remember more, make decisions, solve problems, concentrate and focus on hard tasks. It involves reasoning, attention, memory, language, and other factors which influence knowledge. Methods to improve cognitive function often include a healthy lifestyle to improve brain structure and connectivity.

The methods we have included in this article can be fit into your everyday routine and are all evidence-based. As you age, your brain ages alongside you and therefore it is important to use these methods to keep it healthy and working for as long as possible and continue to constantly improve that cognitive function.

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