New Skills To Learn That Actually Improve Your Brain

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Learning almost any new skill can give your brain a boost, but some will have a bigger impact than others. Here are a few that will actually improve and support brain function, and even ward off dementia, according to science.

Speaking a foreign language

According to Live Science, learning a new language, at any age, is good for your brain. Young adults who speak more than one language tend to perform better on other cognitive tests, including attention and concentration tests. And that’s the case whether they grew up bilingual, or learned a new language as a teenager.

Research also suggests that older adults who speak more than one language may maintain cognitive function for longer. One study, on a group of adults with dementia, found that those who spoke more than one language had developed the disease, on average, four and a half years later than those who didn’t.

Playing a musical instrument

Learning to play a musical instrument has many benefits, and one of them is an improvement in cognitive function. Playing music, is arguably better for your brain than almost any other activity. According to Practical Neurology:

“Playing a musical instrument can delay the onset of future cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia.”

While playing an instrument, and the process of learning to play, offer a strong potential enhancement to the brain, even listening to music can be beneficial. Research indicates that listening to a tune you love releases dopamine, the brain’s ‘feel good’ hormone, which plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning.


Making art can help build connections in the brain and so aid cognitive development (which is why it’s a great activity for kids), and it can also help slow cognitive decline in older adults. A study by the American Academy of Neurology found that painting, drawing and sculpting in old age lowers the risk of developing the early signs of dementia by 73%.

Again, while creating art seems to protect the brain, even enjoying and appreciating it can have a beneficial impact. There is evidence that ‘cultural attendance’, including visiting art galleries and museums, offers some protection against age-related cognitive decline.  What’s more, making art can help improve your brain, regardless of artistic talent, so don’t worry if your art isn’t good enough to hang in a gallery, or even your own home. The act of creating it is still beneficial.


This will come as no surprise to anyone who practices it regularly, but yoga comes with a wide range of cognitive, as well as physical, benefits. For example, research published in the journal Brain Plasticity, suggests yoga can enhance brain function and even positively affect the structure of your brain.

Yoga has long been known as a form of exercise that helps with stress, which tends to impact cognitive function, but the science indicates that the benefits go much deeper than that. Many yoga poses, particularly inversions, involve the head being lower than the heart, which impacts cerebral blood flow. What’s more, yoga can be practised at any age, regardless of fitness levels and often (with the guidance of a teacher) when you have health conditions that make other forms of exercise difficult.


This article was originally published on Medium. Re-published here with permission.

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