Research helps students develop healthier brains

By Annette M. Lesure

Research shows education can repair damage caused by marijuana, alcohol, stress, and a negative attitude all of which damage a young person’s brain.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which does not finish developing until age 25, is responsible for decision making, learning and planning.

 Any disruption to the brain during this time of growth can cause “unwanted consequences.”

Some college students may ask why it matters, as it is common to associate brain deterioration and cognitive decline with older people. 

Contrary to what younger people often think, keeping the brain healthy to help prevent such damage starts while a person is young and their brain is developing, according to East Los Angeles College Psychology Professor Bryant Horowitz. 

Mayo Clinic research studies have proven that when marijuana is processed in the bloodstream, the THC reaches the brain and attaches to natural brain receptors called cannabinoids. 

Once this process happens, problems with learning and memory begin to occur. 

Horowitz said that using marijuana under age 25 risks the “loss of brain cells in the memory centers of the brain.”

 He also said that long-term use of marijuana can “lower IQ points, literally making you dumber by definition.”

Similarly, alcohol consumption causes brain damage by damaging the ends of neurons, making it difficult for the brain to send signals. 

Horowitz said that “brain cell loss” or killing of the cells with alcohol use can stunt the growth of the PFC, causing permanent brain damage. 

Stress can also injure or kill brain cells in addition to reducing the size of the brain. 

“It is particularly concerning for those under 25 because it is also inhibiting the brain’s natural growth and development,” Horowitz said.

A person’s attitude can go a long way for a person’s brain health. 

The Mayo Clinic wrote, “People who are positive and optimistic tend to live healthier lifestyles.” 

These people tend to be more physically active, keep healthier diets and do not excessively smoke or drink, leading to a healthy brain.

The Mayo Clinic also wrote that optimism affects many areas of a person’s health. 

Positive thinking plays a crucial part in effective stress management, which is associated with many health benefits, in addition to good brain health.

Horowitz said that a field of psychology called “positive psychology,” developed in the 1960s, showed a better overall function between healthy brain neurons from those that thought positively. 

A sure way to help keep the brain active and healthy and even reverse damage is with education. 

It helps keep the brain muscle sharp and prevents issues from surfacing. 

“Multiple studies now show that higher education has a protective effect on cognitive decline and brain health. People with more years of formal education, such as more college attendance and advanced degrees, or greater literacy, have a lower risk for brain issues than those with fewer years of formal education,” wrote Sangay Gupta in “Keep Sharp: How to Build a Better Brain at Any Age.” 

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