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Alzheimer’s disease, with its attendant confusion and memory loss, is rapidly replacing the Big C as the condition people fear most. Though pharmaceutical companies are pouring money into finding new drugs to treat it, success is as yet elusive. Some researchers say that vitamin B12 and regular exercise help to slow the progress of the disease. Others advocate a “use it or lose it” view , arguing that keeping the brain active into middle and old age helps to stave off symptoms. Neurobics was coined in imitation of aerobics (it seems by Dr Lawrence C Katz and Manning Rubin in their 1999 book Keep Your Brain Alive) to cover mental exercises invented to help do that. Remaining mentally active, it’s argued, keeps the links between brain cells alive and busy. An example might be brushing your teeth with the other hand, or moving items around so you don’t get in a mental rut, or doing things with your eyes closed. Such claims are viewed with scepticism by the medical profession, but everyone agrees that at least they can do no harm. Unlike so many briefly fashionable terms that explode into the night sky of the popular press but soon fade, this one shows slight signs of continued life.

Others insist that you cannot separate the mind’s software from its hardware and that the true aim of neurobics ought to be to keep the connections between brain cells flexible and strong, perhaps even growing new connections and new brain cells.

New Scientist, Nov. 2001

He [Lawrence C Katz] and co-author Manning Rubin developed a series of mental exercises they say increases the range of mental motion by activating different parts of the brain. Called “neurobics,” they “enhance the brain’s natural drive to form associations between different types of information,” Katz says.

Washington Post, Feb. 2002

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 29 Jun. 2002

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-neu1.htm
Last modified: 29 June 2002.