Brain Truths and Myths

Our understanding of the human brain has exploded over the last couple decades, yet many misconceptions still exist. Test your knowledge with the following true/false quiz. Answers are at the end.

  1. The human brain does not grow new brain cells or change its structure at a cellular level.
  2. “Use it or lose it” is an accurate phrase for our brain.
  3. Video games are bad for your brain.
  4. Younger brains generally work faster than older brains.
  5. Exercising your brain can lower the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
  6. The best exercise for your brain is to frequently review information you recently learned.
  7. Our brain fate is determined by our genes.
  8. The brain follows a predictable trajectory of cognitive decline as we age.
  9. Medication provides the best hope for preserving or enhancing brain functioning.
  10. Under the right circumstances, the brain can recover many apparent age-related losses.


  1. All healthy brains grow new brain cells regardless of age and we continually alter the structure of our brain through a process known as neuroplasticity.
  2. Lack of cognitive challenge predicts cognitive decline.
  3. While some video games are undoubtedly of little or no benefit, most video games are challenging and get more difficult as the player gets better. This continuous challenge stimulates the brain in beneficial ways.
  4. It is true that as brains age processing speed slows down. This does not, however, mean that older brains cannot perform as well as younger brains. In one study, one-third of older brains functioned as well as, and in some cases better than, younger brains.
  5. Research has demonstrated that individuals who regularly engage in cognitively challenging activities have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  6. The best exercise for your brain is new challenges. The key is that it is different and difficult. This stimulates a brain chemical called acetylcholine which is important in growing new brain cells.
  7. While genes are certainly important factors in brain performance and health, our brains are significantly influenced over our lifetime by a variety of other factors including mental and physical exercise, nutrition, stress, sleep, and other factors.
  8. There is nothing inherently fixed about the path brain functioning takes as we age.
  9. A variety of non-medicinal interventions have been shown to be more effective than medication.
  10. A variety of techniques have been successfully used to positively impact a wide variety of age-related mental losses.



Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Zane Robertson who is President of Active Minds®, a Denver based provider of educational programs for seniors. He is a frequent speaker on lifelong learning and senior education and has served on the Denver Commission on Aging and the board of the Denver Coalition for Seniors. Active Minds programs are available in most Denver senior residential communities as well as a variety of public venues. For more information, contact Mr. Robertson at 303‑320‑7652 or visit


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