LONDON (Reuters) - Enjoy dark chocolate, have plenty of sex, eat cold meats and fish for breakfast and you could boost your brain power, say the authors of a new book.
Cognitive psychologist Terry Horne and biochemist Simon Wootton -- who co-authored "Teach Yourself: Training Your Brain" -- argue that lifestyle choices are crucial for keeping you in tip-top mental condition.
"Lifestyle can boost your brain power," Horne said. "What your lifestyle does is help to create the chemical conditions in your brain."
Horne told Reuters in an interview to mark the book's publication that the brain is more like a chemical factory than a computer.
"You can create the optimum conditions in your brain," he said. "You are not just a passive victim of your genes."
The authors take issue with those who argue that a decline in cognitive ability is inevitable from the age of 17 onwards. With careful lifestyle choices "you can create spare cognitive capacity," Horne said.
They offer an intriguing list of do's and don'ts and insist that people can be pro-active in keeping their brains agile.
Much of it is pure common sense.
"Stress is bad for your thinking. Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking cannabis," he said.
Intriguingly, the authors also urge readers to avoid watching soap operas and Horne said "Don't mix with whingeing, whining, moaning and cynical sorts of people."
And the book is full of practical tips on how to keep the brain firing on all cylinders.
"Cold meats and fish are good for you at breakfast," Horne said after writing the book which the authors say is based on leading scientific research from around the world.
"Dark chocolate is also good for you because it contains many of the chemicals present when your brain is thinking well. It relaxes the muscles around your blood vessels and actually improves the flow of blood to your brain."
They then looked at research into the seven stages of sex from the time you first fancy it through to the after-glow.
"In four of the seven stages we see the same chemicals that help with the thinking process," Horne said.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)