Although the brain isn’t a muscle, the old ‘use it or lose it’ adage still applies. Brain scans show that when people use their brains in unaccustomed ways, more blood flows into different areas of the brain, and new neural pathways form. In a study in the journal Nature in 2004, young people were taught how to juggle. After three months, MRI scans showed enlargement of the grey matter in their brains — the part responsible for higher mental functions. When the participants in the study stopped juggling, their brains shrank again, suggesting that we need to keep our brains engaged to maintain mental agility and function. So, whether it’s a crossword puzzle, Sudoku or a university degree, trying giving your brain a challenge every day and you’ll be more likely to keep your marbles! Also, another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that more frequent participation in mentally stimulating activities can lead to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.