BBC's Rachel Burden trains her brain at LJMU

BBC 5 Live presenter Rachel Burden says she is more confident and happy after ‘training her brain’ at LJMU.

The 49-year-old, who has presented the weekday breakfast show since 2011, spent a month following a working memory boosting course designed by Dr Samantha Brooks, a cognitive neuroscientist.

Dr Brooks and fellow School of Psychology researcher Dr Davide Bruno have both appeared on Rachel’s show to discuss issues of memory loss, brain health and offer useful tips on warding off ‘grey cell’ decline.

Rachel came to LJMU last month to report on the latest research in the field as part of a women’s brain health series for the 5 Live. But she also brought personal concerns, citing memory fade and anxiety about maintaining her brain amid a hectic job, family commitments and the uprushing menopause.

Not a problem, said Sam and Davide who invited her to Byrom Street for some memory tests and sent her away with a daily schedule of brain training exercises, courtesy of the Curb Your Addiction programme run by Samantha.

CYA involves repairing parts of the brain with ‘mental exercise’, has already shown early promise in trials to date.

Reporting on her daily regime on her show, Rachel is raising the profile of women’s brain health and underlining the expertise at LJMU in this field of neuroscience and she returned for her final debrief last week which was broadcast today (May 9, @21mins).

A month on, with ample training under her hat, Rachel performed markedly better in tests – recalling more numbers, longer numbers and perfectly recreating an image had been shown some time earlier.

Her brain activity – measured by a Stroop test, which measures the amount of blood rushing around the brain, showed that Rachel improved in the time it took her to read out the ink colours of food words.  This suggests that she was better able to cognitively regulate distractions associated with attractive food stimuli, which might translate in the real world as a better ability to inhibit distractions in the supermarket, for example.

Davide said: “Rachel’s baseline test was already high so these improvements are impressive. The stress of work, lack of sleep and the perimenopause all impact brain function so doing brain gym is important.”

“We may have souped up your brain,” added Samantha. “Our objective tests show that your brain training is really working."

The LJMU team, which includes BSc Psychology student Emily Casey and PhD Rachel Dudley-Jones, advised that diet, specifically a Mediterranean diet and low alcohol intake, could contribute to better memory function and brain health.

IMAGE: PhD Rachel Dudley-Jones with Rachel Burden, Dr Samantha Brooks, Dr Davide Bruno and BSc Emily Casey.


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