The human brain is a complex and peculiar organ that controls the psychological and physical well-being of the human body. Different researchers have made tremendous steps in discovering the working of the brain, and they all appear to concur that without proper nourishment, the brain can be as good as ‘useless’. According to Chrisologue Gakuba, a cardiologist based in Kigali, the brain is like the computer motherboard that controls body systems, while the nerves are like wires that transmit information to and from the brain. “As such, the brain needs special care. This is why people who, for instance, get few hours of sleep can be sloppy at work compared to those who take enough rest,” he says. Enough Sleep Dr Julien Kagabo Gashegu, a lecturer at the University Of Rwanda’s School Of Medicine- Huye Campus, says for the brain to function well one needs to sleep early and wake up early as well. “Long sleep is necessary and recommended. Going to bed before midnight and waking up at dawn is better despite the fact that there are no known proven better hours of going to bed,” he says. Gashegu emphasises sleeping and waking up early is on the biological clock in the human body and on the geographical setting to the extent that once perturbed, one feels uncomfortable. “For instance, a person who moves from the US to Rwanda might get sleepy during day hours because it is nightfall in the US,” he says. Gashegu advises that long hours of sleep among children are more advisable than for adults since during sleep growth hormones are catalysed to work better. “That’s why children who get sufficient sleep tend to be taller compared to those who experience hardness in sleeping,” he says. According to US-based online media company babycenter.com, more than your child’s height can be affected by a shortage of sleep. Some kids fail to produce enough growth hormone naturally, and a lack of sleep makes the problem worse. It can lead to a condition known as growth hormone deficiency that can affect heart or lung strength or immune system function. Nutrition For Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Complementary Therapy and Reflexology, Kigali, the brain uses a lot of energy and it is the first part to be created in the human body. “Therefore, from this point of view pregnant mothers are encouraged to consume a lot of foods with folic acid, fish, avocado, olive oil, groundnuts and sun flower seeds which are rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3,” he says. He says sesame seeds, wheat bran and wheat germ are also good for the nourishment of the brain because they are rich in proteins and other essential nutrients. John Mugabe Butera, the acting executive director, Scaling up Nutrition (SUN), says nutrition is a fundamental requirement for wellness and functioning of the brain. “Taking a balanced diet feeds the brain with water and mineral salts which are very essential for the people who do a lot of work and those involved in activities that require thinking a lot,” he says. Butera says heavy meals should be taken for breakfast, and should be dominated with fruits and vegetables. “A balanced diet should not be confused with junk foods that have a lot fats and good taste but without any nutritional value,” he warns. Watching TV while eating not good Butera says that it’s not advisable for someone to eat and watch the television simultaneously since it disrupts the concentration of the brain thus compromising food metabolism. Meditation and brain activities Celestin Mutuyimana, a clinical psychologist at Hopes and Homes for children Rwanda, says meditation is also one of the factors that make brain function well. “Meditation helps the brain to relax which improves how it processes things and retention levels,” he says. Mutuyimana adds that using the brain for more stimulating activities also helps to improve its wellbeing and functioning. A recent University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health study showed that higher education was associated with lower age-related increases of abnormal levels of tau protein in the cerebrospinal fluid of older adults. “Tau is a biomarker of neurodegeneration caused by Alzheimer’s disease; in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s it creates abnormal tangles in the neurons. While tau levels increased in all the adults in the study as they aged, those with 16 years of education showed smaller increases than their less educated peers,” the study says. Affection and environment Jean Paul Vuguziga, a pshcho-therapist at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says affection given to a child by parents and the environment in which children grow matters a lot. “People whose brain has bad memories and images of cruelty or have had a tragic past are influenced negatively in one way or the other as far as their mental health is concerned,” he says. Vuguziga adds that sports and physical exercises are also good for brain health and function.