Cooking for Cognition: making a meal Is good for your brain.

If you feel at home in the kitchen, planning and preparing nutritious meals, congratulations. You’re not only refueling your body; you’re stimulating your brain with the type of workout it needs to remain healthy.

“A nourishing, home-cooked meal, shared with friends or family, touches on three of the six pillars of brain health,” says Jeffrey Cummings, MD, ScD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “This familiar activity exercises the brain, provides the nutrition our bodies crave and encourages social interaction, all of which are critical to preserving cognitive fitness.”

Dr. Cummings notes that many brain processes involved in getting dinner on the table are classified as executive functions, which help us plan and control goal-directed thoughts and actions.

“Executive functions test our ability to organize, prioritize, sustain focus, solve problems, retrieve memories and multitask,” he explains. They are located principally in the prefrontal regions of the brain’s frontal lobe, with connections to other brain regions.

Producing a holiday dinner with all the trimmings will surely tax your executive functioning, but smaller-scale meals demand equivalent skills:

  • Formulating a meal plan, perhaps by researching recipes online or in cookbooks, compels you to anticipate and organize.
  • Factoring details into your planning – your brother hates green beans, you served an Italian dish the last time he came over – requires you to remember and to solve problems as you strive to design a menu that will make everyone happy.
  • Making a list and shopping for groceries draws on memory and focus. If all the ingredients you need are not available, you may have to improvise, which also benefits your brain.
  • Multitasking and organizing come into play as you prepare the meal to ensure that everything you’re serving is ready at the same time.

Executive function applies to another dimension: managing frustration and controlling emotions. You may have to draw on these cognitive resources if your meal preparation goes awry or your dinner falls flat, despite your best efforts. Don’t despair. Grace under pressure is just one more sign of a healthy brain!

For more information on how you can keep your brain engaged and reduce risk for brain decline, visit Cleveland Clinic’s

Image:  Courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health; Frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex.
Many parts of the brain are engaged when cooking, eating and socializing. 
Green area: Dorosolateral Prefrontal Cortex
Red area: Anterior Cingulate Cortex
Yellow area: Orbitofrontal Cortex


Dr. Mark Doubrava on the importance of the new UNLV School of Medicine.

Dr. Mark Dubrouva, a Las Vegas ophthalmologist, is a Nevada System of Higher Education regent and member of the UNLV School of Medicine’s Community Advisory Board, so he has a unique perspective on medical education in Nevada.

Check out why he believes  UNLV’s School of Medicine is so important to health of our community.

What stands out about your own medical education?
I received my undergraduate degree from UNLV and then attended the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno.  At the time, it was the fifth smallest medical school in the country. I thought the attention from the professors was outstanding and the medical training was as good as or better than other medical schools. [Doubrava subsequently trained at Baylor College of Medicine, Louisiana State University Eye Center, and the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital of New Orleans before returning to Nevada to practice.]

That said, there was a bit of a burden in attending a split campus — doing my first two years of basic science in Reno and then the third and fourth years in Las Vegas.

The UNLV School of Medicine, a local school, will offer all four years in one city — Las Vegas. That’s going to have a lot of advantages for traditional students who finish their undergrad courses and then go on to medical school. It will also help local non-traditional students who consider medicine as a second career. In the past, they would have to relocate, often uprooting their families, to pursue medical education. Both types of students can firmly establish roots here while studying.

What health care challenges are unique to this community?
A primary challenge is the boomtown history of Las Vegas. It was a fast-growing community for several decades. While many excellent physicians came here, the boomtown also attracted some physicians who weren’t of the highest quality. Many patients left the state for routine and specialty medical care. It’s not only an issue of quality of health care — or perceived quality — it’s also a numbers issue. There are too few physicians in some specialties. So we’re doing a lot of catch up.

What stimulated the idea for a UNLV School of Medicine?
When I got involved with the System of Higher Education on a volunteer basis back in the mid-2000s, there was a discussion about creating an academic health center in Las Vegas to improve our health care. The “how” centered on bringing in an established medical institution such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, or University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. There also was talk of getting the school in Reno to do more down here.

I was one of the voices saying that we needed a homegrown solution. Once I became a member of the Board of Regents Health Sciences System Committee, I probed further and came to the conclusion that the best option for serving our community was to establish the UNLV School of Medicine.

Which School of Medicine milestones make you most proud?
The first was receiving full funding by the state legislature. That was helped by the efforts that came from members of the school’s Community Advisory Board. It was formed in the fall of 2014 before the UNLV School of Medicine budget went to the state legislature for the 2015 session. It was gratifying to see community leaders clamoring to participate because they all want to improve access to medical care in this community.

The second milestone occuredin October when the school was granted preliminary accreditation from the accreditation body for MD degree-granting medical schools. Now I’m really looking forward to welcoming the inaugural class in July 2017 and supporting the philanthropy efforts for the first medical education building. (See more School of Medicine milestones.)

What sustains your passion for the UNLV School of Medicine?
There are two things: One is UNLV. I want to see it grow and thrive. The medical school will directly benefit the school’s existing undergraduate and graduate programs through increased federal funding, research dollars and added prestige.

The second is the need for our region to diversify its economy. I was always the first to wave the flag from a health care perspective promoting our need for a local medical school. However, that sentiment didn’t gain traction until an economic impact study described what a medical school could do for the region. If you build a medical school, you not only improve local health care and medicine access, you improve the economic vitality of the entire region.

Republished from UNLV School of Medicine News Center/ PEOPLE | FEB 16, 2017 | BY PAM UDALL

Note: Dr. Doubrava received the 2016 Distinguished Physician Award from the Nevada State Medical Association in September 2016

Photo: Dr. Mark Dubrouva courtesy of UNLV School of Medicine