Saturday, January 14, 2012
My Aging Brain
Reading "The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain" by Barbara Strauch. I got this book from the library in self-defense, having read an NPR article titled "Middle-Aged Brains Are Already Past Their Prime" It's a smart-alecky article, poking snide fun into a future that the youngish author won't find so cutesy in a few years. In the last paragraph, he mentions Strauch's book. Ah ha! Reprieve! To cool my decrepit past-prime brain, I'm reading the book. Perhaps I'm overeager to discover my brain isn't the moldering lump of gooey broken synapses I sometimes think it is, but I like what I'm reading. The older brain skips a groove now and again. Putting the car keys in the refrigerator and the library book in the laundry basket is part of growing up. But research is beginning to reveal that the older brain is better at some tasks than the young brain. Spatial relations, problem solving, discernment improve with age. Middle-aged brains choose happy over negative emotion. It's a choice the brain makes. The older brain is less neurotic, the amygdala twins are not eagerly sending out danger messages. The middle-aged brain is calmer. Older adults use more of their brains, and use both hemispheres. Improvement in judgment function is an active and dynamic process. Financial decision-making is markedly improved. Cognitive ability may actually increase through middle age, with less striking results much later, in geriatric neuroscience. Absent disease or dementia, I'm looking forward to more research that indicates a spry brain even then. But just in case, I drew this name tag so I remember at least my own name. I feel better knowing that when I have to say I'm sorry I don't remember your name, chances are good the other person didn't remember mine either.