As we age, we all worry about our brains, whether we want to admit it or not. Those little bouts of absentmindedness…Wondering why you went into a room to get something and having to retrace your steps to remember what that something is…Blanking on a person’s name at a party when you know you’ve met before, on several occasions…You know the drill. It happens, and you worry about it a teensy bit every time.
That’s why we found the following two articles so uplifting; Patricia Cohen’s “A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond” and Zoë Corbyn’s “Experience Counts for Nobel Laureates.” Both articles basically point to a growing body of research that suggests – absent active brain disease – that the human brain fares well as we age. And in some respects, it may get even better. Hooray for that!
Cohen provides a very thorough summary of this recent research on the aging brain and, happily, the news is good. It looks like our brains will do just fine, thank you very much. Here are a few of our favorite snippets:
“Indeed, mental capabilities that depend most heavily on accumulated knowledge and experience, like settling disputes and enlarging one’s vocabulary, clearly get better over time.”
“Regular mental workouts can actually alter the brain’s neural circuits in middle-age and older adults, making regions like the hippocampus, a center for memory and learning, more responsive. Cognitive exercise also helped improve executive functioning, the kind of decision-making ability associated with a mission control center.”
But, here at LNWM we have to say that we loved Corbyn’s piece the most. Why? Because it asserts that we may get smarter as we age – and we’re all for that. By studying a group of Nobel prize-winning physicists and observing that the average age they made their winning discoveries has increased over the years, she concludes that researchers, across all fields, are now producing their greatest work later in life.
In fact, older people are now more likely to make a groundbreaking discovery than those under 30. The theory is that aging creates a kind of conjunction of intellect and experience that allows brilliance to flow. So if you’re over 50, or 60 or 70, don’t be surprised if you’re struck by a wave of my own brilliance. Really, it could happen…
And in the meantime, think of learning new complex stuff is like flossing your brain.
What new things are you learning to keep your brain active? We’d love to hear about them!