Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain

I have been reading Barbara Strauch's 2010 book, "The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain".

The book tackles our ageing brain in middle age. "Middle age" runs from our 40s to our late 60s; a definition that surprised me in itself. I had expected middle-age to have ended by the end of our 50s (but if we think about our actual lifespan, this makes sense).

What a fascinating piece of work this book is: it pulls together a great deal of research on what we thought we knew about the brain and what we actually now know, with the advent of MRIs.

What I have found so far is that, while processing speed might be fast during our 20s, by our 40s 50s and 60s our "wisdom" provides us with a lot more depth to our thought processes. We are better at seeing patterns, and while we may lack speed in learning, we make up for that in cunning, insight and experience.

Additionally, if we keep practised at learning, it appears that our processing speed may not be so different to our speed in our 20s. That is very heartening.

The author also mentions the middle aged inability to remember what we were doing, remember names, or remember what we made " a trip to the basement" for. I am sure all of us are familiar with standing in front of a cupboard with no recollection of what we were supposed to be fetching, and having to retrace our steps to jog our memory.

Apparently - although I haven't got into the detail of this yet - these lapses of memory are related to one aspect of the brains ageing, and actually don't mean that we are descending rapidly into dementia.

That too is reassuring.

All in all this book has been a delight; it is easy to read, the material is digestible and it makes us feel good about our ageing brains.

Now: what was I doing...

  • Reference: Strauch, Barbara (2010). The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: the surprising talents of the middle aged mind. USA:Viking

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