Friday, September 2, 2011
Don't Believe What You Have Heard About Old Dogs
Cover via Amazon
I'm reading Gene D. Cohen's book THE MATURE MIND, and it is wonderfully illuminating. Cohen was a psychiatrist and a gerontologist, and he says things in the book that are truly amazing. He says that as we reach more advanced ages, there are some changes in the brain that complement the aging process. Previously I thought that when you got past eighteen your brain might learn new material, but it was finished developing. From nineteen it was in a state of decline in the number of neurons.
Cohen says that there is research that shows that new neurons are still being created. Fantastic! The neurons don't take the place of those we have lost. They do not restore memories or reclaim lost skills: They are new neurons. They have to be programmed with new information. You can and should teach an old dog new tricks.
Cohen also points out a shift in brain processing indicated by scans of the amygdala that reveal a shift in how memory works in the older brain. In the younger brain the left side of amygdala is more prominent on the scan, but in the older brain both sides are equally active. This seems to indicate that memory is a more sensual experience for older person including spatial and logical components as well as narrative and visual ones.
Getting old is something that we all look forward to. Let's anticipate it with joy and hope, rather than dread and fear. What will these new brain cells and the new functions allow you to do?