Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Our Brains

Today on "Fresh Air" on NPR, Terry Gross interviewed Barbara Strauch about her book The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain. It was very informative and made me feel better about some things and realistic about others. Of course, as with everything else, exercise is important - yes, physical exercise. (sigh)

The bad news: Our brains do decline as we age.

The good news: Forgetting names, Strauch says, doesn't necessarily mean that something's amiss.

In fact, Strauch says, "there is a whole host of areas where they find we improve in middle age over our 20-something selves."

"We are better at getting the gist of arguments," she says. "We are better at recognizing categories. And we're much better at sizing up situations. We're better at things like making financial decisions, which reaches a peak in our 60s. Social expertise -- in other words, judging whether someone's a crook or not a crook, improves and peaks in middle age."

Memory Exercises

  • If you can't remember a name, go through the alphabet in your head -- A, B, C -- which may retrigger the memory in your mind.
  • Exercise. Get your heart pumping, which improves cognitive function across the board.
  • If you're trying to remember to take your medication, imagine yourself taking it. This will create a bigger neural footprint in your brain, creating more ways for your brain to remember.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Take up a hobby -- piano lessons or knitting -- that will challenge your brain.
Tips taken from The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain
Full interview and podcast HERE along with a test.