Many people are probably aware that the world's demographic is shifting toward old age due to declining birth rate and longer life span. Traditionally, we see middle age as a transition period. Our body and the brain is over the peak and undergoing a slow decline into our old age. But new understanding from the burgeoning field of neuroscience often contradict the conventional wisdom. The middle age brain is capable of growth and learning, and in many respect, works even better than younger brain. Author Barbara Strauch put together a lot of scientific finding on middle age brain in her new book The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain. Here are some of the interesting bits:
- Longitudinal studies shows cognitive skills peak at middle age.
- Older people are happier. As one ages, they become calmer, more positive, and being able to regular them emotion better. This is possibly link to a reduced activity of part of the brain called amygdala.
- Older people are wiser. The amount of white matter in the brain, myelin, continue to increase well into middle age. It forms a coating of insulation and allows the neuron to recover faster after signal have been sent. This can gives us a more integrated and comprehensive view of the world.
- Older people are using both hemispheres of the brain to handle complex task, a phenomenon known as bilateralization. This is linked to higher cognitive ability.
Overall the book gives quite a happy note on aging. It also challenges our cultural reverence of youthfulness and inspires us to rethink our middle age life.
2010.10.29 comments -