So you are my age, 61, and worried about memory aging? But you are a Boomer and we have grown up with a “can do”, “we can change it” kind of mindset, and over the course of your life, you have watched your world change because of choices you and others have made individually or in concert.
You were in college when the moon landings occurred and you have learned how to use computers and technology, and you have watched the flow of information explode, and you figure somebody somewhere is doing something about this memory aging issue, maybe because they are your age.
Well, your suspicion is correct. There are many people exploring the memory aging issue and coming up with novel learning experiences that can change the course of our aging.
Ever heard the words neurogenesis and neuroplasticity? As you read on, keep those in mind.
But how do we define the problem of memory aging? How Does Aging Impact Memory? This information is from the Posit Science website.
“Beginning after age 30, three core trends begin to affect brain function. Over time, these have noticeable impacts on our memory, thinking, and focus. They include:
1. Speed: Slower processing Our brains gradually slow down–but the speed of information (sights and sounds happening in our life) coming in from the senses does not. Over time, the brain begins to miss details, making it more difficult to react.
2. Accuracy: “Fuzzier” processing Like the grooves of an old record, the brain’s neural pathways often get fuzzier, scratchier, or even distorted. When the brain records the static along with the important sensory information, memories are fuzzier.
3. Recording: Fewer neuromodulators The brain uses chemicals called neuromodulaters to determine what information is important to record and process. With each passing decade, our brains produce fewer neuromodulators.
Memory Aging Solutions?
About a year ago I came across a book by Norman Doidge,M.D., called The Brain That Changes Itself.
Doidge is and was documenting advances in knowledge about how the human brain functions and can be changed.
Two of the words he talked about were neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis means that the brain grows new neurons, not haphazardly, but every day, and I can keep those neurons and get them located to circuitry in need of replacement neurons if I challenge those new neurons with novel learning experiences.
Feel more hopeful about your memory aging?
Nobody knew that the human brain had the capacity to renew itself like this until about 10 years ago.
Neuroplasticity is a term that describes the human brain’s ability to rewire itself, within minutes sometimes when a learning experience happens.
The more rewiring going on, the better my memory is and the quicker I learn and store a new memory.
So it appears that the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ really applies here, as the brain, being an organ concerned with energy consumption (it uses the most fuel of any organ) and energy conservation (it pares neurons and circuits not in use)will keep or discard neurons based on their activity.
Doidge interviews Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. who is one of the co-creators of the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, and one of the world’s leading neuroplasticity experts, and Merzenich’s ideas are fascinating.
To sum them up folks, we are not destined to a decline into Alzheimers Disease after all.