October 9, 2010

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain

For all those middle-aged men and women worried about getting old, especialy worried about decline in mental capacity, Barbara Strauch's book The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle Aged Brain, offers some surprising and reassuring news.

A New York Times medical and science reporter, Ms. Strauch, reviews all the evidence from the latest research in neuroscience, genetics and nutrition to show that while we may not always remember where we had put the keys, our brains can still amaze us. While losing some gray matter, we increase the white stuff (myeline) to process information faster by using both sides of the brain. Our grown-up brain cuts through the chase faster and, with better pattern recognition, it sizes up situations and finds answers quickly. We many not be able to memorize numbers and dates any more, but we know how to "juggle hundreds of e-mails, negotiate a complex deal, and cope simultaneously with a car that talks and a teenager who doesn't". We are much happier and more optimistic because our brains manage emotions better, we have learned to filter out negative experiences and, even more importantly, we also know not to say whatever that pops into our head (Jerry Brown notwithstanding).  In a nutshell, despite all claims to the contrary, youth cannot hold a candle to the middle aged and older is indeed wiser.

The book is divided into three parts with chapter titles like, "Am I losing my mind: Sometimes, but the gains beat the losses", "Two brains are better than one: Especially inside one head", 'Experience. Judgement. Wisdom: Do we really know what we are talking about" and so on. The weakest section of the book, in my opinion, is part three titled "Healthier Brains". Some of Ms. Strauch's claims about certain types of food  and vitamin supplements boosting brain power are unproven at best and should be taken with a grain of salt (pun intended).

Photo courtesy:http://www.grownupbrain.com/default.asp

Overall, it is a good read and guaranteed to make all those middle-aged brains feel better.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article, Indira! I don't know if my brain is still nimble, but I do feel "wiser" which is the point of the article, right? And, I'll take contentment over a great memory any day.


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