Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Aging Brain: the Best is Yet to Come

The January 16th issue of Newsweek published an interesting article about the over-40 brain.
Studies suggest that the brain's left and right hemispheres become better integrated during middle age, making way for greater creativity. Age also seems to dampen some negative emotions. And a great deal of scientific work has confirmed the "use it or lose it" adage, showing that the aging brain grows stronger from use and challenge. In short, midlife is a time of new possibility.
While the title of the article is "The Myth of the Midlife Crisis", the author's own studies show that between the ages of 40 and 65 is often "a midlife re-evaluation ... during which we set new goals and priorities". That sounds like a "midlife crisis" to me, simply stated in more neutral terms. Indeed, this re-evaluation can clearly lead to "crises" in personal and professional relationships.

How can you ensure your brain stays in good condition as you age? The suggestions boil down to "use it":
- exercise mentally
- pick challenging leisure activities. Dancing, board games, playing a musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles and reading are among the best choices.
- master something, be it embroidery, a foreign language, painting, writing or something else.
- establish strong social networks

These sound like good suggestions for any age.
Successful aging is not about managing decline. It's about harnessing the enormous potential that each of us has for growth, love and happiness.

So keep on thinking!

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