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Monday, October 15, 2007

Why Do Some Brains Compensate As They Age?

Physical exercise and a lifestyle with "brain exercise" have been shown in studies to make a difference in avoiding memory decline as people age. There is an article titled "Doctors Discuss Theories on Aging Brains" by Lauren Neergaard in U.S. News and World Report, dated Oct. 15. It says "some senior's brains forge new pathways" as they age. This means that as aging causes memory decline, some people's brains compensate. When old pathways disintegrate. the brain creates new pathways in some people.

The article describes how in a healthy brain the "branch like tentacles" that extend from brain cells are like a thick bush. In a less healthy brain the branches are like twigs on a sparser bush. Fewer "twigs" means it is more difficult to connect and send messages.

Learning causes more of the tentacles, or twigs, to form.

In some older people if a path no longer works in the brain, the path is "rerouted" and messages take another path. Some older people also have "bushy" brains full of lots of tentacles, like twigs. If they lose some there are still plenty left.

Scientists are trying to figure out what causes some people to have brains that reroute or create new pathways.

The article said that people with challenging mental stimulation do better than "couch potatoes."
Tests showed that when older people had physical exercise their brains started showing patterns that looked more like younger people.

Exercising physically and exercising the brain make a difference. Crossword puzzles, computer brain training programs, and anything that avoids the "couch potato" lifestyle help people to avoid memory decline.

A summary of recent articles I've read would say keep on learning, don't be a couch potato, and exercise regularly. Live a healthy lifestyle in terms of nutrition, stress reduction, and rest. Have an active social life, avoiding isolation. These factors have been recommended in many articles on aging.

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