My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. Given I am considered “middle aged,” I am happy to report that I am not only grateful to be alive, but I am also grateful to science and how far it has come in understanding the aging brain.
It was only a few decades ago that I was studying the brain at university in Australia, and yet it is light years away from where we are today, with what we now know about the brain. There have been many myths about our right and left brains, only using a portion of our brains, and that we were destined to live our adult lives with unalterable brains and traits we were born with.
Research over the past ten years has disproved these myths. I am excited to now know that my adult or middle aged brain retains impressive powers of “Neuroplasticity.” This is the ability to change its structure and function in response to experience.
I now know that what I experience, how I behave, and even what I am thinking and feeling will literally change and shape my brain. This process begins in utero and will continue until the day I die.
For neuroplasticity to take place in my brain I need to be engaged, interested and focused and it is enhanced by strong emotion and motivation. Well, I am certainly motivated to maintain a healthy functioning brain as I grow older and am excited to investigate how to facilitate this change. I am told this change strengthens the connections between neurons engaged at the same time. Which means I need to keep actively using my brain and challenging it. That saying, “ Use it or Lose it,” keeps popping up in my research on the brain.