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The Aging Brain

The Aging Brain

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Published by Michael S. Logan
As your brain ages, your son will call you the "ooooollllddd man."
As your brain ages, your son will call you the "ooooollllddd man."

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Published by: Michael S. Logan on Nov 14, 2009
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09/07/2010

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Http://www.askmikethecounselor2.comThe Aging BrainAccording to my 11 year old son, the 61 year old aging brain that Dad has is way too focused onchores, and discipline and homework, and it is even a mean brain, because Dad's aging brain isfrustrated occasionally by 11 years of cajoling, begging, explaining, and ordering behavior change.And soon this 11 year old brain will be hitting puberty?Well, in the meantime, what is an aging Dad's brain to do to keep itself viable until such time as itgets to retire to the hammock with any of a thousand books I want to read?Did I mention I have a five year old daughter?Well, it turns out I do have many more options available than my parents knew about, becauseneuroscientists are uncovering some very interesting capacities of the human brain, likeneurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which can actually be cultivated.That is correct, decades, if not centuries of neuroscientific dogma overturned in the last 10-12years.I won't bore you with the chronology, because you are probably curious about how to get startedwith the brain fitness workout, and it does involve workouts.From the NOVA folks;"The latest discoveries in neuroscience present a new view of how the brain ages. Overturningdecades of dogma, scientists recently discovered that even into our seventies, our brains continueproducing new neurons. Scientists no longer hold the longstanding belief that we lose vastnumbers of brain cells as we grow older. The normal aging process leaves most mental functionsintact, and may even provide the brain with unique advantages that form the basis for wisdom.The aging brain is also far more resilient than was previously believed."You can find corroborative information in the book The Brain the Changes Itself, written byNorman Doidge,MD.Doidge has interviewed a number of cutting edge folks, including leading neuroplasticityresearcher Michael Merzenich,Ph.D., who is a creator of the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program,recently put to the research fire in the IMPACT study.When I read Doidge's work, I was impressed by his enthusiasm and clarity.I was easily able to understand the concepts that he and his subjects were talking about.
 
While I am a professional, I am not conversant with neuroscience.After finishing Doidge's book, I started looking for other useful information, and found this book,Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D., both neuroscientists at theUniversity of Michigan, who have culled neuroscientific research for the hidden away nuggets thatyou and I can do today to enhance our brain fitness for our aging brains.We may still also have aching backs, but Brainfit for Life is for your brain.Brainfitness for the Aging BrainEvans and Burghardt and many other writers in the brain fitness niche report that neurogenesisand neuroplasticity are available to us if we take care of the 'pillars of brain fitness', which arephysical exercise, nutrition with an emphasis on the importance of omega 3 fatty acid andantioxidants, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences, like that provided bycomputerized brain fitness programs.Physical activity/exercise is the first and most important antidote for the aging brain.The good news is that you can begin with activity, like walking in the neighborhood on a crisp fallday and enjoying the colors. The key to generating new brain cells (neurogenesis) is to make sureyou are moving at a pace that induces some deep breathing for 10 minutes, deep enough breathingthat it is difficult to talk while walking.You do not have to join an expensive club or buy lots of equipment to do this, or fling aroundheavy bar bells, but you can work up that if you want.Check out the workout that 88 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat do do to prepare for the rigors of international travel. Bill and Pat began exercising about 8 years ago, training with Scott and AngieTousignant. I sure appreciate their example.I go to my local YMCA to exercise, but on days when I cannot fit that in, I do my own version of the Tousignant HIIT program at home, doing calisthenics, my bicycle, and our circle drive of .6mile. No expense at all. I am very regular about exercise.The next antidote to the aging brain is the nutritional, and I do not subscribe to a particular mealplan, but I do make sure that I pay attention to the micro and macro nutrients that Evans andBurghardt talk about in Chapter 2 of their book. I do use an omega 3 fatty acid supplementbecause I do not care to cook fish, and I do not care to monitor my intake of mercury. If thesupplement is processed appropriately I should not have to worry about mercury in my agingbrain.The aging brain antidote for sleep and stress management can also be quite cost effective, since itinvolves deep breathing. I tell that to my anger management guys and girls and they all breathdeep once or twice and return to shallow breathing which actually encourages my body to dripsome stress hormones into my blood, which kills those new brain cells before they are cementedinto my memory circuits. I want to remember where the keys are, and my name.

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