Friday, January 31, 2014
This article for US health magazine New You was about the things that we do, or don’t do, with our brains in middle age and how that affects how our brains perform in later life.
Although mentioning the risk of Alzheimers and the effects of dementia, the feature focuses on the more common problems of memory loss, struggling to recall facts and information (for example, ‘what did I come into this room for?) and our ability to learn. Although we might like to think our learning is over by the time we reach retirement, and it’s all about kicking back, the importance of picking things up comes sharply into focus when you think, for example, about the technology that’s emerged over the last twenty years, and the technology yet to emerge in the next twenty - and how much we might need to rely on it.
Key among the things our brains like is down time - those moments when you’re staring into space gormlessly. Don’t fret about that - your brain loves it. Also sleeping, and learning a new thing - it’s like exercise for it. Speaking of which, real physical exercise is like nectar to the brain as well, feeding it oxygen-rich fresh blood to keep it healthy. Grim as it sounds, a kind of ‘plaque’ builds up in the brain’s tubes if we don’t ‘use’ them - so things like routine and repetition, although good for us in other ways, can have an adverse effect on this most precious organ.
Incidentally, one of the things our brains hate is multi-tasking - we’ve got a limit to our ‘bandwidth’ - and it’s a bit like having eighteen browser tabs open at once and asking each one to do something different. No wonder we struggle, yet multi-tasking is held up and worn as a badge of heroism by many of us - 'just look how many things I can juggle!’ - particularly by women. Our brains apparently love to do what is alleged to be the ‘man’ way of doing things - pick one thing, do it well, be pleased, move onto the next thing.
We’ve kept the article and shared it with friends and colleagues. It was good to create work for such a significant article - here is what I did, from rejected rough to the final pieces!