Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Aging Mind: How changes in the brain affect perception and cognitive skills?

As you age, changes occur in the different part of the body in conjunction with the brain. Some parts of the brain get smaller such as our frontal lobe (executive functions) and hippocampus. Modifications in the neurons and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) can affect efficient communication between neurons. You can have changes in the blood vessels of the brain, which may be caused by less capillary growth. You may have increased damage from free radicals that are nitrogen or oxygen molecules that links quickly with other molecules. This can easily damage the neuron’s cell membrane. Inflammation may increase due to abnormal changes in the body.

Mental functions are affected as you age such as the ability to learn and retrieve information.  The experience and knowledge you gained are still there as you age. "Dr. Denise C. Park, director of the Roybal Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Illinois, explains that knowledge and experience are protected as you age...'when you're performing a complex task,' she says, 'your memory may be less efficient, but your knowledge about how to do it may be better'" (MedincineNet). People may believe that older people cannot perform complex tasks of, learning, memory, and attention but people forget the power of the human brain to adapt to changes. “However, if given enough time to perform the task, the scores of healthy people in their 70s and 80s are often similar to those of young adults” (NIH National Institute of Aging).

As older people age, they often improve in other cognitive regions, such as terminology and other forms of verbal knowledge. Researchers cannot fully understand it. One idea is that as you age, the brain tries to draw connections and alternative brain networks to compensate for the inability of particular regions of the brain that a person might face when they age. This theory is based on the plasticity of the brain and the adaptive capabilities of the brain. There are also other factors that affect the likelihood of a cognitive healthy mind as you age such as your overall health, environment, lifestyle, and genetics plays a significant role.

One of the key concepts is the term “cognitive reserve”.

Cognitive reserve refers to the brain’s capability to function with significant success even when some ability and skills may be dislocated or disrupted.
The cognitive reserve also refers to how much damage the brain can withstand before modifications and changes in awareness are apparent. People differ in the amount of cognitive reserve they have, and this unevenness may be because of variances in genetics, academic training, profession, routine, hobbies, or other life experiences. These factors play a role in how the brain can adapt and tolerate changes as we age. The cognitive reserve can explain why some people remain cognitively healthy as they get older while others develop the cognitive deficiency.

Our brain may affect how we view aging and how we age well. By letting your brain stay active you are helping it build more knowledge and cognition as you age. But your experiences in life also affect how you age because the brain relies on those experiences and relationships. The human mind is a beautiful thing.



  1. Excellent way of tying psychology and bioethics

  2. "As you age, changes occur in the different part of the body in conjunction with the brain." They sure do!

    "The human mind is a beautiful thing." It sure is!