Supporting the philosophical study of bioethics, bio-medical ethics, biotechnology, and the future of life, at Middle Tennessee State University and beyond... "Keep your health, your splendid health. It is better than all the truths under the firmament." William James
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. References: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=60689 http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/part-1-basics-healthy-brain/changing-brain-healthy-aging