Your Retirement | Keep your brain active as you age

Like most over 60s I’ve noticed that my short term memory is less than perfect. I had always assumed that it was a part of the ageing process and there wasn’t much that I could do about it.

I was wrong!

Recent medical research has shown that we can improve our brain performance as we age. Following is part of an article written by Dr Michael Merzenich, a world leader in the field of brain plasticity, for our book “How to stay Healthy, Active and Sharp in Retirement”.

“Brain plasticity—also called neuroplasticity—is an odd term for most people, with the word ‘plastic’ causing images of Tupperware to pop into your head. However, brain plasticity is a common term used by neuroscientists, referring to the brain's ability to change at any age, for better or worse. As you can imagine, this flexibility plays an incredibly important role in our brain development (or decline) and in shaping our distinct personalities. 

“Brain plasticity is a physical process. Grey matter can actually shrink or thicken; connections and communication between brain cells can be forged and refined or weakened and severed. Changes in the physical brain manifest as changes in our abilities. For example, each time we learn a new dance step, it reflects a change in our physical brains: new ‘wires’ (neural pathways) that give instructions to our bodies on how to perform the step. Each time we forget someone's name, it also reflects brain change— ‘wires’ that once connected to the memory have been degraded, or even lost entirely. As these examples show, changes in the brain can result in improved skills (a new dance step) or a weakening of skills (a forgotten name).

“But what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the power of brain plasticity can help adult minds grow and improve. Although certain brain machinery tends to decline with age, there are steps people can take to tap into plasticity and reinvigorate that machinery. We just have to keep our brains fit and healthy with activities and exercises that challenge the brain’s machinery and make the most of its inherent plasticity.”

You can take steps to improve your own memory by practicing some of the computer-based exercised that Dr Merzenich has developed. His web address is www.brainhq.com 

You can find out more about the book on our web site at www.retirementbooks.com.au 

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