If I had to live my life again I
would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at
least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied
could thus have been kept active through use.
DID YOU KNOW…
About 95% of what science now knows about the brain has been discovered
in the last 20 years.
Brains are malleable, constantly reconfiguring. They change
shape and chemistry with every experience, thought and
The average adult human brain weighs only 3 pounds but uses 20% of the
30% of the water you consume is used by your brain.
40% of the nutrients you consume are used by the brain.
There are one hundred billion nerve cells in your brain and more
connections between brain cells than there are stars in the universe!
Your brain is a living and vital organ responsible for consciousness,
intelligence and emotions. It cannot store water and
nutrients so it needs constant nourishment in the form of oxygen,
glucose, fluids, exercise and mental activity. The more
oxygen the brain gets, the better it functions. That’s why
exercising both body and brain are of crucial importance. We
don’t want to be like the man who went to apply for Social Security and
was told: “I’m sorry, sir, feeling 65 isn’t enough. You have
to be 65.”
Nowhere is the saying “Use it or Lose” more true than when spoken of
the brain. Every time your brain is stimulated, it either
reinforces a neural circuit or grows dendrites -- connections between
brain cells. And it is these connections that assure mental
acuity, not the number of brain cells you have.
The word dendrite comes from a Greek word meaning tree.
Dendrites are branch like protrusions that grow off brain
cells. Every neuron is covered with 10,000 - 100,000
dendrites. And the branches have branches. They’re
called spines, and can number from 100,000 to 1 million.
Dendrites reach out and interconnect brain cells forming an intricate
web. There is a continuous exchange of information between
all the cells in the body; thousands of neurons are involved in even
the simplest of actions. Dendrites are the Information
Highway of the brain, sending and receiving signals that travel through
the brain and body electro-chemically. If dendrites atrophy
from lack of use, it is difficult for the brain to receive and retrieve
information. The brain’s communication network breaks
down. Dementia is associated with the loss or shortening of
The exciting news is that barring some diseases, we can build new
dendrites at any age. The more inter-neural connections, the
better the brain functions. The number of new connections a
human being can make in a lifetime is 1 followed by 6.2 million miles
of zeros. Enough zeros to stretch from here to the moon and back over
Every thought you think and action you perform requires a complex
system of brain cells to fire together. Repeatedly thinking
the same thought, saying the same words, visualizing the same image or
performing the same action builds a strong inter-connected neural
pattern. If you repeatedly dial a friend’s phone
number, the action will soon be automatic. In your brain, the
cells that hold the number are connected to cells associated with your
friend. Think of calling that person, and the number pops up
immediately. That’s because “Neurons that fire together wire
together,” as neuroscientist Carla Shatz described it.
If you haven’t dialed a phone number in a while, the pattern is slow to
fire. It’s in a dormant file of your brain. You
will likely need to stop, concentrate and hope the latent pattern will
wake up. If not, you’ll need to look up the number.
Should you start dialing that number frequently, the pattern will grow
stronger and soon you won’t have to think about it twice.
Depending upon how often we perform a task or undertake a new one, we
are either strengthening dendrites, building new ones or letting them
The fact that dendrites can be grown at any age and that the brain is
constantly being reshaped has given rise to the term ‘brain
plasticity.’ Experience, emotion, action, thought change the
brain. We discussed that earlier; negative mental patterns can be
undone and positive ones established by words, images, shifting our
focus, changing our emotional vibration.
The brain demonstrates plasticity in many ways. They rewire
to bypass damaged circuits. In “Train Your Mind Change Your
Brain, Sharon Begley writes, “The adult brain, in short, retains much
of the plasticity of the developing brain, including the power to
repair damaged regions, to grow new neurons, to rezone regions that
performed one task and have them assume a new task, to change the
circuitry that weaves neurons into the networks that allow us to
remember, feel suffer, think, imagine and dream.”
We can change the brain and we can grow the brain. Tests were done on
taxi drivers in London before and after they studied and learned all
the streets in the city. Their brains got bigger!
It is a myth that there is a massive loss of brain cells every day
after age 30, and mental abilities must decline thereafter.
With stimulation, we can even build new brain tissue.
As we age, there are changes in the brain, but overall there is lots
GOOD NEWS FOR
Even though thinking and reaction time slow down as we age, mental
ability remains strong in healthy people. The decline is
slight and slow. It affects speed and reaction time, not
comprehension. We remain capable of complex thinking,
learning and retaining new facts and skills at any age. In one study,
33% of octogenarians scored as well as younger adults on 11 different
tests of mental ability.
It may take seniors longer to make decisions, but there is a broader
range of knowledge to consider. Consequently, they make
better judgments, especially about complex chains of events and human
behavior. Older does mean wiser. And
usually less selfish, more understanding and tolerant. With
age comes a more balanced outlook on life and greater ability to see
the humor in it.
The older we are, the more the ability to do several things at once
declines. But, as previously mentioned, multi-tasking is
really an illusion. It just means attention is jumping around
very rapidly. At any age, the brain functions best
when focused on one thing at a time. Slow down and focus to
improve efficiency and accuracy.
Another positive aspect of aging is what’s been called emotional
intelligence. With their life experience, seniors are more
understanding, better able to judge people and situations, have better
control over their emotions and reactions to other people’s emotions.
In fact, people from 50 - 79 are the least neurotic.
Teenagers are the most neurotic. Older people process bad
news differently than younger people, and are less responsive to
negative information. They are less likely to become
depressed by unpleasant happenings. ###
Excerpt from Geri O'Neill's book, Make the Best
of the Rest of Your Life
Visit Geri's website: http://www.gerioneill.com
guide to happy, healthy aging.
the Best of The Rest of Your Life
presents the latest information on body and brain in an easy to read
format, sprinkled with inspirational quotes, real life experiences and
funny stories. It’s all waiting here for just you!
Most people have around 60,000 thoughts a day
and 95% are the same as yesterday and 80% of those are negative.
Change your thoughts and quite literally you
can change your experience of the world and all in it.
O’Neill’s work focuses on human development, relationships,
communication, mind and memory — subjects she has been studying,
writing and lecturing about for over 20 years. Her first
Self, Life Without Limits, was hailed a forerunner of the
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