Yes, You Can Teach a Mature Mind New Tricks: Myths about the Aging Brain Revealed

Who says you can’t teach a mind new tricks at any age? Research shows that we have the power to positively influence our brain function throughout life—an important realization that is especially relevant for the more than 78 million baby boomers in the U.S. Brain health is one of the top health-related concerns of aging populations and has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control as a public health priority.

Dr. Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D., a leading neurologist and author of The Memory Cure, debunks common myths surrounding the brain and aging.

Myth #1: The brain stops growing after childhood.

A decade ago, many experts would have scoffed at the idea that the brains of adults, particularly older adults, could grow or develop in any significant way. But that has changed. Research increasingly suggests that each time a new skill is learned, such as playing an instrument, speaking a foreign language or even dancing, new pathways are formed and areas of the brain may grow, even well into the later years. Physical and mental exercise can alter specific brain regions, making radical improvements in cognitive function. Brain growth isn’t just for kids!

Myth #2: Once I start experiencing memory loss, it’s all downhill and there’s not much I can do.

Actually, there are a number of things you can do to improve your memory throughout life, even if you are already noticing changes.  Exercise, challenging mental activities, social engagement, and diet have all been shown to have positive effects on cognition and memory. In fact, a study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association showed that healthy people with memory complaints who took 900 mg of algal DHA for six months had almost double the reduction in errors on a test that measures learning and memory performance versus those who took a placebo, a benefit roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger. DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid and a crucial building block for the brain.

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