Friday, May 22, 2009

Your Brain: Use it or Lose it

"To Keep Your Brain Nimble As You Age, Stretch It"
All Things Considered, NPR (May 12, 2009)

"Nowadays, some scientists say, you can exercise your brain the way you exercise your body.

"If you sleep more, eat less and get plenty of exercise — using your body and your brain — says Richard Restak, you can improve your intelligence over the years and help stave off the dementia that comes with old age....

"...The key, Restak says, is to exercise the three different types of memory: long-term memory, sensory memory and working memory...."

The idea that staying mentally active helps you stay mentally active isn't new. What makes this article interesting, I think, is the details you'll learn.

And, Restak's emphasis on "sensory memory." Or, as the article explains, paying attention.

Makes sense.

5 comments:

Mariana Soffer said...

There was a great radio show from natasha mitchel the host of all in the mind about neuroplasticity and the wrong assumptions that the brain gets stiff (or why is it harder to learn) as you get alder, read the trascripts cause it is a great informativ source. One of the most intresting facts is that the brain circuits compete against each other therefore the ones that are already installed to function in a certain wain have an advantage over the new ones that are trying to be aquired.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Mariana Soffer,

Thanks for that detailed comment. Perhaps you could leave the URL of that transcript, if it's available online.

We're learning a great deal, these days, about how the brain works: and the degree to which "neuroplasticity" can be maintained.

Mariana Soffer said...

Here you go, this is part 1:
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2008/2359328.htm

part 1:
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2008/2365737.htm

Let me know whatyou tink. And if you have other interesting short things to read about it.
M

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Mariana Soffer,

Thanks for coming back with those URLs. I've glanced over the interview transcript (both parts), and am positively impressed with the wealth of detail given.

My reaction, after that very quick read, is that the transcript is a good source for getting an idea of the current state of discussion over whether or not the adult brain can change.

Some observations:

I think the 'plasticity' of the human brain at any age should have been obvious. We can, as adults, remember new information - like phone numbers, where a gas station is, or the face of a newcomer to the office.

That researchers are acknowledging should be a relief to those who give them grants.

Although I think I understand why the metaphor of 'the brain as a machine' is rejected, I don't think that rejection is entirely justified.

The brain is, at a reductionist's minimum, an object with a number of functions. In that respect, it is 'a machine.'

Comparisons of the brain to a computer are, I think, apt. Although there are 'hard-wired' circuits in computers, computers would be no more than glorified adding machines if they were not 'plastic,' or malleable.

Although the computer I'm using at this moment cannot grow new connections, as my brain can, it is not quite the same machine that it was this morning.

Several programs have run their course, depositing data for later use, and my actions in the last few minutes have established connections which did not exist before - all a matter of re-setting switches and decision gates.

That's not to say that I think my brain is 'just' a machine - but there is a great deal of evidence which very strongly suggests that it is so similar to a machine is some respects, that the 'machine' model is valid.

(A very little more about my assumptions about the nature of reality is in "Faith and Reason, Religion and Science" A Catholic Citizen in America (March 20, 2009).)

Mariana Soffer said...

First I want to clarify I listened to it the moment it was aired, so my memories might
be blurry. The main lesson I learned is the one that you mentioned before: the problem for
learning/changing isn't the brain stiffness

You are right that the transcript gives you a good idea about the state of the art of brain plasticity.
And also in my opinion these podcasts are among the best resources for people, who are not specialists in the mind sciences, to understand the latest scientific theories and facts about the program's main subject.

Remembering facts is obvious (but this is not the point of neuroplasticity), but not learning new skills, unlearning, or changing them. Due to the brain competitive nature.
Neuroplasticity refers to changing the brain circuits that do certain stuff, such as curse when you are being hurt.
What do you mean by: That researchers are acknowledging should be a relief to those who give them grants.
About:The brain is, at a reductionists minimum, an object with a number of functions. In that respect, it is 'a machine.',
wrong I do not believe that can be considered a brain.

Comparisons brain machine: They aer many areas that are perfectly analogous such as vision recognition, game playing,
etc. Others are not. http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/ is one of the main guys of AI, tried to emulate brain with computer

'Although the computer I'm using at this moment cannot grow new connections, as my brain can, it is not quite the same machine that it was this morning. 'Why isn't your computer the same?
cause the hard drive changed?

Very interesting post about faith and reason, religion and ,.. (I have to read it again cause need to thought deeper.


I think we should exchange parts if information in posts and part in mails, cause it is quite confusing. Anyway I am delighted about talking to you.

some of my post related to how the brain works:http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2009/04/language-according-to-pinker.html
http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2009/04/joy-and-happiness.html

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