Category Archives: Aging

Acting Your Age

Source: Nautilus, Nov 2016

a tantalizing demonstration that our chronological age based on our birthdate is a misleading indicator of aging.

organs and tissues often age differently, making it difficult to reduce biological age to a single number. They have also made a discovery that echoes Langer’s work. How old we feel—our subjective age—can influence how we age.

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Brain Games (as yet) Unscientifically Validated

Source: Stanford website, Oct 2014

The Stanford Center on Longevity and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Development gathered many of the world’s leading cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists –people who have dedicated their careers to studying the aging mind and brain– to share their views about brain games and offer a consensus report to the public.

What do expert scientists think about these claims and promises? Do they have specific recommendations for effective ways to boost cognition in healthy, older adults? Are there merits to the claimed benefits of the brain games and if so, do older adults benefit from brain-game learning in the same ways younger people do? How large are the gains associated with computer-based cognitive exercises? Are the gains restricted to specific skills or does general cognitive aptitude improve? How does playing games compare with other proposed means of mitigating age-related declines, such as physical activity and exercise, meditation, or social engagement?

To date, there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life.

In summary, research on aging has shown that the human mind is malleable throughout life span. In developed countries around the world, later-born cohorts live longer and reach old age with higher levels of cognitive functioning than those who were born in earlier times. When researchers follow people across their adult lives, they find that those who

  • live cognitively active, socially connected lives and
  • maintain healthy lifestyles

are less likely to suffer debilitating illness and early cognitive decline in their golden years than their sedentary, cognitively and socially disengaged counterparts.

Physical exercise is a moderately effective way to improve general health, including brain fitness. Scientists have found that regular aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and helps to support formation of new neural and vascular connections. Physical exercise has been shown to improve attention, reasoning, and components of memory. All said, one can expect small but noticeable gains in cognitive performance, or attenuation of loss, from taking up aerobic exercise training.

 

Age is an Attitude

Source: NYTimes, Oct 2014

Even smart people fall prey to an “illusion of control” over chance events, Langer concluded. We aren’t really very rational creatures. Our cognitive biases routinely steer us wrong.

If people could learn to be mindful and always perceive the choices available to them, Langer says, they would fulfill their potential and improve their health.

Langer’s technique of achieving a state of mindfulness is different from the one often utilized in Eastern “mindfulness meditation” — nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts and feelings drifting through your mind — that is everywhere today.

Her emphasis is on noticing moment-to-moment changes around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms.

When we are “actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual” categorizations, we’re alive; and when we’re alive, we can improve. Indeed, “well-being and enhanced performance” were Langer’s goals from the beginning of her career.

 

2014 Standard Chartered KL Marathon Results

2014 Standard Chartered KL Marathon results - 6 hours 44 minutes

Learning Language(s) can Slow Mental Decline

Source: NYTimes, Jul 2014

researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Northwestern University in Illinois hypothesized that language study should prove beneficial for older adults, noting that the cognitive tasks involved — including working memory, inductive reasoning, sound discrimination and task switching — map closely to the areas of the brain that are most associated with declines due to aging.

In other words, the things that make second-language acquisition so maddening for grown-ups are the very things that may make the effort so beneficial.

A Cheeky Daughter

Between my daughter and me 🙂

Lauren and Daddy Exchanges

 

baby bunny

Do brain games work?

Source: NYTimes, Mar 2014

over the past two decades, studies on animals and humans have found that the brain continues to form new neural connections throughout life.

In January, the largest randomized controlled trial of cognitive training in healthy older adults found that gains in reasoning and speed through brain training lasted as long as 10 years. Financed by the National Institutes of Health, the Active study (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) recruited 2,832 volunteers with an average age of 74.

The participants were divided into three training groups for memory, reasoning and speed of processing, as well as one control group. The groups took part in 10 sessions of 60 to 75 minutes over five to six weeks, and researchers measured the effect of training five times over the next 10 years. Five years after training, all three groups still demonstrated improvements in the skills in which they had trained. Notably, the gains did not carry over into other areas. After 10 years, only the reasoning and speed-of-processing groups continued to show improvement.