Heart of a Lion, Hands of a Woman: What Women Neurosurgeons Do
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Exercising Your Brain

If you are between the ages of 40 and 65 and sometimes wonder if your brain will make it through another day (without forgetting an important name, what you went to the basement to retrieve, etc), take heart-you are not alone! Take heart, it seems that close inspection reveals that while there may be many of these little slips, the middle age brain is doing more than fine.  In this regard, we who are "middle-aged" often feel isolated in our forgetfulness, constantly worried about the threat of dementia so I was thrilled last week to tuned into NPR and listened to Barbara Strauch (NY Times science writer) talk about her new book, The Secret Life of The Grown-up Brain. 
She relates that studies show that "in this middle span, we get higher scores on all our tests in a whole range of areas, including inductive reasoning, verbal memory, vocabulary -- we're better in that span than we were in our 20s." Middle age wisdom then is , "Because the brain sees connections, it sees the full picture."
For me this all makes perfect sense-I often feel like I "get the whole picture" and understand the solution to problems (or diagnoses with patients) in an instant but then may have to write it down so I don't forget it before I can put into action.
And the imporant lesson is that we really must keep exercising our bodies and our brains-beyond crosswords and books.  She even advocates at least a little of intellectual conflict to "juice the brain".  Maybe that explains why I am enjoying my blog so much-it does keep me on my toes.

I read the following excerpt from the book and now know I will get the book (available at all the usual palces like Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, etc):

Indeed, despite long-held beliefs to the contrary, there's mounting evidence that at middle age we may be smarter than we were in our twenties.
How can that be? How can we possibly be smarter and be putting the bananas in the laundry basket? Smarter and still unable, once we get to the hardware store, to remember why we went there in the first place? Smarter and,despite our best efforts to concentrate on one thing at a time, finding our brains bouncing about like billiard balls?
(Viking Press, copyright 2010)

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