A generation ago, it was believed little could be done regarding the effects aging has on one’s mind. It was thought to be inevitable that as people age, the mind just doesn’t stay as before. However, as science has taken a closer look, many fascinating discoveries are being made about the aging brain and the effects it has on the body as well.
While there is still much to learn about the human brain, a study by Paul D. Coleman is showing the adult brain has the capacity to add neurons and dendrites, which are the key to building stronger and healthier minds. No longer is it thought that a decline is inevitable, or that becoming absent-minded is simply part of the aging process. Neuroscience is helping us see the patterns in the aging brain and giving new hope to the aging seniors of today.
One of the fastest-growing fields currently is gerontology. The study of people as they age, gerontology offers both researchers and medical professionals some insight into just how the senior mind is capable of continued development. For example, the introduction of nerve growth factor, or NGF, is showing promise in helping to stop the deterioration in adult nerve cells. Those with degrees in gerontology are looking at the impact life experiences have had on the senior population, and how increased or decreased social interaction is playing a part for better or worse.
One of the most interesting areas of study regarding aging and its effects on the mind is the role of physical activity. Because researchers know a variety of different chemicals are released as we exercise, many questions are still to be answered regarding the role of exercise. Recent studies are noting positive effects on cognitive function in older adults who exercise just 10 minutes daily. This can include simple activities as a short walk around the block, housework, yard work, or many other activities that get a person moving.
As people live longer, and retirement is pushed further and further back, scientists are just beginning to understand the impact one’s career has on an aging mind. The common phrase “use it or lose it” is often used when describing physical exercise, but it applies to mental exercise as well. Older adults who continue working well into their 80’s or beyond have much slower rates of cognitive decline than those who retire early from their jobs.
As more discoveries are made, gerontology will become an even more fascinating field of study. With so much left to learn about the human brain, it is an area that will be searching for answers for many years to come.
“Brooke Chaplan is a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. Watching her grandparents age and develop Alzheimer’s disease has become a motivator for this article. She works out of Los Lunas as a freelance writer and loves to write on a variety of topic as well as spending time outdoors and exercising. Contact her via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.”