Tuesday, January 05, 2010


An article on potentials of the brain as it gets older suggests valuable roles for boomer neurons, explained in the post below.
The New York Times recently ran a piece by Barbara Strauch on "How to Train the Aging Brain," which was top rated on its web site--testimony I suppose to boomer interest in the subject, as well as in newspapers, even on the Internet.

The advice--the "how to" part--was unsurprising: learn new things. But there was also some reassurance, both in terms of common memory changes (less retention of recent information, forgetting names, etc.) and in the latest brain science, which shows much less actual brain deterioration due to aging than previously believed.

But one paragraph in particular stood out:

"Recently, researchers have found even more positive news. The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can. "

Just as some of the problems ring a bell, so does this assertion. Maybe this is what they used to mean by the wisdom of years: perspective, the main idea, the big picture.

It's especially important now. Life is being reshaped so rapidly and extensively by pervasive new technologies that experienced perspective is correspondingly more valuable. It may not be as important to keep up as to keep an experienced eye on what's going on. Outside the main flow, you aren't swept up in it so completely as the young tend to be.

Information is still important, but different information (gathered from a span of time) and a different way of seeing it, makes different connections. It isn't the whole answer, of course. The blizzard can be as bewildering outside it as inside. But seeing significance and even solutions constitute useful contributions, that it seems we can more naturally make.