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January 4, 2010

Training The Middle-Aged Brain

Have you ever had one of those moments where you know something, but cannot bring to information to the forefront of your consciousness? It could be where you put your keys, to the name of an old flame -- "I can't believe I don't remember that!" In my family, we joked that it happens when you have children -- but I don't have any children, and it's happening to me! What's going on here?

It's the middle-aged brain. And I'm interested in figuring out how to recall all of those facts that are crammed in there -- especially the ones I've acquired over the past couple of years. It feels as though I haven't made as much progress as I had hoped -- or have I?

According to Barbara Strauch, author of The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain, we need to leave the well-worn tracks of thought in the middle aged brain in order to engage in the process of neural plasticity.

Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education, she says. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different.

So, I may not be able to learn new things a quickly as my younger contemporaries, but I supposedly understand concepts with a great complexity and depth and recognize consequences, significance, and solutions to problems faster than a younger person. That doesn't mean that I still will not have problems with recall (I know that word starts with an S), but random facts still pop into my head when they are discussed in context, making my younger contemporaries shake their heads in wonder, "how do you know that?"

Experience is the best teacher.

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Posted by linda at January 4, 2010 8:51 AM

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