Earlier in May, The New York Times ran two interesting articles concerning some of the latest information on brain research. I think both have messages of interest for readers of this website.
The first article, For a Sharp Brain, Stimulation, reports that researchers have found that the brain actually is capable of generating new brain cells, especially in areas that are important for learning and memory. Times reporter Roni Caryn Rabin notes that studies of older people who have maintained their mental capacity tend to be socially connected, are physically healthy and active, and tend to engage in stimulating or intellectually challenging activities. Stress management also plays a role, as does a Mediterranean-style diet. Rabin also mentions some researchers' belief in the importance of keeping flexible attitudes and trying new things.
The second article by Times reporter Sara Reistad-Long entitled, Older Brain Really May be a Wiser Brain, suggests that when older people can no longer remember some of the minutia of life, their brain instead may be sifting through the clutter of information that it's exposed to and selecting the most important information to retrieve in a situation. Describing the findings of a new book, Progress in Brain Research, Reistad-Long reports that for many aging adults, "most of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful." Harvard University psychology researcher Shelly H. Carson, whose work is mentioned in the book, said that this distractibility may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.
Brain researchers are regularly discovering new things. Therefore, it's important to stay alert to this news since it may suggest ways for people who are worried about their brain function to live a long, fulfilled life, and also to slow or even avoid Alzheimer's and dementia.