We acquire knowledge, gain wisdom, and finely tune our skills as we age. But we may also come across incorrect information. You may have gathered some incorrect information about aging and the brain.
This page will help you dispel four common myths and find answers to your questions about how our brains age.
Brain Myth #1: You can't change your brain.
Your brain is constantly changing in response to your experiences, and it retains this basic "plasticity" well into old age.
Everything we do and think about is reflected in patterns of activity in our brains. Scientists can see these patterns in brain-imaging scans that show which parts of the brain are functioning during specific tasks.
Changing our thinking or changing the way we behave causes corresponding changes in the brain systems involved. This is why therapy that teaches people to alter negative patterns of thought and behavior (like cognitive therapy, for example) can be effective in treating some mental disorders.
Brain Myth #2: People lose brain cells every day and eventually just run out.
Actually, most regions of the brain do not lose brain cells as you age. And while you may lose some nerve connections, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be part of the reshaping of the brain that occurs with experience.
It's also possible that you can even grow new brain cells and create new connections, or prevent the ones you have from withering, if you exercise your brain.
Brain Myth #3: The brain doesn't make new brain cells.
This myth was widely believed for generations, but has recently been proven false. We now know that certain areas in the brain?including the hippocampus (where new memories are created) and the olfactory bulb (the scent-processing center)?regularly generate new brain cells. Many of these cells go on to become working parts in brain-cell connections.
Brain Myth #4: Memory decline is inevitable as we age.
Many people reach very old age and are still sharp as ever. Genetics clearly plays a role in "successful aging," but how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis is also critical. To help your brain age well, you can:
Perform physical exercise (especially aerobic exercise)
Engage in intellectually stimulating mental activity
Eat a healthy diet
Maintain social connections (spending time with friends and family members, for example)
Learn to manage stress
Develop a positive attitude toward yourself and your world
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