Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rerun Wednesday - Brain growth

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

Periodically we have written about our frustration with our memories. There are times that I wonder if my brain is even functioning. But, I recently read that at midlife (or “second adulthood” as Gail Sheehy calls it) our brain actually grows! Get this:
Even our brains are maturing in ways that promote this transition. Recent research shows for the first time that we and adolescents—and no other age group – experience new brain growth. It takes place in the medial temporal lobe, the area identified with emotional learning. The actual new growth is in myelin, the fatty coating to nerve fibers that insulates and speeds up connections between nerve cells. This augmented brain activity plays a crucial role in helping us synthesize what experience teaches, and it enhances our ability to make considered judgment calls. The same process that accounts for the transformation of impulsive and irresponsible teenagers into thoughtful adults comes back for an encore at midlife, just in time to make us even more thoughtful—dare I say, wise?*
So, if I appear to be forgetting something, I’m actually synthesizing. Just give me some time….

*(Quoted from Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, pg. 27, by Suzanne Braun Levine, based on research by Dr. Francine Benes of Harvard Medical School.)
(Photo by Rob Gale, shared via Flickr)

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