Words in the News: brain topics

(Word News excerpts compiled from printed media)

brain myths

Myths about What Happens to the Brain as People Get Older

Will old age destroy the mind? The fear is that if one is lucky enough to escape Alzheimer's and other diseases that attack the brain, old age inevitably brings about the mind's decline.

The image of a feeble-minded old person lies deeply entrenched in the American psyche, leaving many people to loathe the idea of growing old nearly as much as death itself.

An old aunt, or uncle, who is mentally sharp does not give much comfort to others, primarily because either one seems to be an outstanding exception and not part of the norm.

A group of scientists who study the aging brain are putting together enough information to offer a hopeful judgment on the fate of our minds. From neuroscientists who study the brain in action to clinical psychologists who work with the elderly in their everyday lives, researchers are finding that severe mental decline is not inevitable and that an "old brain" may have surprising abilities and strengths.

Scientists suspect that many genetic and environmental factors play a part in distinguishing those who keep their faculties in prime shape from those who show significant decline.

-Excerpts compiled from "Brain Power" as seen in U.S. News & World Report;
article by Joannie M. Schrof; November 28, 1994; page 89.

Myth #1: It Only Gets Worse.

A person is not necessarily destined for a steep mental decline. Research indicates that a third of those over 70 function as well as ever.

Myth #2: Memory Is the First to Go.

A person's store of facts and procedures should be unaffected by aging, but one's capacity for abstract reasoning may fade over time.

Myth #3: Use It or Lose It.

Yes, up to a point. Simply engaging in boring or repetitive mental activity won't stave off decline. Pursue eclectic interests; that is, treating the brain to novel experiences and stimuli seems to be a key to keeping the mind agile.

Myth #4: Sound Body, Sound Mind.

Physical health does not always assist the vigor of your intellect; sometimes, exercise that's too intense may hurt your mental abilities.

Myth #5: You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.

An old brain can rewire itself to compensate for losses, and refresher courses can keep your mind sharp.

Do's and don'ts for keeping sharp.

A brain user's guide to aging.

-Excerpts compiled from "Brain Power" as seen in U.S. News & World Report;
article by Joannie M. Schrof; November 28, 1994; pages 89-97.
glial brain cells

Glia (Greek,"glue") cells are the neuroglia or the non-nervous or supporting tissue of the brain and the spinal cord.

Neuroglia acts as connective or supporting tissue and also plays an important role in the reaction of the nervous system to injury or infection.

"In the study of brain cells, neurons have always hogged the limelight, even though glial cells make up 90 per cent of the brain."

This is considered the origin of the myth that people only use ten per cent of their brains because for a long time, glial cells were thought to serve as little more than a cushioning to hold the brain together; however, scientists are beginning to realize that glial cells could very well underlie our dreams and imagination.

Such cells, could even hold the key to curing diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's because glial cells are now known to be involved with both cell regeneration and cell death in the brain.

It is obvious that no matter what scientists uncover, or discover, the brain is a far more complicated structure than the neural lightning storm it was once thought to be.

-Much of the information in this section came from "Your other brain";
with reference to a book review about The root of Thought
by Andrew Koob which was reviewed by Helen Thomson;
in the New Scientist; July 18, 2009; page 46.

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