While it’s a popular and commonly-held idea that the brain grows stronger and people become more knowledgeable and mentally apt as they age, the facts of brain biology can be harsh. Into one’s 30’s, mental decline has likely already begun to take place, with some indications that the process can start as early as the end of one’s second decade. People approaching middle age may find that their memory seems to fail them from time to time, or they might experience a decrease in the ability to focus or to approach a given subject with sharpness and efficiency. In tandem with these unwanted aspects of aging, many mental health professionals an people in general are growing increasingly concerned about the prevalence of dementia and other mental health issues that can take root during and after the transition into old age. A relatively new response to these concerns has been the creation of “brain training” games and activities, which often report the ability to “exercise” the brain as though it were a muscle, purportedly making it stronger.
However, those with insight into the fields of medical biology and cognitive science note that the brain is not all that similar to a muscle, and while it may be tested and bolstered by some kinds of use, simple “reps” of baseline mental exercises aren’t likely to do much more than entertain. However, it may be the case that some brain training games and activities approach concepts and ways of thinking that a given mind has not yet encountered, and in such new situations, the brain may be able to experience gains in agility and readiness.
While a survey of popular games and exercises has failed to produce a miracle cure for dementia or an instant memory retrieval system, advances in mental health and cognitive science may make it possible for some people to train themselves towards meaningful mental upkeep as they grow old.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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