The brain, like wine: the older, the better

The brain, like wine: the older, the better
Fecha de publicación: 
16 October 2023
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It looks like a nonsense to claim that the brain of an old person is full of potential.

But there is no such contradiction or absurdity. This organ of thought can become more plastic and creative at these ages, according to recent research from Georgetown University Medical Center, released in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The truth is that the more age you have, the greater interaction of the two cerebral hemispheres, which become more “harmonious.” So creativity can flow with fewer setbacks.

The research reveals that some key brain functions, associated with attention to new information and concentrating on what is really important in certain situations, as well as decision making and self-control, can improve in older people.

"These results are surprising and have important implications on how we should view aging," said the study's lead investigator, Michael T. Ullman, PhD, professor in the Department of Neuroscience and director of the Georgetown Brain and Language Laboratory.

Prejudices abound about the potential of older adults in terms of their attention and the executive functions they can display, "But the results of our large study indicate that critical elements of these skills actually improve during aging, probably because we simply practice these skills throughout our lives," says Dr. Ullman, convinced.

Researchers analyzed three separate components of attention and executive function in a group of 702 volunteers, aged between 58-98 years old.

They studied the brain networks involved in alertness, orientation and executive inhibition. They found that only alertness capacity decreased with age, meaning the state of greater vigilance and preparation to respond to incoming information.

The researchers proposed that, since orienting and inhibition are skills that allow people to pay selective attention to objects, these skills can improve with ongoing practice that can compensate for underlying neural impairments, they suggested.

Additionally, the peak of human intellectual activity is usually around the age of 70, says the European Institute of Health and Social Welfare.

Furthermore, it is being confirmed that at age 60, decisions are made using both cerebral hemispheres at the same time, which allows more complicated problems to be solved.

Other eye-opening stats in favor of senior citizens

A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that:

-The most productive age of a person is 60 to 70 years old

-The 2nd most productive human stage is from 70 to 80 years old

-The 3rd. most productive stage is 50 to 60 years

-The average age of Nobel Prize winners is 62 years old

-The chairmen’s average age of the 100 largest companies in the world is 63 years old

-At age 60, the peak of emotional and mental potential is reached, and this continues until age 80.

Good news for the aging Cuban population

Without a doubt, this is very good news for the Cuban population, which is distinguished for being one of the oldest in Latin America. At the close of last year, senior citizens in Cuba accounted for 22.3% of the total population, equivalent to over 2,478,087 people.

Even though the importance of serving this population sector —which is increasingly on the rise— is insisted on, there are not many messages and educational work that aims to eradicate prejudices regarding old age.

And this relatively new research contributes very effectively to this mission of enriching knowledge about our grandparents, close to being almost a third of our population and who are often underestimated.

It is so important to appreciate the potential and traits of this population group, that Dr. Liliam Rodríguez Rivera, director of the Research Center on Longevity, Aging and Health (CITED), has stressed that Cuba works in the four areas of action highlighted by the UN on the occasion of the Decade of Healthy Aging (2020-2030), “which seek to change the way we think, feel and act towards age and aging.”

Likewise, Dr. Rodríguez Rivera has mentioned that another area of work must guarantee that communities encourage the skills of older people, for which cities and communities that are friendly to such people are promoted, a program to which the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolución (municipality with largest number of senior citizens in the country), Habana Vieja, and the town of Alamar.

It is very motivating to know that if you lead a healthy lifestyle, intellectual abilities do not decrease with age.

And to promote that healthy lifestyle it is recommended:

-Regular Practice of physical exercises. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults over 65 years old of age should perform between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to obtain maximum benefits. This is equivalent to walking approximately 25 minutes a day at a constant pace. It is a routine that can imply a significant improvement in quality of life, longevity and can prevent several chronic diseases.

-Eat and rest properly

- Keep your mind busy and generate positive thoughts

-Preserve and cultivate social relationships, avoiding, as much as possible, loneliness and the feeling of isolation that can lead to depression, as well as mental and physical deterioration.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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