Fun With Synapses

There’s hope for us all without having to decorate the house with post-it notes.

Pomona College psychology professor Deborah M. Burke and her colleagues have discovered that the aging brain does not have to forget the location of the car keys, the name of the neighbor’s kid, or the word for the shrub that grew behind the house where I grew up. These are called TOTs (tip of the tongue) experiences and they increase as people age. Deb, Sharon and I all had that experience yesterday, trying to remember a name. I’d only met the man once years ago but they both know him well.

The work on Professor Burke’s project began years ago but recent experiments have located the part of the brain that atrophies with age. Despite this sad state of affairs, she says there is hope for us. It comes in the form of playing games like Scrabble and just carrying on conversations. These efforts keep the part of the brain that controls word retrieval from atrophying. It’s fascinating to know that one can come up with the “lost” word if one says words with similar sounds even if the meaning is different. My question – how do you know what sounds to pronounce if you can’t remember the word?

Despite these drawbacks there are benefits to having an older brain. One plus is that we have larger vocabularies. Another is that we process “big picture” material better than younger folk. This finding provides more than enough ammunition to deter employers from firing their older workers.

The best part is that we can filter negative emotions better than younger people and in general process emotional material more efficiently.

So the moral of the story is play Scrabble, do crossword puzzles (I hope Sudoku counts) but I’ll get Larry and me each a puzzle book and carry on a lot of conversations. (Not a problem here).

Oh, that plant? It’s called Andromeda. Here’s a link to the one that most closely resembles the plant that used to grow at 113 OBPR. Most of the varieties seem to come from Japan so I still don’t understand why it has a name out of Greek mythology of an Ethiopian princess whose father tied her to a rock to expiate her mother’s offense to the gods.

Sharon and Deb and I never did remember the man’s name, but I’m sure one of them will come up with it sooner or later.


One Response to “Fun With Synapses”

  1. Memories Are Made of This « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] Are Made of This By lizr128 I addressed a variation on this theme a while back “Fun With Synapses.” Revisiting the topic because I’ve been encountering more and more people complaining about […]

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