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It’s long been assumed that memory loss, slower thinking and eventual dementia are the natural results of aging.
Dr. Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, disagrees. The human brain, he says, doesn’t need to decline with age. It, like the body, responds to exercise and stimuli.
Merzenich founded Posit Science, which is developing brain fitness programs designed to improve the thinking abilities of seniors. These self-paced computer programs are like video games, only these are designed to stimulate certain brain functions such as listening and memory. One hour a day, five days a week may increase cognitive functioning by as much as 10 years.
While the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program offers exciting possibilities for enabling an aging population’s minds to keep pace with ever increasing longevity, we’re not dependent upon a computer program to stretch and strengthen our brains.
Engaging in a range of activities that spur new learning as well as participating in physical activities that require an ongoing mastery of motor control will strengthen the brain.
Examples of such activities include:
learning to play a musical instrument or a new language
solving jigsaw puzzles
playing ping pong
In the not-so-distant future, senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities may include “brain gymnasiums” along with recreation and exercise areas.