Brain Science - Myth Number Three
You can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Yes, you can!
One of society's most harmful misconceptions about brain power is that it gets worse as you grow older. Research has proved that any decreases in the intellectual skills of the elderly are mainly due to the adoption of stereotyped roles. Just as a child who sees himself as dumb and is regarded as slow-witted by adults starts to act out that part, so too do many older men and women slip into the trap of living down to popular expectations.
Raise your expectations
Lowering expectations can set off a vicious circle of decline which, once started, may prove hard to stop. Because they regard themselves as incapable of meeting new intellectual challenges many older people get into a mental rut. They live unstimulating lives where few unfamiliar problems ever present themselves to challenge their brains back into shape.
Take too little physical exercise and your muscles will quickly go weak, your stamina will decline, and your strength fade. It is the same with the brain.
The mind, just like other organs in the body, must work hard in order to sustain the capacity for hard work - hence the value and importance of your Brain Gym training.
Use it or lose it
Take too little physical exercise and your muscles will quickly go weak, your stamina decline, and your strength fade. It is the same with the brain. Remove the necessary stimulation of a demanding job, take away the need to resolve difficult problems and make tricky decisions, absolve the person from having to use his or her memory with the excuse: "After forty almost everyone becomes more absentminded," and you quickly undermine intellectual performance.
One reason why this brain ageing myth gained ground so readily and was so widely accepted, even by those who suffered most as a result, was a belief that brain cells die off progressively as we age since such cells, unlike others in the body, cannot regenerate.
Marian Diamond, the eminent California neuroanatomist, examined this notion in a series of animal studies and clearly showed that though there is a small decrease in the number of brain cells as animals mature to adulthood, from then on such decline remains absolutely minimal.
Do we find it harder to learn something new or solve problems as we grow older?
Mature students can outmatch those far younger
Not according to the findings of Geoffrey Naylor and Elsie Harwood of the University of Queensland, Australia, who conducted a six month study to investigate the ability of a group of senior citizens to learn German. Their classes contained some of the most mature students in the history of education, with a total age of approaching a thousand years! But the fact that every pupil was more than sixty years old did not prevent them from working hard or mastering the unfamiliar language successfully. Each one had to attend a two-hour weekly class and work at least one hour at home.
In just half a year many students reached a standard only attained by the average secondary school senior pupil after two years of continuous study. Dr. Naylor commented: "Far from being unreliable and forgetful, the majority of our elderly students have shown a dogged resolution worthy of students fifty years younger."
Similar results were reported at the University of San Diego where students aged sixty and older were brought onto the campus for an intensive program of classes in various academic subjects together with physical training sessions. Their response was described by one of the project's organizers as "absolutely phenomenal," with a performance which more than matched that of far younger under-graduates. Overall they were found to have attained a standard of excellence "far beyond expectation."
This means YOU!
Everything that I have said here applies to YOU. When I talked about the brain possessing almost unlimited memory capacity and problem-solving ability, I was describing your brain.