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Breakthroughs in
Research Helps Us Live Longer and Healthier
by Lisa Marshall
ive hundred years after explorer Ponce de
“What we have By age 65, 20 percent suffer mild cognitive impair-
Leon roamed the West Indies and Florida
learned in the
ment. One in eight seniors will suffer dementia.
in search of a vigor-restoring “fountain
past few years
For decades, scientists assumed the brain
of youth,” we have yet to come up with a way
to turn back time. But according to physicians
is that you can
was “hardwired” by around fifth grade, with a fi-
nite number of neural connections that inevitably
and researchers at the cutting edge of anti-ag-
literally exercise
atrophy over time, stealing our cognitive sharp-
ing research, we’re learning a lot about how to your brain and
ness. It turns out they were wrong.
keep the signs of aging at bay.
add in new circuitry. “What we have learned in the past few years
“We’re seeing a ton of compelling re-
You can rewire it.”
is that you can literally exercise your brain and
search lately on how to slow down the clock
add in new circuitry. You can rewire it,” says
and live better and longer,” says Dr. Andrew
~ Andrew Carle Professor Andrew Carle, director of the Program
Weil, an integrative physician and author of
in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration
Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-
at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia.
Being. “Happily, most of us will not have to age the way our
The concept, called neuroplasticity, has spawned a $265
parents and grandparents did.”
million brain-game industry, according to consulting firm
In the past decade, breakthrough research has radi-
SharpBrains. More than 700 senior housing facilities now
cally changed our understanding of why our brain, organs
feature computer brain games, and “brain gyms” are popping
and skin age and what we can do, eat or apply to slow the
up in cities nationwide. Such games are typically either down-
process. Here’s a look at some of the latest science and the
loadable programs for a home computer or a standalone game
technologies to grow out of it.
console. They challenge hand-eye coordination, auditory
processing, memory and the ability to multitask. Typically, the
Workouts for program adapts as the user plays, throwing in new challenges.
the Aging Brain
Why not just read a book or do a crossword puzzle?
Perhaps the greatest fear of an ag-
“These are already well-trodden neuronal pathways,” says
ing Baby Boomer is not flabby abs or
California neuroscientist Henry Mahncke, Ph.D., vice presi-
wrinkling skin, but rather, the specter of
dent of research for brain game pioneer Posit Science. “We
a withering brain. By age 40, reports the
know from brain imaging studies that if you have something
Alzheimer’s Association, two-thirds of us
that you are already good at and you do it, not much new
experience occasional lapses of memory. lights up in the brain.”
26 Oakland, Macomb, Livingston & St. Clair, MI
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