Most of us were raised with faulty ideas about our mental capacity — such as the notion that IQ is fixed at age seven, that brain cells degrade yearly after age thirty, and that memory and learning ability inevitably decline with age.
These notions, based on the scientific understanding that was prevalent in the 1950s, are myths — dangerous myths that can stifle our ability to flourish in the second half of life.
Just as Copernicus overturned the myth that the earth was at the center of the universe, so contemporary neuroscience has revolutionized our understanding of the potential to improve mental functioning as we age.
We now know the following:
- Your mental abilities, including memory, are designed to improve throughout life. Neuroscientists call this neuroplasticity (neuro refers to neurons, otherwise known as brain cells, and plasticity is the quality of being changeable or malleable). As neuroscientist Richard Restak, MD, emphasizes, “Your brain is designed to improve with use.”
- Although some brain cells die as we age, we can generate new cells. Neuroscientists call this neurogenesis. Gene Cohen, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University, states, “We can indeed form new brain cells, despite a century of being told that it’s impossible.”
Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age presents practical, evidence-based wisdom to help you integrate this new understanding into your life, now.
Since the book was released I’ve done many interviews and in the process I’ve coined two new words to help you understand the significance of the new paradigm.
This is important because although many people have a theoretical understanding of the notion of neuroplasticity they haven’t integrated this new understanding into their language and behavior. Creating names for outdated beliefs may make it easier to let go of them. I call the old paradigm: neurostatic. The neurostatic mindset was based on the belief that your mental potential was fixed at age seven and that there was nothing you could do to develop it. Neuroplasticity replaces neurostasis.
And, the old paradigm needs another word to be fully understood: Neuronecrotic, (necrotic from the Greek root nekroun meaning “to make dead”). The neuronecrotic mindset was based on the belief that your brain cells inevitable degrade yearly after age thirty, and that memory and learning ability inevitably decline with age. Neurogenesis replaces neuronecrosis.
Why have I introduced these new words? As my friend and colleague Grand Master Raymond Keene O.B.E. explains, “If we verbally identify the fallacy it is that much easier to free ourselves from its pernicious influence.”