Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Staying Mentally Sharp

Brain researchers used to equate age-related memory loss with brain cell death. Thanks to better imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), doctors have discovered that aging does not cause significant loss of neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in storing and retrieving memories. What’s more, research has shown that new neurons may even be added to the hippocampus in adulthood, driving a stake through the old belief that adults can’t grow new brain cells anymore. Now, studies suggest that the main aging related loss of neurons probably occurs in areas of the brain that produce chemicals that function as chatty go-betweens, facilitating communication and coordination between the different parts of the brain.

These new findings may mean, first, that memory loss isn’t an inevitable, anatomical withering away and second, that it is worth striving to keep your brain cells busy, making new connections and preserving old ones, and doing what you can to guard them against damage and deterioration. A variety of thing, such as keeping your mind active throughout your life controlling stress, and remaining physically fit, will help you do just that. While the jury’s still out on whether supplements such as ginkgo biloba can enhance memory, by taking care of yourself - both body and mind, you can perhaps keep your memory at it’s best.



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