Friday, July 5, 2013

Improving the Brain as We Get Older

One of the problems we face as we get older is the perception that our memory is failing and one can get concerned that this might be the early onset of Alzheimer's disease or other afflictions that affect normal brain functions. Sadly, this has truth for some but for most of us it is more about simple space and time as it became clearer in a discussion with a good friend whom I hadn't seen in quite a while. He lamented that he often couldn't remember things from one moment to the next such as some instructions he was going to relay to his staff at his workplace. He would get up from his desk and walk out to the workplace and simply forget what he wanted to share with his staff. This all made me feel much better because I suffer from the same problem and felt more comfortable that it was just all part of getting older.

I was reminded of a former boss I had who had commented "that he wished he could express himself on paper as well as I did". I actually had to stop and think and reach back for the memory because it was there but wouldn't come out without a few tries. But more importantly, we had discussed this same problem when I was more like in my late 20's and my boss was in his 50's. He simply stated "there is nothing wrong with your memory, it's just that the little pea can only hold so much information. The little pea he was referring to is the human brain.

And this all comes back full circle to the discussion with the friend in the first paragraph where he shared sound advice that his father gave him. "It's important to have knowledge but it is more important to know where to find it when you need it." His dad is one of those rare teachers you had that really cared about teaching his students something useful that they could use for the rest of their lives.

As we get older we jump from one interest group to another and get exposed to all manner of media that relate to those interest groups. So we need to access knowledge on those interests and will generate memories relating to those which also trigger more activity in other interests. Meanwhile, we end up piling that on top of all the accumulated knowledge and memories that we have acquired so far in our lives.

Let me give you an example of some of the current activities taking place in my life that are adding to my brain's workload and I am retired and single so I can focus on them more than someone who is out in the workplace and has a family that draws their attention at all hours of the day.

I just bought a new desktop computer that runs on Windows 8 and I had Windows 7. I also like recording my own music so I had to reload all the software to the new computer which required downloading sound files (around 15 GB aka 15360 MB). Right away we have an example of how to find the information you need. The link here was used by me to calculate how many megabytes 15 gigabytes is. My original mental calculation was incorrect because I thought it was 1500.

But the new computer also regenerated my interest in writing online and I added a new digital camera to the mix so now I was writing in and I got back into Blogger after a 4 and one half year absence!!! I was writing recipes that needed my pictures to present a proper presentation (editing), writing about the frustrations of Windows 8, which browser to use, going back to my childhood to write about my first experiences as car racing fan, logging on to websites for my music stuff, etc. etc. Needless to say my brain was being taxed to the limit.

But I relied very heavily on the simple process of "googling" which isn't a word really. Even the editor in Blogger here doesn't recognize it and Blogger is a Google product but it recognizes Google. Interestingly enough recognizes googling. (see the reference just below the third paragraph in this blog).

I stick to Google as my search engine even though I had to go through the process of removing Bing and others that got loaded on my brand new computer and I had to get help from Microsoft because Norton was no help. (Norton is like McAfee in that they use a 3rd party service out of India for support and it doesn't work well in chat and is even worse on the telephone. Yep, they are speaking English but not one I can understand). Slowly but surely I started to recognize what needed to be done to remove these searches and programs which were more like spyware than useful tools.

And it goes on from there--new games, more email addresses, passwords, ways to use the computer, computer came with both Photoshop and Premier loaded, etc. etc. But you can see that there is a potential for sensory overload and your patience gets rattled. So you need to do a few things when presented with this type of situation yourself.

You have to get up from the task at hand and do something else that will help you relax and clear your mind. I play my guitar or one of my keyboards, go for a walk, try something different in the kitchen, take a shower, take a bath, you get the idea. I try and try to get my mind to shift gears and move into some other area but it isn't always successful, like right now. I got up at 6:30 this morning to start writing this blog because my brain wouldn't stop with all the ideas.

The human brain is unique in the fact, that unlike the computer, it really doesn't have an off switch. The closest it comes is deep sleep where you aren't aware of what is going on inside. I'm lucky because I can just take a power nap later today when the yawning kicks in and fight with the thoughts that flow around in there when I am trying to recharge the damn batteries. The brain just doesn't know when to shut up but that is a good thing really. Otherwise, you're just plain dead.

After the rest I can go back to finding the stuff on the Internet I need to do what I want next like I did last night. My friend and I had a mild disagreement on Aretha Franklin's recording labels. He grew up near Detroit and felt that Aretha was on the Motown label. I had a huge R&B record collection in my youth and all her titles were on the Atlantic label. I know she wasn't on that label her whole career, so I researched it some and made a screenshot of the Google search page that confirmed my feelings.

You can tell when someone is using a Blackberry or other smartphone to read their email. I got a simple reply--You are correct. The old "pea's" still got it!!

I don't own a smartphone and I cancelled my cellphone. Not really needed if your single and retired now is it? 7:47 and the story copy is done. Need to go find some pictures to improve the blog presentation but first I'm going to switch gears. Time for another cup of coffee and the walk isn't a real good idea now. It's raining.

Maybe Google "brain food". Seems that search engines work best when you give them really simple commands.

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