Image result for SickA short time ago, I attended a fascinating lecture on memory and cognition by Dr. Donald Stuss, a leader in the field of brain research. We looked, studies which indicate that a person’s ability to remember (without help from any cues) drops significantly as they get older, and that deterioration starts as early as age 21. When attempting to remember something, or even concentrate, the older brain is less efficient despite the fact it has more knowledge at its disposal.
However, we now know the mind has the remarkable ability to compensate for this inefficiency by engaging other parts of the brain not normally associated with memory. This is part of what is known as brain plasticity.
I asked Dr. Stuss what affect conditions like pain and fatigue have on memory and cognition. He replied that these very conditions actually mimic the same effects we see in aging. Moreover, long-term exposure to chronic pain can actually shrink the frontal lobes of the brain. The ability to focus, reason, analyze and memorize become more difficult under these conditions. Of course, many of us with chronic illness already know this instinctively, but there are advantages to understanding why this is true.
Are we heading for early senility, What can we do,
So, is there any hope for rejuvenating our deteriorating brains, Physically no, but Dr. Stuss says we can help ourselves stay focused – even when dealing with moderate amounts of pain and fatigue. Here are some tips:
Avoid multi-tasking
Dr. Stuss says multi-tasking gets more and more difficult as the brain gets older, so eliminate distractions wherever you can.
Use the best time of day for important tasks
Researchers found that older brains can match younger ones at cognitive function in the morning, but by afternoon the older folks rapidly decline in their ability to concentrate, while the young ones hold their own. If you are more alert in the morning, try to schedule most of your important cognitive tasks then.
Use association and other memory tricks
As our memory deteriorates we can make things easier for ourselves by using tricks like word association to remember important points. As an example, since I talk a lot about the characteristics of chronic illness, I developed an acronym U-ILL to make it easy to remember that chronic illness is Unpredictable, Invisible and Long Lasting.
Take Breaks
Most of my longer blog posts or articles are done at more than one sitting. I find that after a while my concentration starts to go, so I switch to doing something else for a while until I feel sharper.
Exercise
Multiple studies have shown the beneficial effects of exercise (particularly when done outdoors) on concentration. Eating properly and getting enough sleep also help. These factors can sometimes be challenging for those with different types of chronic illness. My advice is to do the best you can with these areas. Try not to stay out too late when you know you have to be focused the next day and take care of your health whenever and however you can.
Socialize
Dr. Stuss says that socializing with people can easily rival doing crossword puzzles when it comes to keeping your brain in top shape. Social interaction is inherently unpredictable, forcing us to use parts of our brains we may not use otherwise.
Avoid negative stress
Challenging ourselves and pushing our limits can be beneficial to our brain health. However, the negative stress of constant multi-tasking, pressure and taking on more than we can accomplish on a regular basis can decrease the frontal lobes and severely impair our thinking. Are you able to think clearly when you are in a tizzy, Probably not. This is why.
Hard work pays off
Dr. Stuss says the one benefit to working hard at memory is that the more effort you put into understanding and learning something the better it sticks in the long run. So, like many things in life, we can look at our deteriorating brains as not just a problem, but also an opportunity to enrich our knowledge and wisdom.

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