People age eighty and older are the fastest growing segment of the populations in many countries. By 2040, the National Institute on Aging says the number of people sixty-five or older (myself included) worldwide will hit a staggering 1.3 billion. For the first time in human history, within the next ten years, the number of people sixty-five and older will be greater than the number of children under the age of five. That is a lot of old brains!
The Congress of the United States declared the 1990’s to be “The Decade of the Brain” sponsoring a variety of activities and cutting-edge research on the brain. Today, billions of dollars are being expended on brain research with special emphasis on dementia, memory loss, and other age-related conditions because of the aging population.
This focus has paid off with new discoveries and a much better understanding of the brain. In the book, Horstman writes that “We’ve learned more about the brain in the past fifty years than in the preceding fifty thousand, and the cooperation of sciences over the next two decades may even surpass that record.” Brain science is big business.
In the book, she provides interesting information about the brain comparing what was thought then, what is known now, and what might be tomorrow:
- Then Your brain cells are finite: you only have so many, and they cannot be replaced when they die.
- Now Your brain makes new neurons in some areas.
- Next New neurons are created at will, where and when you need them.
- Then Your brain is hardwired like a computer.
- Now Your brain is changing every second in response to the environment and your mind.
- Next You change and mold your brain as you want and need.
- Then Brain, mind, and body are separate.
- Now Brain, mind, and body are intertwined.
- Next Brain, mind, and body are enhanced by machines and computers.
- Then Each part of your brain has a specific function.
- Now Your brain is networked, like a village of skilled workers supporting one another.
- Next You direct new brain networks for desired outcomes.
- Then Memory is accurate and unchanging.
- Now Memory is changeable. Events are “recollected” in a new context and slightly changed.
- Next Memory is manipulated. You can keep memories you want and erase the ones you don’t.
- Then Alzheimer’s disease and loss of brain function are inevitable parts of aging.
- Now Active brains retain more function than inactive ones, even in some very elderly people.
- Next Alzheimer’s disease is reversible even curable in many cases.
- Then Surgery is the best way to repair an injured brain.
- Now Noninvasive methods and drugs are preferred to surgery for repairing a brain.
- Next Technology has made surgery obsolete except in the most severe cases.
- Then Consciousness is a mystery.
- Now Consciousness is a mystery.
- Next Consciousness is a mystery.