Your Brain Will Get Better As You Get Older (And Wiser)


On a Friday, it’s easy to feel the decline of one’s brain, which some believe starts around age 25. But writer Barbara Strauch says we have more to look forward to than a slow slide into senility.

Interviewed by Tara Parker-Pope of the Times Well blog, Strauch is the author of The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. Strauch tells Parker-Pope:

The thing the middle-aged brain shares with the teenage brain is that it’s still developing. It’s not some static blob that is going inextricably downhill. Scientists found that when they watched the brains of teenagers, the brains were expanding and growing and cutting back and shaping themselves, even when the kids are 25 years old. I think for many years scientists just left it at that. They thought that from 25 on, we just get “stupider.” But that’s not true. They’ve found that during this period, the new modern middle age, we’re better at all sorts of things than we were at 20.

Does this mean middle age starts at 26? If that’s true, it might not be such a bad thing. Strauch also says “social expertise” peaks in middle age, rather than in youth, which makes a lot of sense. While the art of human interaction comes naturally to some people, it’s something that almost always get better with practice, and many an awkward adolescent becomes a perfectly well-adjusted adult. Another perk of advancing age is that we often care less what other people think — perhaps because we have other things to think about. Says Strauch, “What we have by middle age is all sorts of connections and pathways that have been built up in our brain that help us.” So maybe over time, the brain actually becomes a more interesting place.

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The Talents Of A Middle-Aged Brain [NYT Well Blog]

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