OHSU

The Aging Brain

The Aging Brain - OHSU Brain Awareness

Aging does NOT always lead to a pronounced decline and loss of cognitive ability. Much to the contrary, many older adults live a creative and productive life to the end.

Studies of the brains of older people contradict the once popular belief that adults lose an enormous number of neurons every day. Many areas of the brain, particularly in the cortex, maintain most of their neurons. However, neurons in regions far below the cortex in the basal forebrain decrease in number with age. Cell processes, such as synapses and axons also change. Yet these changes may represent yet another fine-tuning of our cerebral networks, as we gain more patience, forbearance, and wisdom with age.

Tips to improve aging brain function:

  • Use it or lose it!
  • Keep your brain's "library of experience" in regular, vigorous use. Volunteer to work in the community or join the Peace Corps.
  • Engage in new activities. Take up painting, become a tutor, go back to school! The possibilities are endless.
  • Do crossword puzzles, play word games or cards to strengthen the synapses between brain cells in memory transmission areas.
  • Physical exercise can increase mental abilities 20% to 30%, according to recent studies.
  • Journal writing and working with your hands to build or create can help as well.
  • Spend time in the company of family and friends. The older brain thrives on social contact.