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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brains and Neuroscience

I love "brain books" and neuroscience and neuroplasticity and have read quite a few books on the subject that are as fascinating as novels.  One of my favorite blog reads is The Guardian's Science:  Neuroscience.  

This article about the inimitable 84-year-old Clint Eastwood's latest accomplishment has some fascinating information about individuals whose creative talents continue to produce great work into the last decades of their lives.  

A few excerpts from the article:

  • Twenty years ago the phenomenon of long-living conductors was studied in a book by Steven Rochlitz, The Longevity Guide – Why Do Music Conductors Live into Their 90s? Rochlitz argued that because these musicians were allowed to keep working and to enjoy status late into their ninth decade or longer, they reciprocated by staying on form. Pablo Casals, for instance, lived to the age of 96, while Arturo Toscanini made it to 89 when the average life expectancy for a man was 50. The trend for leading conductors to live longer has also been put down to the upper body exercise involved, increasing circulation to the brain, and to the result of an artistic concentration on harmony.
  • Recent research also underlined flaws in previous attempts to show that older brains were less effective. The truth may be, scientists now suggest, that the elderly are simply handling more information in their neural archives.
  • Louise Bourgeois, the French experimental sculptor who died in 2010 at 98, certainly felt age helped. She made her greatest work after the age of 80 and once declared: "I am a long-distance runner. It takes me years and years and years to produce what I do." At 84 Bourgeois was asked if she could have made her work earlier in her career: "Absolutely not," she replied. "I was not sophisticated enough."                                                                                                                      
  • Crime novelist PD James, 93, has attempted to semi-retire herself and her detective Adam Dalgleish, but Fay Weldon, author of 34 novels so far at the age of 82, is still firing out imaginative and well-crafted salvos to her waiting readers.
One of my favorite brain books is The Brain that Changes Itself  by Norman Doidge.  It led me to many other books on the brain.  If you'd like to check out more of my "brain books" -- click here.  Some fiction shows up, but mostly the nonfiction books.

Mental illness can also be considered in the category of brain books, and Gin Jenny's review of Falling into the Fire recently caught my interest.  I've added it to my list.


  1. Very interesting, you have to use your brain constantly, in new ways, creative ways. It's not that our brains are forgetful, it's that we have to jettison information that's no longer necessary.

  2. Yep, jettison some, but keep some that allows to build on it. I love seeing these older, active minds still creating!

  3. This sounds interesting! I am always fascinated by studies of neuroplasticity, especially as it relates to OCD, since my daughter has that illness.

    I am glad brain researchers are paying attention to the fact that people can continue to be creative and productive into their later years. When I worked at the Talking Book Center I noticed that many people were avid readers well into their 80s and 90s. I suspect this helped their mental faculties stay sharp and helped them live linger.

    Falling Into the Fire sounds good. I'll add it to my list.

  4. Love all the brain book reviews and suggestions. Definitely need to check some of these out.

  5. Irene - The brain is such a fascinating subject, and neuroplasticity provides such hope.

    Falling into the Fire is definitely a book I want to read.

    Teresa - The books are all interesting, and some are so readable!

  6. How fascinating! It's good to see research is being done in this area--and it's hopeful for those of us who are younger.

  7. Wendy - I agree. We want to feel that old age can be more than illness and failing memory!

  8. Brain books are so interesting and what I always find most interesting is that as much as we know, we still know hardly anything at all!

  9. The more you learn, the more there is to know! :)