Life is for Learning (Assuming That You Want to Live for a Long Time)

Do you have an active brain? If you do you will stay younger for longer.

When you were at school did they tell you that your brain would decline with age? That the brain cells could never reproduce and that the fixed amount of brain cells that you had at birth would gradually die off as you grew older? That from the age of thirty five onwards it was all down hill as far as your brain was concerned? They aught that at my school.

Guess what? They were wrong.

The Bomb

Up until 1963 various governments, mainly Britain and America, were responsible for testing nuclear bombs in open air explosions. The result of this was that masses of radioactive dust was thrown into the air and at high altitudes it travelled around the world to be brought down to earth in rainfall known as ‘fallout‘. It was absorbed by grass and other vegetation and found its way into the the food chain and eventually, they said, ‘harmlessly’ into our bodies.

This process is still going on and modern research has used this to make a breakthrough in neurology.

Memory

We have known for some time that when you learn a new way of thinking, a new way of feeling or a new behaviour or habit a new circuit of neurones and dendrite form as a template for this new experience. This is then transferred to long term memory in the higher cortex of your brain. These circuits are formed in the hippocampus – a specific site/structure in the middle of the brain

Habits

The hippocampus is closely associated with the formation of memory. It is important as an early storage place for long–term memory, that is then involved in the transition of longterm memory to even more permanent memory that we call habit.

Neurology has cottoned on to a nifty little trick. The radioactive carbon 14 in nuclear bomb fallout decays at a steady rate which makes it possible to work out how old the brain cells are by measuring the radioactive carbon that they hold.

This clearly shows that you are producing new cells–or neurones–everyday and that the brain is not a fixed unit of cells that are in decline with age. Rather, the brain can regenerate everyday. This is called neurogenesis. As many as 1400 new neurones have been counted being created every day.

Here is the trick. You only get new brain cells if you keep learning new things. To live an active life whereby you learn everyday to think, feel and act in new ways keeps your brain, mind and eventually your body young. When you stop learning new things you stop producing new brain cells and your system begins to die.

Life Long Learning

As Bob Dylan puts it ‘he who is not busy being born is busy dying’. He had a point. Research suggests that as soon as you stop learning you increase the ageing of your system. Keeping active and continual learning hold back the ageing process. This tipping point, where you stop having new experiences and begin to decline, can happen at any age.

So think about this:

  1. What new experiences have you had in the last twelve months?
  2. What is your current challenge?
  3. What will be your next challenge?

Stay young, stay active and be happy.

Take care,
Sean x