Did you know that our brains can still create new cells, even in later life? That there’s a scientific reason why older people forget what they came in here for, but continue to get wiser? Or that there really is a “magic wand” for the brain?

These are among the fascinating facts in the late Barbara Strauch’s book The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: Discover the surprising talents of the middle-aged mind* (middle-age being 40 – 65). It’s a readable, layperson’s survey of research about the ageing brain, though the science has moved on since its 2011 publication.

Yes, certain abilities decline in later life, such as our memory for names or being hazy about the when and where of events. But our middle-aged brains are surprisingly competent and talented, indeed ‘our ability to make accurate judgments about people, about jobs, about finances – about the world around us – grows stronger’. Age improves our ability to see the big picture, and that’s not the only positive. Read More →

The scrap of paper says Socks. It’s barely legible but my mother is delighted she’s succeeded in capturing a transient thought. A triumph, after a major debilitating stroke and a vast improvement on early attempts which neither of us could decipher.

I admired her tenacity in painfully, painstakingly learning to write again, but I wonder what she ‘d have thought about me sharing the story? A perfectionist, I suspect she’d hate me sharing her feeble, embarrassing (as she’d see it) script – which is why “socks” is in my own left-handed writing. Do I have the right to share such stories about my parents, particularly now they’re no longer alive?
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