Fit brain: also in later life!


Forgetfulness, poor concentration... It's part of getting older, most people think. However, Professor Dr. Margriet Sitskoorn, Professor of Neuropsychology disagrees. In an interview in the newspaper Algemeen Dagblad she says that even from the fiftieth year of life an awful lot happens in the brain. 

"So we have to get rid of the idea that decay occurs as soon as we get older. That image is so deeply embedded in our thinking. New research on the brain shows that we can do much more than we think. Our brains adjust continuously - this is called neuroplasticity. Of course you notice around the age of 50 that you forget things and that you are a bit stiffer when you get up, but we don't slow down. Some things go a bit less, other things a bit better. Think of getting older as a new period in your life. The brain over fifty has its own characteristics, just like the adolescent brain has.''

"As you get older, a number of connections in the brain disappear," says the professor. Or they weaken because you don't use them anymore. But the brain compensates for that too. By doing new things, new spurs of brain cells and new connections between brain cells are created. So the aging brain can very well take on a new hobby. Many people over the age of fifty succeed very well in making new material their own, such as installing a tablet. You really are never too old to learn. In this way, the brain stays in good condition.''

I couldn't agree more. Other researchers have also confirmed that the brain can be compared to a muscle that can be exercised. Of course, other factors are important for aging fit, as Professor Sitskoorn also recommends: sufficient exercise (ensures a good blood circulation, also of the brain), establishing and maintaining social contacts and good nutrition. And avoid bad habits such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, using too much refined food. A positive outlook on itself, valuable goals in life are also of particular importance. But we'll come back to that later...