2008/10/07

That's "volume" .. not "volume"

Raz, N et al. in Neurobiology of Aging

Shown in red, the frontal lobe houses the "executive system" of the brain; it decreases in volume as we age. This region helps the brain decide which tasks to focus on and when to suppress irrelevant information.
It decreases in SIZE ... it doesn't make sound. Or, not that I know of anyway. This photo and caption are from an NPR report on the myth of "multi-tasking." We humans don't pay attention to more than one thing at a time. We just switch around more or less quickly, depending on experience and practice and intention, etc. And, over time, the part of the brain that does all that switching shrinks!

I think this is why my own ability to really focus on my school work - to get in there and grab it and wrestle it and get some degree of mastery fairly quickly - well ... where did my brain go??? It's not that I can't multi-task. It's that I can't focus on even the measly little one task.

This is very disturbing. Focus used to be my best thing! Is this a midlife thing? A post-surgical thing? A stayed-too-long-out-of-school thing?

I suspect it's a flab thing.

(groan)

I suspect that the cure for this is to exercise. Exercise the core and get my shape back into shape. Exercise the brain and get the frontal lobe to start acting like it remembers what to do. If you're only as young as you think, then I must be about a hundred and five these days. My ability to think feels quite decrepit all of a sudden.

Zen Habits thinks I need to:
1. Get my rest
2. Make a plan
3. Eat light and healthy
4. Exercise
and 5. Take breaks and break up my environment

Oh.

Wait.

Um ... I just thought of something.

Those are the things I used to do! Back in college days. I knew to do those things. I did those things. I could concentrate like some kind of alien force. I was a concentrating queen back then - a Focus Goddess. I remember now. (I think that shrinking lobe just stretched a bit. Yawned maybe.)

I'm no spring chicken any more, that's for sure. But I'm not dead yet. I've just forgotten how to decide my own day instead of reacting to it. I've stopped designing a life -- because I got one! I worked like stink for those years, got what I wanted, and then just stopped making the magic.

Hmmm...

Ready, brain? This isn't going to be easy, but it's time to bulk up. Get a bit of your power back. Remember the sheer glorious rush that comes from a mental mountain being moved - one boulder at a time.

What's that?

You can't?

Fiddlesticks. You're just stuck. Today's the day we start the unsticking. Wake up, brain. Let's go.

3 comments:

Susan L said...

It was strangely encouraging to read that the aging brain slows down in its ability and speed in switching from task to task. Because,boy, have I experienced that! ...And, so, there's hope for me to improve? I mostly do those things on your Zen list, but maybe I will be more intentionally focused on them. If you, whose brown prowess is significantly greater than mine, are going to do this, I'd better get busy, too! I don't want to lag too far behind in the brain improvement department, or how will I be able to understand your upcoming posts?!

Interesting, Stephanie!
Susan

Susan L said...

Hey, Stephanie, I hope you know that I didn't mean "brown" prowess in my previous comment, but "brain" prowess.

I had a daughter talking to me while I typed... I had that aging brain switching problem going on.

Susan

Stephanie said...

LOL!!! You know what, Susan? I just figure that seriously neglected gray matter simply turn brown over time!