The middle-aged mind may be more powerful than you'd think.
If you’re middle-aged, you might not be able to find your keys or remember the name of the person you met yesterday, but in spite of those shortcomings, the middle-aged brain might be the best positioned to deftly cut through muddled problems to find a solution. That’s largely because myelin, the fatty white coating of neurons that enables our brain to make connections, actually keeps growing through middle age, so with 40+ years of wisdom and the ability to continue to expand one’s mind, middle age looks like a time of happiness and relatively lower stress. And it doesn’t stop there: those who continue to flex their frontal cortex, whether by learning a new language, or even just arguing with someone, increase their “cognitive reserve”—thought to be a buffer against the effects of aging and possibly even Alzheimer’s. Patt checks in with an expert for the science and a how-to guide.
Barabara Strauch, deputy science editor and health and medical science editor at the New York Times and author of The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-aged Mind.