Our deteriorating minds

If you’re getting on a bit and find it takes longer to remember something, you will be cheered by Frontiers’ shaping of the reality of ageing.  We are invited to “reframe” our understanding of data retrieval in the brain by thinking about all of the extra information (memories) that an older brain contains.  Put simply, a younger person has fewer memories to search through for the required information and consequently is bound to find it more quickly.  This was likened to a brand new computer which runs faster than it ever will once it’s been filled with all your data.  So taking longer to remember the name of an acquaintance isn’t a sign of mental deterioration — it means you simply have more hay to search through for the needle than that sharp youngster beside you.

This model of mental data processing may or may not be accurate (and it is disputed).  But the same programme offered another, unqualified case of shaping reality.  In mental agility tests, people who held a negative view of the effect of age on the mind performed worse than those who did not.  If you believe age is slowing you down, it will slow you down.  How’s that for a reason to choose your truths carefully?