As the human body ages, it loses its physical capabilities, more or less gradually.
Especially between the ages of forty and fifty (a period that doctors call the “fifth decade”), the process of deterioration begins in various organs of the body. We lose muscle mass, vision becomes less sharp and joints begin to fail, for example.
But in the brain, the process is a little different.
What is happening, more than just a gradual process of deterioration, is a kind of internal rewiring.
This is one of the conclusions reached by a team of researchers from Monash University in Australia, who analyzed more than 150 studies on the aging of our bodies, and especially our brains.
“The brain, although it is only 2% of our body, consumes 20% of the glucose that enters our body. But as we age, it loses the ability to absorb these nutrients,” neuroscientist Sharna Jamadar explains to BP. CNews Mundo. Monash University.
“What the brain does is kind of re-engineers its systems to make the best possible use of the nutrients it can absorb now,” she explains.
According to scientists, this process is “radical.” As a result, different neuronal networks become more integrated in the following years, affecting the cognitive process.
But what surprised the researchers was that in some of the cases studied, this “rewiring” process was able to create a kind of resistance to brain aging.
“The important thing is to know the processes that occur inside our minds that can help us understand how we can delay brain aging,” explains Jamadar.
One of the major achievements of neuroscientists in recent decades has been to more or less decipher how the brain works.
The main conclusion is that our brain consists of a complex network of modules that are in turn divided into regions, subregions and, in some cases, individual neurons.
“With this in mind, as we grow and become young, this network and its modules go through a process of high connectivity, which is reflected, for example, in learning specific topics,” highlights the neuroscientist.
For this reason, at this age, it becomes easier to learn specialized sports and new languages, as well as to develop our skills in general.
But according to analysis by a Monash University team led by Hamish Deary, these circuits change radically when we reach the 40s.
“The result is less flexible thinking, less response inhibition, and a decrease in verbal and numerical reasoning,” explains Jamadar.
She adds, “These changes are observed in people during the so-called fifth decade, which coincides with findings that indicate that connectivity changes in these networks peak when you move from your forties to your fifties.”
This is because the circles are more connected to networks that address general rather than specific topics, as was the case in previous years.
“It is as if before the age of 40, circuits passed through brain modules connected to highly sophisticated networks,” says the neuroscientist. “After 40, what we notice is that the circuits connect to all the circuits, almost indiscriminately.”
But the scientist confirms that the study also proved that these radical changes ultimately help us resist the passage of time in the brain, according to some cases studied in various research.
“The important thing about this discovery is that it gives us tools to start investigating how this resistance is achieved, which is key to finding a solution to brain aging,” says Jamadar.
In this sense, one aspect that caught our attention is that tasks that rely on automatic or highly repetitive processes practiced throughout life are less affected or even improved.
“Subjects such as language or others that we learn in general, and are useful in our daily lives, can improve over the years,” the researcher says.
Since optimizing nutrients is one of the causes of drastic changes in the brain's “wiring”, the main recommendation for maintaining brain health as we age is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. In this sense, it is recommended to eat foods such as nuts, avocados and other vegetables.
“The brain will consume glucose in smaller quantities and less efficiently, so the foods we consume will have immediate effects on brain health,” Jamadar explains.
Therefore, she also recommends doing mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles and other memory games. It will allow these networks to remain active, even though they are no longer linked to each other.
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