Derek Sivers

Brain Rules for Aging Well - by John Medina

Brain Rules for Aging Well - by John Medina

ISBN: 0996032673
Date read: 2019-01-05
How strongly I recommend it: 5/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

I recommend this 10/10 if you're over 60, 8/10 if you're over 40, 4/10 otherwise. Current research on brain aging, and how to slow or reverse its effects. Be very social. Read 3+ hours per week. Intensely learn something new, especially a new language. Take dance lessons. Practice gratitude and mindfulness. Flood your mind with nostalgic memories.

my notes

For the group that socialized the most, the rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent less than for those who socialized the least.
There was a cognitive boost in processing speed and working memory with as little as ten minutes of social interaction.

Stress hormones kill T-cells. Your wounds heal at a rate 40 percent slower.

Relationships take energy to maintain, consistently giving your brain a bona fide workout.
Social interactions are the most complex, energy-intensive jobs your brain can consciously perform.

While you maintain your closest relationships with five people at a time, you can have meaningful relationships of varying quality with an additional 150 people.

It's not the overall number of interactions that benefit health, but the net quality of the individual interactions.
Take the other person’s point of view, actively seeking to understand a different perspective.
This effort transforms casual conversation into meaningful brain food.

Cultivate repeated, unplanned interactions, spontaneously rubbing shoulders with good friends. Live close to friends and family so those shoulders are available for rubbing. Create a setting that encourages people to let their guard down.

The more intergenerational relationships older people form, the higher the brain benefit turns out to be, especially when seniors interact with elementary-age children.

The lonelier you are, the lonelier you become.

In a six-month dance class, one hour per week: hand-motor coordination, fluid intelligence, short-term memory, and impulse control increased by 13 percent .

Human touch is wildly important for the elderly.

Optimism is knowing that bad things don’t last forever, that good will return.

Brains don’t record life as if on a single reel-to-reel tape deck. Rather, many semi-independent memory subsystems exist - each responsible for recording and retrieving a specific domain of learning.

Seniors prefer the higher probability of experiencing a positive emotion; reward size doesn’t matter.
In youth, the altitude of happiness we experience is consistently stratospheric, and we want more.

In our youth, our emphasis is on the future: “promotion motivation.”
Heading into retirement, we try to protect what we’ve worked so hard to gain, shifting from promotion motivation to “prevention motivation”.
We see ourselves in terms of preservation because time is short. Present happiness becomes more important than future reward.

Reward prediction abilities decline more than 20 percent with age, which means reward prediction errors increase. You become more gullible.

People often confuse depression with normal sadness. People in the grips of depression often don’t feel particularly sad. Instead, they become increasingly unfocused and demonstrably more irritable and restless, and they experience a steady erosion in things they used to find pleasurable.

The more health challenges seniors encounter, the greater their depression risk becomes.

One of the most solid biological findings that exists in the gerosciences: as humans age, the dopaminergic system begins functionally to decline.
Dopamine mediates the willingness to take risks, and our psychological motivations.

The brain is surprisingly good at conjuring up compensatory behaviors for cognitive functions it knows are eroding. The happiness data may represent the determined effort of a brain, faced with inexorable dopamine decline, refusing to go down without a fight. Or a smile.

L-DOPA sparks dopamine : it improves elevates optimism bias. This experiment was done with a younger generation, so optimism may be influenced by dopamine levels even in healthy people.

Seniors who are optimistic live a healthy 7.5 years longer than seniors who aren’t. Optimism exerts a measurable effect on their brain. The volume of their hippocampus doesn’t shrink nearly as much as the pessimist’s does.

Seligman has codified the science of what makes people authentically happy: gratitude behaviors. Read Seligman’s book “Flourish”. Summary:
Generate a list of the things that bring you true pleasure, then allow the items on the list to become a regular part of your life.
Lose yourself in a hobby: good movies, books, sports - even a dance class.
Pursue a purpose that gives your life meaning: a purpose larger than self.
Achieve mastery in something over which you currently have no mastery at all.

People who feel younger than their chronological age do better on cognitive tests than those who feel older.
Ideal subjective age is twelve years younger than your actual age.

Mindfulness improves our brains.
Emotional regulation (especially the ability to manage stress) and cognition (especially the ability to pay attention).
Mindful seniors are 86 percent more likely to score in the very positive range for markers of cardiovascular health than those who aren’t practicing.
Awareness and acceptance can literally rewire your behavior.

Create a robust social schedule for the rest of your life.
Practice mindfulness meditation for the rest of your life.

Semantic memory, a memory for facts, increases with the passing years.
Procedural memory (motor memory) remains steady.
Decision making is less impulsive, more thoughtful, because we have more options to weigh.
Working memory: we used to call it short-term memory.
Episodic memory, like working memory, gets worse with age.

Go back to school. Enroll in a class. Pick up a new language.
Plunge yourself into the deep end of learning environments every day. No exceptions.
Experience a novel idea and actively, even aggressively, engage it.
The best exercise is to find people with whom you do not agree and regularly argue with them.
Productive engagement involves experiencing environments where you find your assumptions challenged, your perspective stretched, your prejudices confronted, your curiosity inspired.
Productive engagement is one of the clearest ways to keep your memory batteries from draining.
Episodic memory improved 600 percent above those in the receptive group.
Teaching other people works beautifully, too.
Try something new. It is one of the best experiences you can give your brain.
Bilingual people perform significantly better on cognitive tests, regardless of the age at which the language is learned.
People who know three languages outscore people who know two.

Seniors who read at least 3.5 hours a day, were 17 percent less likely to die by a certain age.
The reading has to be of books, long form.

Every day you exercise your brain above what you do typically delays that deterioration by 0.18 years.

Our ability to ignore distractions declines from a high of 82 percent when younger (average age 26) to a low of 56 percent when older (average age 67).

Fluid intelligence is your ability to persuade your problem-solving talents to come out and play - to solve unique problems independent of your personal experience with them.
Fluid intelligence is highly correlated with working memory ability.
Crystallized intelligence is defined as the ability to draw from material learned by experience, using information previously stored.

UC–San Francisco scientists developed a game called NeuroRacer that actually helps.
Audio game called Beep Seeker improves working memory.

Executive function (EF) is the behavior that allows you to get tasks done - and to be calm and civil while doing them.

Greater physical activity means greater intellectual vigor, regardless of age.
The protein BDNF, short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is thought to be responsible for much of this growth. You want BDNF in your brain.
By exercising, you are not just slowing age-related decline. Your brain actually gets better at its job.
You don’t have to do a lot to reap the benefit. Just take a walk. Or get into a pool.
Do strength training two or three times a week

Calorie restriction and plant-based diets exert their anti-aging effects through hormesis.
Only five days a month confers the age-related benefits.

Nostalgia: linking who you were in the past with who you are now.
People who regularly experience the benefits of nostalgia are less afraid of dying.
People become more generous to strangers after spending quality time in their “nostalgia zones.”
They also become more tolerant of outsiders, especially ones with perceived social differences.
Nostalgia didn’t affect just the participants’ attitudes. It also affected their bodies. Eyesight improved.
Retrieval bias around age 20, skewed for events in our late adolescence/mid-20s.
When did you have the most meaningful experiences of your long life?

What’s the best popular music they ever listened to, the ones defining “their generation,” the answer is similar: the music they heard between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.

Fill an area of your current living environment with nostalgic items - the ones most likely to evince strong dopaminergic reactions : your personal Fountain of Youth.

The Mediterranean and MIND diets have been shown to improve memory, lessen the chances for stroke, and be robustly associated with long life.