Now for some really good news about brain health. Scientists (and thus the rest of us,) used to think that after reaching age thirty the picture was grim, beginning with lost keys, loss of comprehension, followed by confusion, irrelevance, decline and death. Many wonder, if that is true then why are most of the CEO's of Fortune 500 companies over the age of 50?
New research shows that older brains may well have abilities that younger brains have not yet developed. In the competitive and success driven leadership arena, there is no room for error. The acuity of these executives is tested daily and scrutinized regularly. They must be equal to the task or be replaced.
In the new book "Hope I Don't Die Before I Get Old" Tracey Bowman and Mary Boone Wellington detail scientific discoveries that explain this phenomena. New research shows that older brains may well have abilities that younger brains have not yet developed. In an unprecedented longitudinal study (using the same people over a period of years), Sherry Willis of Penn State University found that in vocabulary, verbal memory, spacial orientation and inductive reasoning, people performed best between the ages of forty and sixty five. They found that the ability to do fast calculations does decline after age twenty five, but by better utilization of both halves of the brain seniors excel at drawing fast and meaningful conclusions.
The Common conception that small memory lapses are precursors to full scale mental decline is simply not borne out by current research. Art Kramer, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Illinois studied air traffic controllers, both here in the US where mandatory retirement age is 55, and in Canada where air traffic controllers work until they are 65. He found that older controllers work just as successfully as younger ones. "Over the last few years, in fact, researchers have found out a great deal about the middle aged brain. They have found that-despite some bad habits-it is at it's peak in those years and stays there longer than any of us dared to hope." says Barbara Strauch in her book "The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain"