Saturday, December 03, 2005

Building Mental Muscle

In yesterday’s post I wrote that I had read “as we age we loose the ability to recognize some emotions conveyed by facial expressions”.

Here’s the text of what I read.

“It also happens that elderly adults are worse than younger adults at recognizing negative facial expressions – fear or disgust for example. This finding provides support to the right-hemi-aging hypothesis – that, as we age, the right hemisphere tends to decline more rapidly than the left. Perhaps that’s why certain “crystallized” left-brain abilities such as vocabulary size don’t decline as fast when we age, compared to certain “fluid” right-brain abilities such as abstract spatial reasoning and facial recognition. In a recent study, young and old adults were asked to assign photographs of faces to categories of emotion (“Happy”, “Fearful”, etc.). Older subjects performed much worse than younger ones in identifying negative expressions, but as well as younger subjects in identifying happy faces.”

This above paragraph came from page 25 of

Building Mental Muscle: Conditioning Exercises for the Six Intelligence Zones

David Gamon, Ph.D. and Allen D. Bragdon
Copyright 1998
ISBN 0-7607-0521-6

The book cites many references but did not contain a reference for this study. A web search uncovered a similar study published after the book: Emotion Recognition Deficits in the Elderly (PDF of 56 pages).

The book Building Mental Muscle was a Christmas gift from Julie’s daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is a readable summary of “the latest scientific research on how the brain works” and contains “an assortment of puzzles, exercises, and self-tests”.


Blogger Bonita said...

I find the table of contents simply wonderful: (I hope it is OK to print these here...)

11 Executive & Social issues 15 What part of your brain causes you to respond as a unique individual? 23 Your right frontal lobe registers negative emotions. 29 How to read deceit. 33 DHEA may make the aging feel young. 37 A type of logic puzzle that often applies to real-life situations. 41 How to make yourself feel happier without drugs 43 The night a middle-aged man tackled his bureau in his sleep. 47 How self-conscious are you? 51 If you're immoral and lazy, you may not be able to blame your parents. 59 A genetic clue to personality. 65 Physical exercise helps the brain grow.

69 Memory 73 "Memory" is, in fact, many processes that occur in different parts of the brain. 77 Imagine a memory-enhancing drug that would make you remember everything. 83 You can still use some kinds of knowledge even if you don't know you have them. 87 A major cause of forgetting. 91 If you want to remember complex data, visualize it. Geniuses do. 99 Background noises, including talk, affect your ability to recall. 103 Why are stories easier to recall than lists? 109 A little stress helps memory. 115 "Now where did I put my Prozac?" 117 Can challenging mental activity forestall age-related cognitive decline? 123 As they age, most people tend to notice problems with their "working" memory. 129 Normal decline of very short-term memory shows up in some tests of older people. 133 New hope for those at risk for Alzheimer's.

137 Emotional 141 It's cheaper than gin. 143 How distracting thoughts destroy effective mood-control. 147 Self-illusions are good for you. 153 How the brain recognizes fear. 157 "Watch two Marx brothers movies and call me in the morning." 161 Would you choose to be more sanguine if it were as easy as taking an aspirin? 173 Why are women more affected by seasonal fluctuations in day length? 177 What is the brain so busy doing, and not doing, while we sleep? 185 Verbalizing unpleasant experiences helps physical health. 189 Your immune responses and your brain are linked together?

12/03/2005 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Perhaps the reason old people ar not as adept at recognizing negative expressions is because they have much less use for them.
Negative expressions are designed to train you, mold you to fit into the culture. By the time you are an old geezer, you know who you are.

We old guys have little use for negative emotions. We are more likely to improve with positive interactions. Partly because we aren't as easily intimidated.

12/03/2005 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so interesting :) I love to learn about the mind.

12/04/2005 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Trée said...

Thanks Paul. I appreciate you posting this. Love your comment too.

12/04/2005 10:20:00 AM  

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