80. “Use it or Lose it”


Contrary to the popular belief, the human brain does not lose its power merely through ageing. Constant mental activities help to keep the brain young and active.

This is the theory put forward by Professor Marian Diamond, after years of research on the development of human brain. She bases her findings on the experiments done with rats.

Young rats were placed in stimulating environment instead of the usual empty cages. They were exposed to the company of the other rats and to toys and play things like wheels and ladder–which would make the rats use their brains.

This kind of stimulation changed the chemistry and structure of the cortex—the thin outer layer of nerve cells of the brain. Every part of each cell enlarged and the number of support cells attached to them also increased. As a result, the brains of the rats became more active and ready to meet the challenges set for them by the researchers.

The same experiment was repeated with older rats aged 766 days (equivalent to 76 years in human life span). The older rats also showed thickening of the cortex.

What is the implication of this experiment on human beings?

Professor Diamond interviewed several octogenarians who had kept their brains active. She put her findings in a nutshell by saying, “I found that the people who use their brains don’t lose them. It was that simple!”

Visalakshi Ramani

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