Changing Brain

Does your brain change as you get older? Are you the same person at fifty as you were at twenty? I really don’t think so.

Some things are constant. You have a nature that is clear of nurture and where your hard wiring will produce similar reactions to things: I didn’t like heavy metal or celery when I was twenty – and I don’t now. But I do think that I deal with people and issues very differently.

This was bought home to me when I found a file from my first year at Oxford. This was neat and carefully ordered with, and this was what really surprised me, utterly different hand writing – legible, with well-formed letters. I now have difficulty reading what I have written in a hand that is forward sloping scrawl where conjunctions and prepositions look more like short-hand than something that is designed to record or transmit a thought.

Why should this be?

A guess would be that then my mind was fresh out of formation in an education that focused on all the left brain stuff – analysis and logic. It was about ordering and absorbing, in a rational way, imported knowledge. Intuition is not something to be encouraged in this environment.

Since then the other side of the brain has been allowed to work harder – creativity, intuition and trusting the subconscious. I now find that if I have a complex problem to resolve, I find that the ordered rational approach only goes so far. Better to think hard and then park it. It is amazing how the answer ‘appears’ out of nowhere the next day.

Blackberrys have had a more insidious effect. First, my attention span is not what it was. Looking out for emails six times an hour is not the friend of focus. And then there is the memory. That bit of my brain is now on my Blackberry where everything that comes to mind is instantly recorded on a wonderfully efficient mini filing system that is instantly accessible. What is difficult is to separate a possible mental atrophy that may be caused by over-reliance on the electronic brain and just plain middle age – CRAFT – Can’t Remember A Fucking Thing.

I told my father-in-law about CRAFT – which he hugely enjoyed. Instantaneously he decided to tell his wife over the telephone. ‘Darling’, I heard him say, ‘I’ve just heard the funniest thing……….what was it?’

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