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Ageing Well

MIDUS (Midlife in the United States).  MIDUS is a national longitudinal study of health and well-being funded by the National Institute on Aging.  Here is an excerpt from a New York Times January 19, 2012 article by Patricia Cohen, titled "A sharper mind, middle age and beyond."

"This continuing examination of Americans’ physical and emotional health and habits gained momentum in the 1990s as the first wave of baby boomers were settling into their fifth decade and running up against their own biases against aging. More than 7,000 people 25 to 74 years old were drafted to participate so that middle-agers could be compared with those younger and older. And with a new $21 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, the Midus team is beginning its third round of research this month.

What makes Midus particularly valuable is that researchers can track the same person over a long period, comparing the older self with the younger self to see which capabilities are declining and which are improving. This approach has opened a new peephole into the middle-age brain."

DESPITE continuing emphasis on SAT-type testing, in recent decades researchers have become much more aware of the range of abilities that constitute intellectual muscle. The Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner called his version of this theory “multiple intelligences” in his seminal 1983 book, “Frames of Mind.” “The human mind,” he later explained, “is better thought of as a series of relatively separate faculties, with only loose and non-predictable relations with one another, than as a single, all-purpose machine that performs steadily at a certain horsepower, independent of content and context.”

Many researchers believe that human intelligence or brainpower consists of dozens of assorted cognitive skills, which they commonly divide into two categories. One bunch falls under the heading “fluid intelligence,” the abilities that produce solutions not based on experience, like pattern recognition, working memory and abstract thinking, the kind of intelligence tested on I.Q. examinations. These abilities tend to peak in one’s 20s.

Crystallized intelligence,” by contrast, generally refers to skills that are acquired through experience and education, like verbal ability, inductive reasoning and judgment. While fluid intelligence is often considered largely a product of genetics, crystallized intelligence is much more dependent on a bouquet of influences, including personality, motivation, opportunity and culture. (The bold-type emphases are those of Clifford Morris and not of the author, Patricia Cohen).

Original

"Boosting mental fitness in middle age" is the title to a January 19, 2012 New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope. Here is her opening paragraph.

"Research shows that education is an essential element to keeping the brain fit as it ages, an issue explored by the New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen in the latest issue of Education Life."

Original

"Asperger’s History of Overdiagnosis" is the title to a January 31, 2012 New York Times article by psychiatrist Paul Steinberg. Here is an excerpt.

"Given that humans are social animals, interpersonal intelligence is perhaps the most important natural human skill — as valuable as or more valuable than verbal-linguistic intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence (to use the terminology of the Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner), the skills focused on in school. Social disabilities are not at all trivial, but they become cheapened by the ubiquity of the Asperger diagnosis, and they become miscast when put in the autism spectrum."

Original

"Lifelong learning: Times, ideas, and resources for keeping your brain smart" is the title to a January 23, 2012 New York Times article by Katherine Schulten. Here is an excerpt from her article:

"Consider Different Kinds of Intelligence: The article that inspired this post, A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond raises the notion of “multiple intelligences,” a concept familiar to most teachers:

Despite continuing emphasis on SAT-type testing, in recent decades researchers have become much more aware of the range of abilities that constitute intellectual muscle. The Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner called his version of this theory “multiple intelligences” in his seminal 1983 book, “Frames of Mind.”

…Many researchers believe that human intelligence or brainpower consists of dozens of assorted cognitive skills, which they commonly divide into two categories. One bunch falls under the heading “fluid intelligence,” the abilities that produce solutions not based on experience, like pattern recognition, working memory and abstract thinking, the kind of intelligence tested on I.Q. examinations. These abilities tend to peak in one’s 20s.

“Crystallized intelligence,” by contrast, generally refers to skills that are acquired through experience and education, like verbal ability, inductive reasoning and judgment. While fluid intelligence is often considered largely a product of genetics, crystallized intelligence is much more dependent on a bouquet of influences, including personality, motivation, opportunity and culture.

Read the article to learn more, visit the Times Topics page on Howard Gardner to read about his work, or try our 2007 lesson plan, What’s Your Style? in which students assess their learning styles using Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, consider teaching strategies for different learning styles and create study aids for course content tailored to different intelligences."

Original

"Forging Social Connections for Longer Life" by columnist Jane E. Brody" is the title to a New York Times, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, p. D7, Personal Health newspaper article.  Here are four (4) excerpts from her article:

{ snip}

Take last New Year’s Eve. I had no plans, but the day before, a very thoughtful friend invited me to dinner with her husband and another couple, after which we joined two other couples for dessert. Then all nine of us went to the park to watch fireworks; thousands of revellers were whooping and hollering and generally having a great time. Everyone but me.

I was sad, very sad. To me, alone in a crowd, nothing about this new year seemed celebratory.

{ snip}

But a book I found in my personal library, “Healthy at 100,” by John Robbins, may well prove to be the most helpful. I’m not sure how I missed perusing this marvellous book when it was published, in 2006, but I’m awfully glad I found it now.

After 200-plus pages of very informed discussion of life-enhancing issues like diet, exercise and mental stimulation, Mr. Robbins devotes a major section to relationships. He notes the importance of others in our lives and takes issue with self-absorption, with the “me” generation that focuses on itself to the neglect of others. Mr. Robbins cites an illustrative study published in 1983 by Larry Scherwitz, then a psychologist at Baylor University, who taped the conversations of nearly 600 men, a third of them with heart disease. Dr. Scherwitz counted how often the men used first-person pronouns — I, me, mine — and found that those who used them most often were most likely to have heart disease and, when followed for several years, most likely to suffer heart attacks.

The psychologist advised: “Listen with regard when others talk. Give your time and energy to others; let others have their way; do things for reasons other than furthering your own needs.”

{ snip}

In study after study cited by Mr. Robbins, people in loving relationships with spouses or friends were healthier than those lacking this intimacy, even when the latter had healthier living habits.

One such study of 7,000 men and women living in Alameda County, Calif., which was led by Lisa F. Berkman, an epidemiologist at Yale, found that people who were not connected to others were three times as likely to die over the course of nine years as those who had strong social ties. The kind of social ties did not matter. They included family, friends, church and volunteer groups.

Furthermore, to the surprise of Dr. Berkman and her co-author, S. Leonard Syme of the University of California, Berkeley, those with close social ties and unhealthy lifestyles actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more health-promoting habits. Of course, those who lived healthfully and had strong social ties lived the longest.

In another study, which was called the Beta Blocker Heart Attack Trial and involved 2,300 men who had survived a heart attack, those with strong social connections faced only one-quarter the risk of death of those not socially connected, even when factors like smoking, diet, alcohol, exercise and weight were taken into account. In fact, social connectedness had a greater influence on survival than the heart drug being tested.

{ snip}

When people become too old or infirm to live on their own, they typically move or are moved to facilities with other old or infirm individuals, often far from family and friends, depriving them of connections to people who can provide loving support. The resulting loneliness can be a killer, even in the absence of a fatal disease.

Mr. Robbins points out that in traditional societies that lack modern medicine yet are famous for long life expectancies, “the generations are not artificially separated, and people at every stage of life feel a part of things and have something to contribute.”

{ snip}

Original

American Scientist


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