Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind


Although our physical abilities clearly decline as we age, cognitive decline in healthy old age is neither universal nor inevitable. In Nurturing the Older Brain, Pamela Greenwood and Raja Parasuraman show that scientific research does not support the popular notion of the inexorable and progressive effects of cognitive aging in all older adults. They report that many adults maintain a high level of cognitive function into old age and that certain experiential and lifestyle factors—including education, exercise, diet, and opportunities for new learning—contribute to the preservation of cognitive abilities.

Many popular accounts draw similar conclusions and give similar lifestyle advice but lack supporting scientific evidence. Greenwood and Parasuraman offer a comprehensive review of research on cognitive and brain aging. They show that even the aged brain remains capable of plasticity—the ability to adapt to and benefit from experience—and they summarize evidence that brain plasticity is heightened by certain types of cognitive training, by aerobic exercise, and by certain diets. They also report on the somewhat controversial use of estrogen and cognition-enhancing drugs, on environmental adaptations (including "virtual assistants") that help older adults "age in place," and on genetic factors in cognitive aging.

The past twenty years of research points to ways that older adults can lead rich and cognitively vital lives. As millions of baby boomers head toward old age, Greenwood and Parasuraman’s accessible book could not be more timely.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. 1. Global Aging and Cognitive Functioning
  3. 2. Cognitive Aging: Neither Universal nor Inevitable
  4. 3. Brain Aging and Cognitive Aging
  5. 4. Ameliorating Cognitive Aging: A Neurocognitive Framework
  6. 5. Cognitive Challenge in Youth
  7. 6. Physical Exercise
  8. 7. Diet and Nutrition
  9. 8. Estrogen and Other Cognition-Enhancing Drugs
  10. 9. Learning, Cognitive Training, and Cognitive Stimulation
  11. 10. Combined Effects of Interventions and Preventative Actions
  12. 11. Modifying the Work Environment and the Home Environment
  13. 12. Nurture via Nature: Genetics, Environment, and Cognition
  14. 13. What Can and What Should Be Done to Support Cognitive Vitality in Older Adults?
  15. Glossary
  16. Notes
  17. Bibliography
  18. Index
  19. Color Plates