Aging=Brain Decline?

Brain Super


The whole right hemisphere of our brain is largely for the function of managing novelty, of handling new information and new situations.   The right frontal lobe is for grabbing the information that needs inputting for use in the ongoing development of the brain, solving the challenges of living in the moment.

Your right frontal lobe isn’t busy gathering evidence to keep you convinced that how you reasoned 5 years ago still really works just fine. If it does, you’re in trouble, with a kind of rigidity that comes from wanting to remain safe rather than to encounter what is new and novel.

Your right hemisphere is engaged in encountering all of the new and novel things that are part of an evolving brain that last all of our lives. Does the brain shrink as we grow older? Probably, if you don’t use it. I don’t think Einstein’s brain had any shrinkage. I don’t believe that Monet, who painted into his 80’s, had any shrinkage.

Decline is not synonymous with aging. It is the product of perceived threat, resistance, and rigidity. It happens when you decide that it’s time to get out of the parade and watch it go by. It happens when you rely more and more on what you already know, and use less and less of your brain to learn new things. It happens when you start balking at learning how to text or use a smart phone, or resist learning new technology, not because you are making a choice to learn other more interesting things, but because you are afraid, and have for some reason, made a choice to withdraw, bit by bit, from life.

If you do not use a whole hemisphere of your brain, designed for novelty, and you resist and shut it down, what do you think happens? The brain regresses, it creates disease, and your refusal to cooperate with evolution takes you out of the game one way or another.

What we used to call wisdom, that belonged to those with wide ranges of reasoning, has become a lost concept because we worship youth and sell out to aging as decline. It is a lie of a marketplace selling mediocrity to youthful faces with money to spend on popcorn at the movies.

The brain is unfolding and developing all of our lives, if we will call upon it to do so.

Your brain was not created to retire.

The right hemisphere does not collect Social Security at 65; it collects more novelty and information.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 


About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • kathy poehnert

    I have been sharing this information with so many people…the myths around the decline of the brain are rampant, and , actually, the novelty of this information, in and of itself, helps the brain to grow!

    I remember, as my Mom got older, she tended to rely more and more on the “known” ; what was familiar and did not require new learning. She is a very intelligent woman with a degree in economics, but I saw her pull away from life, whereas, my Dad would be up for new things. She is now 92, in a nursing home and has some dementia.

    Every once in a while, I notice my Mom’s tendency in me, and, armed with this new information about the brain, am cognizant of the importance of novelty and newness in my life. I want this novelty to come in the “front door” in a purposeful and proactive way, so that it won’t come in the “back door” to bite me!!

  • Mary Garvey Horst

    My favorite line of this blog post is that “the brain was not created to retire.” My desk is a creative center with a pile of new books for my devouring, folders on a variety of topics and projects that I am currently working on, and journals filled with my “novelty” notes from recent workshops & trainings still percolating for ongoing integration. I am reaping the energetic rewards from the challenging yoga class on hip openers that I took this morning. All of which means that I am not focused on retiring or retirement. I am ever curious and open to greater life exploration.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    “Decline is not synonymous with aging.” Well, said, Dr. Larkin. And thank goodness.

    I recently went into physical therapy to increase my flexibility and mobility. When the questionnaire asked, “Can you put on your socks and shoes,” I was glad they didn’t say “easily.” The good news is that after 3 months of diligently “stretching,” (and dry needling and laser therapy), I’m moving better!

    And just now I’m beginning to work on the course, “The Science of Happiness,” which is fascinating and challenging. Did I change the subject? Not really. I am so aware that I am stretching both my body and my mind. Even though I feel a bit rusty in both areas, I’m grateful that I have the knowledge and motivation to make me do what I know I need to do – and savor and enjoy it! 🙂

    It is tempting and certainly easier to stay in safe and comfortable. I have often used the phrase in teaching, “Comfort is a Killer.” I even thought about making up bumper stickers. Now I have to use it as a motto and motivator when I’m sitting on my back porch every morning savoring my gardens….

    I’m glad that I can savor, but I am well aware that I need to couple that with activity and productivity. My friends tease me about being busy, but when busy has purpose and meaning and novelty, it’s good for us, right? After all, my vision is to have a life of meaning and joy! Oh, boy, I’m headed to a Shag dancing week – fun and homework. Oh, well, another aspect of enhancing longevity is life-long learning. Got that one covered.

  • Beverly Harvey

    I’ve tried to retire two times now. The first time I quit my job in New Jersey and moved to Florida. After spending several months sitting on the beach reading several books, creating a plan, and holding a vision, the Universe opened a new door for me and I was able to start my own business – something I had wanted to do since I was a child but never felt qualified or confident enough to do. That was more than 20 years ago. Then about three years ago, I decided it was time to throttle back my business so I could retire in a few years. Yeah, right! My brain said, not so fast honey, you’re not ready yet, you’ve got a lot to learn. So in walked novelty in the form of neuropositivity science and I am now totally immersed in and I am back in the parade again. I have new ideas about my future and the future of my business and I’m creating a plan and holding a vision confident that the Universe will once again open the door at just the right time.

  • BAM

    There used to be a life insurance company that had a slogan “Freedom 55”. For quite a bit of my life 55 seemed really old and far off….until now. I am now thinking back on what that commercial was all about. The dream they were selling was about financial freedom after 55. I am now not only dreaming about Freedom 55, but living Freedom 55 and not just in the context of financial. I am embracing novelty in new and exciting ways. Limits that I had set on myself have been shattered. The strangers that have been knocking at my door for years are now being invited in to join one heck of a party. I have this quirky vision of the strangers introducing themselves to each other at the party, which is my life. “Hi, I am Zip Line and you are” or “Successful Entrepreneur allow me to introduce you to Mountaineer”. I am right there in the centre of the party not judging anyone of my stranger guests, simply embracing them all with enthusiasm and gratitude.

    I have also been contemplating the notion that what I thought I do best has actually held me back and I am quite surprized. This made me feel sad, sort of wondering what could have been if I had made this connection sooner. I always knew I had been somewhat pigeon holed but never knew how to get unstuck. Now I get it and it is not too late. These desires I have always had offer meaning to me in life and knowing they are all possible in the second half of life is exciting.

  • Jo-Anne

    I used to think that I would be quite happy to retire at the age of 60. But that was then and this is now…now I can’t imagine retiring for the next long while! With all the new technology, changing workplaces and options, there are so many exciting challenges out there, that are much too much fun to even consider “retiring”. Changing direction, yes, growing and learning, yes! Bring it on! I have always loved learning new things, so it was no surprise when Learner showed up on both my strengths tests in the top 5. I guess that means my right hemisphere is quite willing and the front door is open for lots of new and novel experiences. Sounds great to me! We were always taught as children not to speak to strangers, so it’s kind of ironic, this “stranger knocking at the door” concept, but I love it.
    I will admit, though, that one of my challenges has been to welcome in the whole social media arena. I’m a bit of a slow adopter on that front. The roots likely go way back to childhood. But I am learning to embrace the whole notion of social media and I’m gradually getting more comfortable with it. I recognize that it is the way to connect in so many different parts of life now, and it’s so important for me to step outside my comfort zone and stretch those neuropathways to learn new things and adopt new behaviours and channels of communication.
    I am fortunate and very grateful that in my life, both with family and friends, I have some strong role models of people being productive and active (mentally and physically) well into their advanced years. I plan to do the same, armed with all this exciting new research in neuroscience and the Positivity research. I will continue to let my right hemisphere soak in new experiences and keep humming along with work, travel, adventure and life in general for a long, long time!

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