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Saturday, 23 February 2019 04:31 am

Brains don’t wear out – they fill up

Aug 19th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article, Opinion

IT’S AN easy conclusion to jump to – the grey-haired person you are interacting with is slow to react, or slow to get it – they are obviously suffering from deteriorating brain power.

But I read an interesting theory a while ago – it’s not the central processor that is slowing, it is the access to it that is sluggish.

At the computer shop last week they told me that as your computer gets more programmes and information on it, it starts to react more and more slowly. That is certainly the case with my computer; it’s much slower now than when it was just new. They tell me it’s just cluttered, and having to look through more and more information to find what I want.

And I thought – that’s just how it is for me. After my 57 years of action-packed life, there is a huge store of memory in my brain that new information has to fight with for space.

Imagine if I was living a peasant life somewhere in a small village, interacting with only a few people. My brain would not be so cluttered with memories.

But I have lived a typical 20th century life. One of the earliest sets of memories is all the stuff I soaked up at school. Then I learnt about punch cards and computers in the late 60s. When I moved on to being a mother, it wasn’t enough just to be a parent, I had to study theories of child development and human relationships (Playcentre).

Then I decided to learn to type, and worked for an eight-year stint in a market research firm, studying theories of management at the same time (NZIM). Around this time, the personal computer became prevalent, with a whole new way of operating to be learnt – spreadsheets, word processing software. Then on to two years at the Department of Statistics, where I learnt about their INFOS computer system.

Next, for a complete change of scene, the city gal was off to the countryside to try a spot of sheep and beef farming, and then moved on to an orchard and vineyard. There was a steep learning curve required for that transformation.

Lest my brain start to atrophy, I moved onto a two-year fulltime opera-singing course. With piano and music theory lessons over the preceding five years.

Had a bed and breakfast for five years in idyllic Mapua, Nelson. This, of course, entailed getting involved with the infamous resource consent process. And, needing sometimes to earn a bit of extra cash, I’ve worked in some tourist shops and as a researcher for a construction industry publication.

I must have interacted with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over that time. And there are all the films and TV programmes I have seen over the years, and books and magazines and newspapers read over the years. And the sights and sounds that have made impressions on my brain from various travels.

So it’s no wonder that now, trying to learn shorthand, my poor old overloaded brain is having trouble finding a space to retain this new information. There is no problem with understanding the concepts, just a bit of confusion when trying to retrieve the memories of what I have learnt.

I say to all my fellow wrinklies, don’t let anyone convince you that you’re losing your grey matter. It’s just full.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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