Brenda Lyle – Special to FLORIDA TODAY
Reader question: Are changes in my brain inevitable as I age?
Answer: When we are born, our brain is about 25% of the size it will become in adulthood. Incredibly, it doubles in size in the first year and keeps growing to about 80 percent of adult size by age 3. It is nearly full grown by age 5.
Our working brain
Whether a gymnast, scientist or sculptor, the anatomy of the brain is the same regardless of who we are.
There are three main parts to the brain: the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brainstem.
The cerebrum is divided into two hemispheres that control the opposite sides of the body: the right hemisphere controls the left side and the left hemisphere controls the right side.
The “artistic” right hemisphere controls creativity and musical skills as well as spatial ability.
The left hemisphere controls speech, comprehension, arithmetic and writing.
You’ve probably also heard of the brain “lobes.”
Each lobe also has its own set of skills that combine with the jobs of the hemispheres to complete our brain capacity.
In addition to the physical anatomy of the brain, the brain has a control center that regulates the chemistry of our bodies utilizing glands that lie deep in the brain structures.
The effects of aging
As we age, we experience anatomical and chemical changes in our brains.
Our brains begin to shrink as early as our 30s and 40s.
The number of connections between neurons (synapses) also decreases, which results in learning and memory deficits as we age.
We generate less brain chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, which help us feel happy.
All of these anatomical and chemical changes that come with aging can impact the functioning of our brains.
On the plus side, synaptic connections can increase by learning new things, bringing meaning to the phrase, “Use it or lose it!”
The brain and dementia
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning (thinking, remembering and reasoning) and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Dementia can affect a person’s ability to recognize faces, because of a disturbance in the parietal and temporal lobe of the brain.
Dementias that affect the frontal lobe can create problems with speech and language comprehension.
The frontal lobe, along with brain structures known as the limbic system, are responsible for our emotional response to situations and events.
Alzheimer’s is a specific brain disease that accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases.
Learn more at the free Brain Health series, starting Feb. 10 at One Senior Place. Call 321-751-6771 to register.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place, Greater Orlando