AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020

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Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives – A Review

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The title of this book may discourage people from reading this review, but each of us is aging regardless of being old or young. The author provides a good review of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, outlining the inevitable maturing that occurs over time. In addition, he provides suggestions as to how life satisfaction and meaning can be maximized within this context.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Part One: “The Continually Developing Brain”
  • Part Two: “The Choices We Make”
  • Part Three: “The New Longevity”

This last section is a discussion of living longer, smarter and better; the author suggests that our knowledge of neuroplasticity should allow us to write our own futures.

We are advised to never retire – there’s even specific advice for older neurosurgeons. He writes,

“Imagine a neurosurgeon whose hands are too shaky to operate but who can think about what he wants to do while a robot does it.”

The author posits that the single most important factor in determining successful aging is flexibility; people must be able to change. Personalities are malleable and thus one can learn to interact with the world in new ways. The next three most important factors in avoiding senility are your childhood experience, exercise and social interaction. Childhood should be happy and free from head trauma. An exercise program should adapt to new and varied things. It is also important to have friends. A case is also made for wisdom; this includes mastery, openness, reflectivity and emotional regulation.

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