As you get older, your whole body, including your brain, goes through changes.
As a result, you may notice that you have a shorter attention span, it takes you longer to learn new things, and you don’t remember information as well as you used to.
However, Dr Michael Mosley has shared that this fate is not inevitable.
If you get science on your side, you could make your brain as much as 50 years younger.
Speaking on his podcast Stay Young, the doctor said: “Scientists have studied people in their 70s and found they were able to perform as well on memory tests as someone decades younger.”
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To achieve substantially younger brain power, all you have to do is learn three new skills simultaneously.
Dr Mosley invited Dr Rachel Wu from the University of California Riverside, who conducted research that backs the benefits of challenging yourself, to explain the science on the podcast.
Dr Wu’s background is in infant and child developmental psychology, where she got the idea that since infants and children learn many new skills at the same time, this type of environment might be potentially beneficial for older adults as well.
Speaking about her research, she said: “The design of the latest study involved having a group of older adults that came in to do at least three new skills at the same time, and they came in for three months.
“They ended up spending about 15 hours a week doing homework and also sitting in the classes.”
The ages of these participants ranged from about 60 years to mid-80s.
From new languages like Spanish to skills such as photography, the subjects were learning in both creative and academic ways.
The key was not assigning them something they knew a lot about so the task would present a real challenge.
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Dr Wu said: “We found that by the end of the intervention, they were performing in their cognitive abilities at the level of middle-aged adults 30 years younger than them.”
However, the study brought even more surprising findings one year after the intervention ended.
“[The people] were performing more like younger adults, so 50 years younger,” the researcher added.
During this learning time, the study participants managed to improve their memory as well as their attention span.
How to make your brain decades younger
Based on the research findings and Dr Wu’s advice, the most important thing is to find three skills that will really challenge you.
This means you don’t want to pick similar tasks because the effects will start plateauing.
A good combination could consist of one language, one musical instrument and one sport.
Dr Wu added: “What we encourage people to do is take as much time as you can in your daily life to be able to learn new skills and the effects that you can see will be dependent on how much time you can put in, so the more time you can put in, the more benefits you might be able to see.”
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