The Adult Brain & Memory (Ken Kosik)

The theme of November’s Learning & the Brain conference was Using Emotions Research to Enhance Learning. As with last April, when I believe it was first introduced, there was an Adult Learning strand. Saturday morning I had the pleasure of presiding over the Adult Brains & Memory session, which featured two talks:

My Dad has Alzheimer’s, and hearing about what is going on within his brain is something that I can listen to over and over again, hence my second time as an audience member for a talk by Ken Kosik. In the cozy environment of MIT’s Brain & Cognitive Sciences auditorium, Kosik took us from the statistics on aging through the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s to MCI (mild cognitive impairment) to studies and practicalities of hedging against Alzheimer’s, to adult brain plasticity, to wondering just where memories go. In my May 23rd post of this year you can read more about what Ken shares regarding Alzheimer’s.

In this recent talk, I did pick up some new information, and was reminded of some old. Being a teacher, and having very definite opinions about professional development formats, I especially enjoyed Ken’s three-point proof that Education protects against Alzheimer’s.

  • Brain-reserve hypothesis – If you start out strong, you’ll decline less.
  • Brain-battering hypothesis – Better-educated people take better care of themselves, and therefore may be better protected. Lesser educated people have more stroke, myocardial infection, diabetes, depression and earlier mortality.
  • Diagnostic bias – Highly schooled patients score higher on dementia screening and tests of cognitive ability.

Kosik also pointed out some very salient features to keep in mind. Perhaps the most protective factor against Alzheimer’s is having friends, social networks, and being connected.

While all rules do not apply to everyone – each of us is, after all, an individual – the rules are based on statistics, and we can use these generalizations to guide us in our decision making in terms of preventive care and general health care.

Dealing with the aging brain and how it can impact our lives is at the very heart of what Ken Kosik studies. To that end, in addition to his long list of impressive credentials, he is the Executive Director of the Center for Cognitive Fitness and Innovative Therapies at Santa Barbara, California, part of whose mission is:

…we believe that every person has the ability to age gracefully and live a full active life even with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The key is integrating all the tools you need to thrive under one roof.

(Next post: Aaron Nelson’s talk)


5 thoughts on “The Adult Brain & Memory (Ken Kosik)

  1. Pingback: » Generation Gap Alan Coady’s Musical Blog

  2. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Ken,

    First of all, MANY THANKS for your book of poetry, which arrived earlier in the week. I have a “thank you in kind” that will be mailed out later this week.

    Thanks, also, for sharing about your Mom. Love your story about being on the ship during the Suez crisis and your Mom reading all of the books in the ship’s library!

    Seems the research has definitely corroborated your belief in what kept your Mom going.


  3. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Laurie

    My Mother is in the advance stage of Alzheimer’s. She was in her late 70s when she could no longer do for herself.

    An active woman when she was younger, she read just about every novel she could lay her hands on. I recall in 1953, when Mum and I travelled From Bristol to Beira by Union Castle Liner – it was at the time of the Suez crisis – she despaired, after the first month on board, that she had read every novel in the ship’s library and was starting on the travelogues.

    She was also a crosswordaholic and thought nothing of doing the most abominable mental arithmetic problems without as much as a frown. She is now in her mid-eighties and is well cared for.

    The first symptoms started to show in 1995. I have always believed that the reason she was able to keep so active, mentally as well as physically, was simply because she never was still, mentally or physically.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  4. synapsesensations Post author

    Part of my reply to Jack:

    Thanks for your comment. What I would very much like, and am going to suggest in my feedback to the conference organizers, is for the images, videos, and URLs shared by the various speakers to be made available on a web site – not only from Ken Kosik’s talk, but from all the talks.

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