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Academic Minute

Dr. Catherine Snyder, Union Graduate College - Aging and the Brain


Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Catherine Snyder of Union Graduate College explains how brain function changes with age.

Catherine Snyder is Clinical Assistant Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Education at Union Graduate College. She holds a Ph.D. from the University at Albany, where she was nominated for the Presidential Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2010.

Dr. Catherine Snyder - Aging and the Brain

Ever wonder why it seems to take longer to think through complicated issues as we get older? We have all heard that old adage, "use it or lose it." While this is true, it only tells half the story.

The expression, "use it or lose it" comes from the idea that as we age, we tend to lose our ability to recall information that we don't need regularly. This makes those of use in our fifties, sixties and older feel as though we aren't as cognitively sharp as we once were. While this might be true, it only tells half the story. The field of adult education provides us with some insight, and a much more welcome reason why we appear to slow down cognitively as we age.

The other reason it takes longer for older adults to think through new or unfamiliar ideas is what is referred to as "frames of reference" or "meaning perspectives." Adult education theory has demonstrated that as we age, our experience and prior learning serve to create a frame around which we make decisions and interact with the world. The older we become the more elaborate and complicated those frames become, causing us to be more thoughtful and measured in our decision making.

So the next time you feel as though you can't keep up with a younger friend, feel good about the fact that part of the reason is that you have so much more meaningful experience helping you make those important decisions.

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