Brain exercise vital: Use it or lose it, visiting expert Dr Michael Merzenich warns Australians
A neuroscientist is warning people need regular brain exercise to help ward off health risks such as senility as they age.
Australians generally are living longer, healthier lives than ever before but visiting American neuroscientist Michael Merzenich warns work is needed to maintain functioning into old age.
Dr Merzenich, emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of California, says the burden of rising demands on the health system could become economically and socially unsupportable.
“By the time you reach your 85th birthday about half of us will need continuous care, [so] have to think about maintaining our abilities and capacities,” he said.
I think it is possible to keep most people in good stead from brain health to the point where their brain span can equal their life spanDr Michael Merzenich
On a visit to South Australia, Dr Merzenich warned medical advances of the past century had dramatically increased the average life span but had largely ignored brain function.
His research has found people who frequently exercise both physically and mentally can maintain healthy functions deep into retirement.
“We are in the middle of a grand experiment,” he said of the ageing population.
“I think it is possible to keep most people in good stead from brain health to the point where their brain span can equal their life span.”
Dr Merzenich has pointed to his Australian friend Rex Lipman, now in his 90s and still working.
To keep physically fit, Mr Lipman plays tennis but twice per day he also takes time to exercise his brain, doing online puzzles and problem-solving.
“It exercises the neurons of the brain, making them move,” Dr Merzenich said.
“Loss of cognitive response is caused by neurons that are no longer healthy and growing and instead of being plastic and soft like when we were young, they get hard and stiff and we don’t hear as well, see as well or taste as well.”
Dr Merzenich says Mr Lipman is “an Australian treasure” and has applauded his friend’s zeal for preaching the value of regular brain exercise.
In recent days in Adelaide, the pair have been taking their message to high school students, staff and students of the University of Adelaide and a gathering the science hub, RiAus, the Royal Institution of Australia.
Senate votes down pedophile legislation
- 1 YEAR AGO AUGUST 22, 2012 6:54PM
Murder victim Carly Ryan was a victim of the type of crime the legislation aimed to prevent. Picture: Supplied Source:Supplied
SOUTH Australian senators have been criticised for voting down a law that would have made it a crime for adults to lie about their age to minors online
Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon sought to create a criminal offence for the practice in the Criminal Code Act 1995 and create a register of those who breached the law, in a legislative change he dubbed the “Carly Amendment”.
“For me and many fellow South Australians, nothing brings home the seriousness of cyber crime more than Carly Ryan’s story,” Senator Xenophon said.
“In 2006, when Carly was just 14 years old, she started chatting online with someone she thought was a 20-year-old called Brandon Kane.
“What Carly did not and could not have realised is that behind the online conversation with Brandon was not a 20-year-old musician at all. Brandon Kane did not exist. Instead she had unknowingly developed a relationship with Garry Francis Newman, a 47-year-old man who lived with his mother.”
Senator Xenophon moved the amendment to a Bill brought by the Greens to improve the policing of cyber crime.
He said some major party senators would be regretful when they realised they had torpedoed a law that, had it been in place, could have stopped the murder of Carly Ryan.
“I said to one of the South Australian senators who voted against it, ‘do you realise what you just voted against?’ and he just shrugged his shoulders,” Senator Xenophon said.
“There needs to be a better deterrent,” she said.
“I can think of no other reason other than predatory ones for an adult lying to a child on the internet.”
South Australia tightens the licence requirements for elderly drivers
An article in Adelaide’s The Advertiser on September 4, 2013, written by Police Reporter Ben Hyde, stimulated much debate all-day on talk-back radio station 5AA.
South Australian Motorists over the age of 70 must pass an annual medical and eyesight examination, and receive a certificate of fitness to drive. Of particular concern to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) of the SA government, are medical conditions that might adversely affect competence to drive safely.
Examples include diminished visual acuity, sleep disorders, attention deficit disorder and other psychiatric problems, degenerative neurological disorders e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, epilepsy, diabetes, drug dependency, and heart disease.
All drivers, whatever their age, have a duty to report any condition that might affect their fitness to drive. Because of the increased incidence of medical disorders with age, an annual medical examination is appropriate for those over 70.
The New Certificate of Fitness Assessment Form
There has been a concern with the standard of medical information provided by some doctors completing the current assessment forms. This has prompted, according to the Road Safety Minister Michael O’Brien, the design of a more detailed document with a comprehensive patient questionnaire and examination report, to be completed by the driver and the medical examiner.
The new form complies with national guidelines in assessing fitness to drive. It is not aimed at increasing driver suspensions which have increased from 1416 in 2010/11, to 1541 in 2011/12, and now in 2012/13 to 2016, a jump of 30%. There are 117,000 licence holders in South Australia who are 70 or older.
In addition to those loosing their licence, an extra 816 drivers had restrictions placed on their licence. This was up from 645 in 2011/12 and 381 in 2010/11. This rapid increase is in part due to ageing of the population, but may also be a function of improved reporting.
The intention of the government is to reduce the high incidence of over 70-year-old drivers involved in fatal collisions. This year 17 of 74 road deaths have been in this age group. This statistic does not differentiate between the age group of the drivers mostly responsible for the accident.
By drawing attention to driving competency from medical causes, and placing restrictions when appropriate, the measures may in fact prolong driving longevity for the elderly.
The Victorian Approach
- Early hours curfew plan for young South Australian drivers (abc.net.au)
- Moving right along helping older drivers (wattlerangenow.com.au)