Friday, January 27, 2006

Head trip

Now that I am back to semi-normal life with a new iMac computer, I have to pause to ponder some things. Specifically I wonder if there is only so much a 51-year-old brain can absorb without self-destructing.

I know they say that one way to keep a brain young and productive is to keep it active. Learn new ways of doing things (such as brushing your teeth with the toothbrush in your non-dominant hand). Memorize lists. Do crossword puzzles. Read. All these lifestyle changes are supposed to ward off dementia. I always figured that, as a medical transcriptionist, I learn enough new facts every day to fulfill my brain activity obligations.

Now, however, I find myself in an information jungle, and I only hope I am up to the task. In the first place, at work I am learning to transcribe in EAR, Electronic Ambulatory Record, new software our hospital is using for the medical office transcription. It is not well written. In fact, it is very poorly written, and I don't even need Matt's professional opinion on that - It's inept and clumsy and it reeks of inefficiency and bugs. It's my job to learn it, though, so I am. Score one more activity for my brain.

Also in the last couple of months, I have been studying for the Certified Medical Transcripionist exam. Talk about harrowing - I do believe the American Association for Medical Transcription misunderstood my goal and thought I wanted to become a physician. Some of this information is pre-med level. The fact that I won't get a pay raise if I get certified will not deter me, however. I'm determined to learn this stuff one way or another. Score two for the brain.

And now I am maneuvering my way around a Mac computer. That's a whole new world in itself. Fortunately, I have my son and son-in-law to help me, but in the end, it's my half-century-old brain that has to absorb and remember the information. (The first piece of information that was hard to absorb was the fact that I have over 14,000 photos. And Caroline and Charlotte are still under 3 years old? Wow!)

Can I really learn as well at 51 as I did when I was in high school or college? Apparently it's possible. Here's some food for thought from Psychology Today:
Time To Remember: Elderly people are likely to forget anything--from where they left their house keys to where they live.

That doesn't mean they have Alzheimer's disease. Studies by University of Colorado psychologists Matthew Sharps and Eugene Gollin show that, given time, older people can remember as much as college students do (Journal of Gerontology, Vol. 42, pp. 336-344).

"You see deficits in the aging mind, but these differences may not be very important," Sharps says. "How important to everyday life is the ability to do everything fast?"

In the first test, the researchers showed a black-and-white map of a room containing 40 common objects to 28 retired people aged 65 to 87. When later asked to recall where the objects were located on the map, the elderly recalled only a few. However, when they repeated the test in an actual room using the same objects, their recall improved-- to 25 objects or more.

By comparison, college students scored higher on the map test, but did no better than the elderly did in the room exercise.

In another test, elderly and young people viewed pairs of geometric figures presented from different perspectives. The task for both groups was to rotate these images in their minds to see if they were the same. Under time pressure, Sharps says, the elderly performed "horrendously." Without the stopwatch, however, the elderly did just as well as the college students did.

I have learned from this that I should have faith in my old brain to still function at a high level. I also learned to remove the "stopwatch" technique and allow myself more time to process all this new information. Now I need to ask Matt why my blog formatting options on the Mac have suddenly been drastically reduced from what they were on the PC. Hmmm... time for more new information!

1 comment:

Tif said...

The only problem is, we don't have the extra time it takes us to process information at our ages. In fact, we have even less time, due to all those work/home/church/family obligations!

Glad you're back.