Thursday, January 24, 2008

Our brains ,they are a changin'

Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood is an excellent book by Suzanne Braun Levine that focuses on the changes in women’s minds and emotions, as well as bodies, as they enter their late forties and beyond. Levine calls the transition women make in their late forties and fifties a” Second Adolescence.” This idea hits home for me, since I have a teenage boy at home.

Brain researchers have found that part of our brain functioning related to memory does start to decline at this time – that would explain why I can never remember the names of Sayer’s “paras” (instructional aides). However, our brains also begin a “growth spurt” in myelin during midlife, most specifically between ages 45-50. Myelin is within the portion of the brain responsible for emotional learning (the medial temporal lobe). This section of the brain helps us in “making judgments, finding new solutions to old problems, and managing emotions – not sweating the small stuff” (p.14).

Adolescence is the only other time in our brain’s development that myelin increases. Because women experience an increase in myelin at the same time as the hormonal changes of menopause, this brain growth impacts women more than men. Dr. Francine Benes, a brain researcher, found that there is a 100 percent growth in myelin during the teen years and another 50 percent growth around age fifty. Further research has documented brain development in both stages of lives. In fact, the book Yes, Your Teen is Crazy, by Dr. Mike Bradley, discusses adolescent brain growth at length. This is the best parenting book I’ve come across for teens, but I digress.

My next post will talk more about how midlife women are like and how we are different (thank goodness!!) from teenagers. But for now, one way we maybe are like adolescents is our need to create silly songs. So, to lighten things up I will be sharing some verses on my ditty “My Different Nest Things” to the tune of “My Favorite Things” in the Sound of Music. So, channel your best Julie Andrews:

My Different Nest Things

Hot flashes and meltdowns and long IEP meetings

Getting used to “I want to touch seven lights” as greetings

Writing in parent-teacher logs books every day

These are a few of my different nest things

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