Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Stupid

I know a woman who went to the doctor because she is forgetting things.  She cant find her keys, her car. She gets lost going to Chicago. She feels like she is losing her grip. She is elderly but there is no Alzheimer's in her family. She watches Jeopardy and does crossword puzzles to stay "with it." This is the Greatest Generations answer to making sure their brain doesnt go to sleep. If you go to Naples Florida then Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune reign. My in laws are dutiful watchers and go through pages of crossword puzzles. And this woman does much the same. Still she is losing ground.

And she will not talk about politics. She will not entertain other ideas that do not match hers. She doesn't really read. She watches massive amounts of television. Probably eight hours a day. She watches movies and the all the sitcoms. She watches the ";popular: shows. She shops. She discusses the prices of goods and services. She cooks. She cleans. She converses very little with her husband and prefers the company of women who are just like her who talk about simpatico things. Still, she is getting  stupider.

Research shows that watching television is next to sleeping in terms of brain activity. Movies probably bump this a bit but not much. Basically we go to sleep when we watch the box because we are being led. Our brain knows this and switches to auto glide and watches the movie, yawns, and goes to sleep. Compare that with this line: "the trembling hare limped through the frosty grass." Guess what. Your neurons just lit up. Your brain just did more work in two seconds than eight hours of television because you created that image and colored it with emotion. Ready. Here we go again. "the lawn rolled up to the house, jumped over several sundials, then came to a rest against the steady Georgian Colonial." There. Rest easy. You just banged out another eight hours of television.

The point is we are creatures of stimulation. Our brains fire up when stimulated and shut down when there is nothing to lock onto. To go for sixty years minimizing stimulus and not reading and then get mad that we have become stupid is ridiculous. What did we think? That watching Parenthood or Modern Family or the Discovery Channel is going to keep us sharp? Think again. You reap what you sow. If you aren't getting smart, reading a book, writing, studying, talking with people who have different opinions than your own, then you are getting stupid.

And no doctor can save you from yourself.

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Books by William Hazelgrove