Originally Posted on February 14, 2012 by Dr. Gail Feldman
Staying on the road of resilience as we age requires that we trick the brain into thinking we’re still young. How do we do that? Three letters: N. E. W.
Researchers Bunzech and Duzel at University College London have shown that the brain ignores the old but gets sparked by the new. In short, the brain loves novelty- play, adventure, a new hobby.
When presented with something unexpected that triggers emotional arousal or the need to respond with a new behavior, the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which scientist Russell Poldrack calls the “gimme more” drug. Suddenly, the brain is totally focused on learning and memory.
So accumulating new knowledge and experience actually causes happiness!
Seeking a mid-winter boost, I came to Rancho La Puerta, Mexico, and after a few days of acting classes, cooking classes, and Latin dancing, my brain has no time to get bored and feel old.
Before jumping back into work and my daily routine, I plan to continue exercising my brain and dosing myself with dopamine by confidently taking on every hike, lecture, and class I can manage. I plan to feed my brain “buddy” all the novelty I can find on the menu.