Why do some people remain alert and vigorous at an age when others are declining mentally and physically? Does their apparent advantage have a biological basis, and, if so, could this success be transferred to others predisposed to age more quickly? If this is achievable, does brain aging then become the last obstacle to an extension of our useful life span?
These are just some of the questions answered in this fascinating book by Lawrence Whalley, a researcher who specializes in the study of Alzheimer's disease. He relates that the brain may be able to compensate for its own aging since the loss of brain cells with age is not as extensive as once believed and that, if some surviving cells retain the capacity to replicate, there may be real prospects of reducing the worst effects of brain aging.
In surveying the prospects of slowing or even preventing the worst effects of aging, Whalley looks at the development of the brain and how this is influenced by environmental factors such as diet and stress, the biological and psychological mechanisms of brain injury and disease, and the range of possible treatments and preventative measures, including gene therapy, silicon-neuron implants, virtual reality, and "intelligent environments." Throughout the book he relates the known facts about brain aging, as well as our many preconceptions. Reexamining older scientific studies, the author is able to show that though much of what we take for granted about the mental processes of the older person is not simple, we may indeed be able to alleviate the effects of mental deterioration--if not now, then in the future.