13 September 2005

I like dreamin'

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I frequently start sentences with "I was just reading about this in the Science Times..." I occasionally supplement my ersatz medical education with actual scientific journals, but you can be sure if there's been a development in mental health, nutrition, cancer or autism that the Times has covered, I know about it.

I've been following Alzheimer's research idly for a few years. I know, for instance, that if you live long enough, you'll most likely suffer some sort of dementia, even if it's not as bad as "Old Timers," as one of my uncles calls it. Your brain just isn't made to last forever.

But there's plenty of good news, too. A study of nuns in Minnesota showed that those who kept journals had less age-related dementia. Those nuns whose journals were most detailed had the best mental acuity in old age. Another study showed that doing mentally challenging things like crossword puzzles, or even simply changing the route you take to work once in a while, would keep your brain on its feet, as it were.

Great news. I keep a journal. I love crossword puzzles! And it's easy enough to walk up Tenth Avenue instead of Ninth once in a while; cross at this street instead of that. I'm on my way to excellent brain health.

But wait. A friend brought this recent study recent to my attention. As the Seattle Times reports, "the brain areas involved in daydreaming, musing and other stream-of-consciousness thoughts appear to be the same regions targeted by Alzheimer's disease...The strong correlation between the two suggests there might be a link between the sort of thinking that people regularly do when not involved in purposeful mental activity and the degenerative disease that is characterized by forgetfulness and dementia."

When I'm walking, I do hardly anything but daydream. Sometimes there's a problem in my writing or at the office that I try to work out, but mostly, my consciousness just streams. I love it. New York is a hard place to be day in and out; leaving it, if only in my mind, helps me cope. Or does it?

The kind of mind wandering I do feels like it could be addictive. I am always easily able to come back to reality, and am never in danger of walking into oncoming traffic. But how nice it would be to just continue to drift. To imagine places you've never seen, talk people you've never met in real life. Spend the $100 million you won in last night's lottery that you didn't even enter.

Fortunately, the Science Times hasn't reported on this study. Maybe I don't have to worry about this just yet.

3 Comments:

Blogger Pedestrian Rage said...

I guess you didn't hear that the lottery is actually up to $200 million.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Excellent Walker said...

Yes, but in my fantasy, I account for taxes.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Stuntmother said...

Of course, it could mean that by daydreaming you are actually exercising that bit of your brain usually targeted by Alzheimers and that you will therefore have a mini-Aragorn kind of brain center, able to fell the Alzheimers demons with broad sweeps of its mighty daydream sword. Take that you orc filth!

2:47 PM  

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