Australian General Semantics Society



AGS Monthly Seminar


Saturday July 5th 2008

The Laurie Cox 90th birthday special

In celebration of Laurie turning 90 (the day before) today’s session covers: 

Application of GS in managing the ageing process. 

And applying GS to one of Laurie's favourite debating topics ... 

Led by Mr David Hewson .

We considered all sorts of wonderful things, like Pascal's Wager and ageing issues.

We saw the limitations of Pascal’s argument and how under various Gods, e.g. the "good God" and the "jealous God", the atheists actually do as well as or better than some of the people who say they believe.  So it's just like the behavioural change NLP ideas where Pascal's original theory was too limited.


Use it or lose it, brain researchers say

An active mental life will help stave off Alzheimer's and dementia.

Australian scientists have, for the first time, shown how staying mentally active can help stave off dementia.

Researchers found those who keep their minds busy in older age can halve the rate at which their brains shrink.

Staying mentally active slows the shrinkage of the critical part of the brain involved in memory, the hippocampus.

Clinical neuroscientist Dr Michael Valenzuela made the discovery in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.

"I think it's quite an exciting finding and a strong finding," he said.

"We know that people that are at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia have a smaller hippocampus to start with, so it could be quite important that by staying mentally active we can actually protect this brain area from shrinkage."

An active mental life will help stave off both Alzheimer's and the dementia that develops in about a quarter of people after a stroke.

Bingo or learning a new language both help, but Dr Michael Valenzuela says something as simple as reading can be just as good for an ageing brain.

"There's no one particular activity that comes up time and time again as a magical activity; it seems to be more related to keeping a diverse range of activities," he said.

"Doing something where you are learning or you're being forced to challenge your mind somewhat."


Leave your GPS at home

Scientists are still trying to work out whether they can reverse the shrinkage once it's happened.

But Lynette Moore from Alzheimer's Australia says even if that's not possible, this is a very positive finding.

"The greatest risks of getting dementia are older age and our genes, which are things that of course we can't do anything about," she said.

"But this is another piece of research evidence about what we can do."

Ms Moore says the findings should encourage people at risk to stretch their "minds".

"People are generally aware that the 'use it or lose it' principle does apply to people looking after their brain health," she said.

"There's been other research on taxi drivers in London who have to learn about all the streets and it has been shown that their hippocampi are much larger that your average adult, which again just shows that using it does keep that part of your brain as large as possible for as long as possible."

She jokes that leaving your GPS at home could help stave off brain shrinkage.

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Afterwards we went to Laurie's favourite Club for a grand pary!

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(Updated 21 August 2008)


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