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Excessive Cross-Talk
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She’s like the speed of light. As I sit in my cubicle, I watch my 30-something co-worker whirl through her activities carrying things here and there while simultaneously talking on her cell phone and updating things in her computer. I’m exhausted and incredulous at the same time. How does she do it? Granted, I’m exactly twice her age, but still … where have the years gone and why can’t I work like that?

Flashback 30 years: I watched my mother and father complete tasks in what I considered slow motion. That was never going to be me. But, according to a study at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, “it’s unavoidable: breakdowns in brain connections slow down our physical response times as we age.”

“According to the study, older adults seem to have excessive ‘cross-talk’ between the two hemispheres of the brain. This cross-communication occurs through a brain structure called the corpus callosum, which can act as either a bridge or a dam between brain hemispheres.

"The bridge action is very important during two-sided motor skills and certain cognitive functions. However, during one-sided motor skills requiring strong focus from only one side, the corpus callosum switches roles and serves as a sort of dam between hemispheres.

"As we age, breakdowns in the corpus callosum occur, breaking down the dam effect, and causing more cross-talk to occur between hemispheres, even when it’s not particularly useful.”*

Confusing Us

As I understand it, this cross-talk in our brains is confusing us and slowing us down – just as if we were in a room where 10 people are giving us instructions at the same time and we’re unable to absorb any direction.

But there is something we can do. A study compared elderly sedentary seniors to those who engage in regular aerobic exercise and the active seniors demonstrated the following:
  • They are more nimble at being able to switch between mental tasks.
  • Their working memory improves significantly.
  • They can better screen out distractions.**
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By Dee Litten Reed. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.


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