I ran across an interesting story about how, as their brains age, people tend to lose the ability to “keep things in mind.”
As the brain gets older, the prefrontal cortex begins to decline quickly.
This part of the brain is responsible for many high-order functions, including maintaining working memories—the ability to keep things on a “mental sketch pad” in the absence of stimuli from an action-based task.
The researchers had previously found that in young brains, nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex excite each other to keep working memories on the brain’s slate.
“Those connections depend on the neurochemical environment, [which] has to be just right, like Goldilocks,” she said.
One of the things that has contributed to my feeling of “rustiness” as I work on my new book is that I seem to have lost – or it has at least become greatly degraded – this ability. Once upon a time, I could “hold” an entire novel in my brain at one time as I wrote, so that everything I added became part of the organic whole. Now, that is difficult, and I find myself more and more going back to check on details of plot and character that I would not had to even wonder about, not so long ago.
A blood pressure drug called guanfacine is said to ameliorate this condition. I already take several BP meds, so I’m going to ask my doctor if I can switch one of them out for this one, and see if it helps. It would make things a heck of a lot easier if it did.