July 7, 2008

The pro-McCain argument that older is better.

Ronald Rotunda makes the pitch:
Older people can use both sides of their brain together, which gives them an advantage. As [Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University] notes, a 75-year-old historian can “run circles around” a 25-year-old Rhodes Scholar studying history. Older people continue to generate new brain cells if they are active and participate in events. Cohen says that age confers a “new senior moment—a creative moment.”

Of course, if the old person is vegetating on the couch, watching the Home Shopping Network, age confers no advantage, but that is not what John McCain has been doing. He has been exercising his brain and, like muscles, it improves with use. “Use it or lose it” applies to our brain as well as to our deltoids.
Older people can use both sides of their brain together, eh? I have some questions about that How do they know this happens? (Answer: MRI and PET scans.) Why is it better and not more like, say, needing to use 2 hands to carry something you find heavy?

I'm skeptical about these notions of right-brain creativity and left-brain analytical reasoning, but assuming the 2 sides of the brain do think differently and that some brain halves play better together, would it be better for a President to have a brain like that?

It's rather obviously that looking straight at the individuals — McCain and Obama — will give us better information about whose brain we want in the White House. But since there is a general prejudice against older brains and the people who think with them, it's helpful to know that they can be better.

14 comments:

Mortimer Brezny said...

Ronald Rotunda is a noted constitutional law treatise author.

Not a cognitive scientist.

Dad29 said...

Yesterday NPR ran an interesting show featuring an "aging-brain" specialist.

She commented that the brain's functionality morphs over time, partly based on experience--so that the older person's brain works on 'pattern-recognition' as opposed to 'event-catalogue-ing.'

It seems as though that 'pattern-recognition' capability is what we call "experience."

MadisonMan said...

Finally an argument that a cheese connoisseur can get behind!

There might be a few people in the Country that have to decide the Presidency on how someone thinks, not on what they think. For them, this information is timely. For the rest of us, that is, 99.994% of the voters, it's noise. But then, I'm not old, so what do I know?

AllenS said...

The pencil and paper were invented for people who age, and forget things. Having a senior moment is forgetting where the pencil and paper are. When you're president, you hire people to take notes. Also, to tell you when your fly is down.

ricpic said...

Bright people are a dime a dozen.

Prudent people? Ah, that's another matter.

George said...

"It's rather obviously that looking straight at the individuals — McCain and Obama — will give us better information about whose brain we want in the White House. But since there is a general prejudice against older brains and the people who think with them, it's helpful to know that they can be better."

Say, what?

dbp said...

Ann Said, "Why is it better and not more like, say, needing to use 2 hands to carry something you find heavy?"

This reminds me of the retort to people who claim drinking kills brain cells. Yes, but only the weak and stupid ones.

Bissage said...

George,

Althouse is saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating but too many people get that wrong and need to be lectured about the ingredients.

Ha!

P. Rich said...

Wisdom, anyone?

bearbee said...

She commented that the brain's functionality morphs over time, partly based on experience--so that the older person's brain works on 'pattern-recognition' as opposed to 'event-catalogue-ing.'

I watched a portion of Brain Fitness on PBS a while back that indicated, regardless of age, the brain can change/adapt/rewired itself through a process labeled neuroplasticity, as long as one engages in new things that demand some sweat equity.

So if you are a retired insurance saleman instead of golfing study physics and your brain will respond.
The program showed brain-damaged stroke victims rehabbed to almost 100%.

Cedarford said...

Bearbee - So if you are a retired insurance saleman instead of golfing study physics and your brain will respond.
The program showed brain-damaged stroke victims rehabbed to almost 100%.


I disagree. Golf is vexing and complicated enough to provide almost constant, challenging brain stimulation, force the brain to concentrate and maintain precise hand-eye coordination - mostly negative, that it trumps relearning HS physics or college calculus (both of which - the question is WHY spend your time on that!!)
Add in the stupid side bets, pointless observaions on the nature of life of your golfmates, and the necessity to have some good stories or jokes memorized and ready and the mental acuity demanded from golf thrashes physics...

There are plenty of countries that preferred gerentocracy rule. It adds stability and experience. They generally reflect moderation. They can be stultifying (Brehznev's USSR), confident and dynamic change agents in certain areas while traditionalists at the center - (think the octogenerian ChiCommie Politburo Zheng, and post-Zheng). Or confident and strong, tinkering only around the edges from what works (Victorian Empire days).

While youth likely means more change, but higher odds of disaster. Because an impulsive, arrogant young leader who thinks he knows more than he actually knows and has a higher opinion of his judgment than the record bears out is a loose cannon. That is why we tend to select leaders who are at least "seasoned".

BTW -

The medical science shows the brain is less and less flexible and able to "reshape, reallocate" functions from brain trauma and strokes with age.

And I am far too aware of the long term prognosis from significant brain trauma or severe stroke to believe for an instant that "the program" showed "near-100% recovery with rehab".

blake said...

it trumps relearning HS physics or college calculus (both of which - the question is WHY spend your time on that!!)

Might be helpful in steering your lawn chair.

TMink said...

There comes an age when older is not better, but I am not yet worried that McCain has reached it. I wonder when Obama did as he cannot think and talk at the same time.

Trey

bearbee said...

re: stroke, what I viewed was impressive enough that I purchased and had sent a copy of the program to my niece whose mother-in-law is a stroke sufferer.
Any argument with content validity would have to be taken up with the program creators.