CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explains how the brain changes as we age.
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Dr. Travis Stork: As we age and hear someone walking through the garden, we do know that there are certain illness that can lead to dementia and other illnesses in the brain where our memory does decline, and there is a reason for that. Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Yeah, there is. What you're looking at here is a really remarkable technology that gives you a glimpse inside someone's brain. The SPECT scan and tt brighter areas over here, and so the bright red, the yellow, the bright green are areas with good blood flow to the brain. The darker areas; the dark blue, dark green, the black, those are areas where there is not as much blood flow. So you get for the first time a real snapshot of what's happening inside someone's brain and this is what people worry about with regard to dementia. This is it, and this is sort of what Alzheimer's might look like. Dr. Travis Stork: So let's say you're not someone who is dealing with Alzheimer's, is there something to the phrase, if you don't use it, you lose it? Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Absolutely, it goes absolutely, and it goes back to that whole thing with pruning again, if you don't use it you'll lose it, but if you continue to use it you can really maintain it. Dr. Travis Stork: And in fact, it's so important to keep your brain active. Just like the muscles in your body, you have to exercise your brain. We're going to show you an example of that. Can I have a volunteer in the audience? Go ahead and stand up for me. Tell us your name. Jessica: Jessica. Dr. Travis Stork: Jessica, I have a little test for you. Jessica: Okay. Dr. Travis Stork: If you look up here, there are 10 words and I want you to try to get all these right. Don't say the word, say the color. This is called the Stroop Test. Jessica: Red, green, blue, yellow, red, blue, green, yellow, blue, green. Dr. Travis Stork: 10 out of 10. Very impressive. And you know why that was so impressive because your mind can process the words more quickly than the colors. Dr. Sanjay Gupta: That's right. Somebody told me that learning some kind of new activity, just new hobby, anything like that makes a huge difference. And back with those SPECT scans again, we can measure that difference now. So just a new activity, teaching old dogs new tricks. Dr. Travis Stork: Well, thank you so much, sir. Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Yeah, well my pleasure. Dr. Travis Stork: You can get Sanjay Gupta on CNN and on the Weekend Medical Show, Sanjay Gupta, MD. Check your local listings for time and channel.