PUMPING IRONY: My Incredible Shrinking Brain

If I don’t start to like more posts on Facebook, I fear my brain may start to shrink.

Don Carter rolled a 300 game 13 times. Did anyone like it on Facebook?

My old buddy M.E., AKA The King of Nordeast, bowled a 300 game awhile back. This is apparently a pretty big deal among bowlers (Don Carter threw 13 of themyawn), because he called me from a bar later the same evening to report the news and invite me to join him for the celebration. I demurred; it was late, and though I was happy for him, I wasn’t that happy.

Later TKN chided me for not “liking” his accomplishment on Facebook, an internet destination I visit about as often as he bowls a perfect game. “Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it,” I explained.

But does it mean my brain is shrinking and I’m sinking into depression?

Could be, according to a couple of new studies I stumbled upon last week. The first, published in the journal Neurology, found that older people who exhibit apathy may have less brain volume than those who care more about stuff. And a shrinking brain might just be an early indicator of brain diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. “Just as signs of memory loss may signal brain changes related to brain disease, apathy may indicate underlying changes,” said Lenore Launer, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging.

So I may need to care more, which for a curmudgeon like me is a tough pill to swallow. It’s a little depressing, actually, but not nearly as depressing as discovering new research from Michigan State University showing that hanging out online is now being touted as a way to lower the incidence of depression among retirees. Falling into the Facebook vortex, the thinking seems to be, will help geezers stay connected to friends and family and fight off the loneliness that contributes to Prozac-level blues.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for older folks staying current with the latest technology. Email and social networks can provide a vital link to the outside world — especially for those who are homebound. (I really do care!) But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that even moderate physical activity is one of the best ways to boost your spirits. Get outside for a walk, go for a bicycle ride, dig around in your garden, go bowling. Maybe you’ll crank out a 300 game.

Just don’t expect me to like it on Facebook.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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