The Ecology of Humans (27-5) The Adult Brain


The adult brain processes emotional information more in the frontal lobe than during teenage years, tempering urges with a measure of cognitive caution. This provides a better sense of subtle social signals that others give.


Emotion is distributed across the brain. ~ American psychologist William Cunningham

Emotions enliven the amygdala and are especially compelling to children and adolescents. The adult mind-brain is better equipped to register emotions and appraise them before acting. Doing so is a matter of self-control.

Turning an emotive sensation into a cognitive matter by detachment activates the language processing areas of the mind-brain. Labeling an emotion reduces its impact. The amygdala attenuates.


The brain reaches its peak power at ~22 years. This lasts for 5 years. Physically it is downhill from there.

Last to mature and the first to go is executive control in the prefrontal and temporal cortices. Episodic recall starts to decline. Processing speed slows. Working memory stores less.

Experience compensates for lessened mental acuity. The brain is like an equity fund heading south: past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.

Hormone changes as the decades wear on take a toll on brain wattage. For men, decline of testosterone during middle age is gradual.

In contrast, the experience of menopause can be dramatic. Beyond the hot flashes, fatigue, libido loss, and moodiness are brain changes, exemplified by forgetfulness and constricted concentration.

Seasoning through continuous learning is the best hedge for a brain that is not as well-equipped as it once was. An engaged mind keeps the brain keen.