Can you remember your first words, thoughts, likes, dislikes? Of course you can’t because the chances are you were less then three years old and for most adults, childhood memories start from when you are around 7 years old. So by the time your brain is starting to retain images and events for the long term, most of the important connections have been made that decide on your character and personality.
Throughout your childhood and into adolescence, you are also taught how to behave by your parents and peer group. What you are taught is something else altogether, but you will hopefully learn an ‘acceptable’ way of behaving. So on top of the massive amount of information your brain computes regarding speech, movement and survival (your instinctive ‘nature’), there is more information being piled on top of that which is in addition to the essential stuff (i.e. ‘nurture’).
The latter is the icing on the cake of society and whilst it may not necessarily help us to stay alive, it helps us stay out of trouble and stops us from offending others.
So on the basis that your brain power develops and the electrons and pathways that start to join up from birth are added to with this extra curricula coaching, could it be possible that those same pioneer lines of conduct that are seeking new territories within your cerebral cortex, are also the first ones to recede when your body reaches the other end of its biological journey? Given that they have been on the go non-stop keeping you on the straight & narrow, it seems reasonable to suppose they will be the first ones to weaken as their usefulness comes to an end.
Which has made me wonder about the changes in personality many go through as they age.
Do you have an elderly relative? Have you noticed how their behaviour has altered as they get older, especially if they suffer from dementia? Have you commented on a parent whose usual placid nature has become quite the opposite? Do you find yourself asking ‘why is he/she like that now? Why are they talking to me like that? Why are they so angry/grumpy/withdrawn?’ the list could probably go on and on.
It’s not rocket science to understand why you need to keep exercising every part of your body, whether it’s your limbs, heart, lungs or brain. Without exercise the muscle will weaken and cease to function effectively until it eventually stops altogether. This is why some nursing homes have classes to help residents stay active both physically and mentally.
But what if the electricity that keeps the connections alive in the brain is running low and there simply isn’t enough power to make everything work and the brain begins to decide for itself which of its cognitive processes are the least valuable and therefore dispensable?
Which takes me back to my opening paragraph of childhood and how our behaviour can be influenced by our external environment.
Given these aspects of our behaviour are artificial then perhaps these are the least valuable and therefore expendable as the brain looks for ways to conserve energy to help maintain the rest of the body.
So having removed the social etiquette of knowing what should be said and done in polite society, is our mind returned to a stage in our life before we learnt acceptable forms of behaviour?
It could manifest itself as being rude, argumentative, bitter, resentful, unkind or nasty.
So would it be useful to know what the person was like as a child to understand where their behavioural changes originate later in life? Or could there be a way of retuning the brain so that like a young child, the remaining survival messages can once more be built upon to help maintain a level of reasonable behaviour?
Maybe it’s time we kept a diary for our children, highlighting their behaviour from birth to teens, at the very least it would give their future family the insight as to what they can expect later in life.