I recently flew down to Melbourne to attend the 14th Kenneth Myer lecture sponsored by the Florey Neuroscience Institutes. This lecture is given by a different world leader in different aspects of brain research and is always of the highest standard. This year it was on memory and how our brains create and store memory, and was given by renowned British Neurophysiologist Professor Tim Bliss who is not only a brilliant researcher but is also able to use language which a layman can understand.

The Institutes always aim for high standards but I found myself concerned by a project they are running on brain fitness. The programme is excellent but the cost to participate is $485 for a team of 5. This automatically rules out large sections of the population, including those who don’t work in institutions where such a team can be formed (and hopefully paid for by the employer) and, in particular elderly people. There are so many myths around about the brains of this latter section of the population that I question the accuracy of research which excludes them. I suspect that this group is a particularly fruitful area of research in so many ways, not least of which is that we are becoming a large and therefore important section of the population. 

My flight back took me to the beginning part of the life cycle. The gentleman behind me paid extra for his early school year children to watch TV during the 45 minute trip. It was a short flight in a relatively small plane so that the ground below was visible for almost all of the trip. Below us was the rich tapestry of geography that is part of the eastern seaboard of our country. Seeing it at our feet would have provided a much richer lesson in so many ways than any school can provide. Instead of looking at it and understanding the country way of life, and how the early pioneers developed the land, these poor kids were glued to cartoons on the TV. Part of the blame for this parental attitude must lie with our schools who give the impression that only they educate our children.

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