What Happens in Man’s Brain During Mid-Life

All men go through mid-life, some with ease, and some turbulently. There may be some biological explanation to this.

Psychotherapists have long observed that some persistent anxiety-related problems experienced when you’re young seem to “burn out” between the ages of 40 and 60.  Dr. Steven Roose, a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and associate professor of a clinical psychiatry at Columbia State University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, both in New York City, believes there may be a physical explanation.

Postmortem studies have found that a brain structure called the locus coerulus (Latin for “blue spot”) gets progressively smaller and less active in the middle age.  Although the locus contains only 20,000 of the brain’s billions of cells, it seems to play a vital role in many mental functions, including anxiety, as it may activate the “fight or flight” reflex that gets adrenaline flowing in the face of danger.  The locus’s deterioration may possibly explain the mid-life remission of drug addiction and panic attacks and may in part account for the mellowing that makes many men less impulsive and irritable, and more reflective, even altruistic, in middle age.  On the downside, changes in the locus may also causes depression in older men.

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