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Driving is a complicated skill that can be easily impaired. People that drive are expected to be in good physical health as this skill relies on and requires the combined use of many brain systems. Harvard Medical School explains how the different areas of the brain are active and engaged while driving:

  • The visual-object system in your occipital and temporal lobes processes the images coming in from your eyes to enable you to distinguish cars, bicycles, and pedestrians.
  • The visual-spatial system in your occipital and parietal lobes determines where cars, bicycles, and pedestrians are in the road, how fast they are moving, and anticipates where they will be in a few seconds.
  • The attention system in your parietal lobes and the auditory system in your superior temporal lobe keeps you alert to car horns and other signs of danger.
  • The decision-making system in your frontal lobes uses this visual, auditory, spatial, and motion information to determine how fast you should be going and whether you need to turn.
  • The motor system in your frontal lobes then translates these decisions into how hard your foot is pressing the pedals and whether your hands are turning the steering wheel.

The typical cognitive changes that occur with ageing can directly impact driving safety, and those with age-related ailments such as dementia can be particularly dangerous. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe the loss of cognitive functioning to such an extent that it interferes with one’s daily life. The National Institute on Aging asserts that the signs and symptoms of dementia occur as a result of healthy neurons in one’s brain ceasing to function properly, which prohibits them from connecting with other brain cells and subsequently die. In the most recent nationally representative study of cognitive impairment prevalence, researchers at Columbia University found that nearly 10% of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. The Mayo Clinic explains that “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die.” According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in 2022.

It is natural for people to lose neurons as they age, but those with Alzheimer’s disease experience a far greater loss that occurs more rapidly. One study that focused on driving and Alzheimer’s disease found that people with Alzheimer’s had an average of 0.09 car crashes per year, compared to 0.04 crashes in age-matched healthy adults. Another study found that individuals in the mild stages of dementia or those with mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease had driving impairments like 16-to 20-year-old drivers. Therefore, the American Academy of Neurology developed and published guidelines to help clinicians distinguish at what point individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias should stop driving.

Treatment In Calabasas

Calabasas is a city in California. It is a well-known suburb of Los Angeles, located west of the San Fernando Valley and north of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the past decade, the city of Calabasas has grown in its reputation for luxury as well as for privacy which makes it a hidden gem for residential living for society’s elite, and one of the most desirable destinations in Los Angeles County. It is also home to a plethora of highly qualified mental health clinicians providing an array of therapeutic services and treatment options.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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