YUHAS RESPONDS: You are quite right that MCI remains a relatively recent and controversial concept. Mayo Clinic researchers created the diagnosis “mild cognitive impairment” to identify elderly individuals in the earliest stages of dementia. Although a minority of those with MCI transition to Alzheimer's disease each year (just 10 to 15 percent), studies have suggested that within a six-year period roughly 60 to 80 percent will develop dementia. It is also true that between 15 and 20 percent of individuals diagnosed with MCI appear to revert back to a healthier state; however, this finding may reflect flaws in methodology. For instance, some diagnoses are based on only one test, which can result in a high rate of false positives.
Nevertheless, it is important to highlight—as you have done—the reality that not everyone diagnosed with MCI will develop Alzheimer's or a similar severe dementia. I regret that the description in my article overstated the relation.
DRIVE LIKE A PILOT
I had to chuckle about #2, “Put your cell phone in the trunk,” on your list of tips in “How to Be a Better Driver,” by Sunny Sea Gold [Head Lines]. Anyone who has learned to fly has heard that you must “aviate, navigate, then communicate” for the very reasons you mention, among others. It seems to me that most people seriously underestimate how much their attention is diverted by taking or making a phone call while driving. I know for certain that mine is, so I ignore my phone when it rings while I'm driving. I'm not even entirely sold on talking GPS in cars for the same reason—they can distract a driver at the wrong time.
As far as #5 goes, I came to the conclusion decades ago that it was safest to assume all other drivers are “out there to kill me,” as psychologist Paul Atchley says. Indeed, I taught our kids to drive with that in mind.
I found “Is Divorce Bad for Children?” by Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld [Facts and Fictions in Mental Health], important to me as a divorced father. There was a reference to people whose parents split up when they were young as having greater relationship difficulties.
When our twin boys were age four, their mother and I divorced, sparing the children, now age 11, from hearing our arguments. We have 50 percent shared custody, which is facilitated by us living in the same town. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are my custody days, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday are their mother's, and we alternate Sundays. My ex and I get along better now than when we were married, and the children have a balance of time with each parent.
Arkowitz and Lilienfeld made reference to the “noncustodial father” but not to the shared joint custody one. We are alive and well! Don't overlook us!
I was very interested in “Can Training to become Ambidextrous Improve Brain Function?” by Michael Corballis [Ask the Brains]. I'm a professional trumpet player, and for many years I've spent some of my practice time playing left-handed, rather than the usual right. The theory is, if you practice a tough passage left-handed, it will be easier when you go back to your right hand—perhaps because the right side of the brain can now help the left. I hope that it will also open up new synapses and eventually help to stave off dementia.
In the meantime, my left-handed practice has paid off in a very practical way when I have injured my right hand and needed to play gigs left-handed.