I was listening to an audio book last week that talked about mental acuity and how it declines after we're out of school. The fall off is gradual, and people who've attended for college delay the issue for about a decade, but it happens with subjects you don't use. Like algebra.
I did notice the math decline, but I guess I really don't care much about that. Math was never my best subject and I had to work my tail off to get As in that class. In high school. I never took any math in college.
This is something I hadn't read about before, but I knew it happened. When I considered going back to college I decided against it both times because I didn't think I could study like I did while I was still in school.
(The first time I considered going back was to get a second degree. This was a few years after I finished college. The second time, I considered going back for a masters degree, maybe about five years ago. I ruled that out partly because of fiction writing and partly because they didn't have a part time program in the masters I was looking at.)
But I felt better about all of this when I realized how much learning I continue to do. The audio books I listen to are nearly all non-fiction. There's all the research required as a writer. I've read up on all kinds of things including nanotechnology and M Theory (physics) to name just two topics.
Then there's my decision to take Spanish lessons and I've signed up for Excel classes. Through iTunes U I've taken multiple geography classes from Stanford and an earthquake class from Berkeley. I'm listening to podcasts on the history of English and I have some science podcasts up next in queue. Then there's my constant computer geekiness and how I troubleshoot everything myself--both at home and at work.
I don't do any of these things because I'm worried about my brain atrophying. I do them because I really am a geek. I love learning and I always have. I'm also pretty anal about getting facts right in my books. I figure with these things in my favor, I don't have to worry too much about losing mental acuity. Unless the Spanish Ser form of To Be makes my head explode. And it might.