Neurological changes due to old age could be the reason why some older men aspire to hang on to power, says a study
Does old age flare up the hunger for power and position? Does this explain why so many Indian politicians past their 70 birthdays try to cling on to power and authority? And does this tendency have any scientific explanation?
According to a study conducted by a Jaipur-based neurologist, the “old men in a hurry” in the eighth decade of their lives harbour the aspiration for occupying or staying continuously in power because of their intense desire inhibiting the higher thinking frontal neo-cortex of brain.
Ashok Panagariya, recipient of the prestigious B.C. Roy Award, has concluded in his new study that ageing affects the higher cerebral cortex first, thereby releasing the temptation and desperation to acquire power, which is essentially an agenda pushed by the lower brain.
The human brain has evolved into three parts: the oldest catering to housekeeping; the older dealing with emotional and societal matters; the most advanced and the largest part, neo-cortex. The three parts are interconnected and can influence each other based on an individual’s strength. With higher evolution, neo-cortex is strong enough to inhibit the emotional and societal brain, taking one away from materialism and making a person more compassionate and evolved.
Explaining the study’s results to The Hindu, Dr. Panagariya claimed he has proven that even the more genuine and higher thinking frontal neo-cortex was inhibited when “the emotional and societal brain is flooded with [an intense] desire to seek power or influence”.
Pointing to the impact of ageing on the brain size, blood supply and cognition, Dr. Panagariya said that the brain shrinks with increasing age and there are changes at all levels from molecules to morphology. The pre-frontal cortex, which deals with thoughts and actions, appears to bear the brunt of the changing levels of neurotransmitters and hormones with age.
He added that the reduced supply of hormones to the areas of brain responsible for planning, analysis and diplomacy combined with impaired semantic memory in old age “limits delivering the virtues necessary for effective governance”.
The doctor, who retired as Principal of Sawai Man Singh Government Medical College in Jaipur, is at present a member of the Rajasthan State Planning Board.