When does our brain start going downhill?
As I age, I get the feeling that my brain isn’t working as well as it
used to and it needs charging up, just like my mobile phone.
But from what age does our brain start to degenerate?
Scientists have recently cast doubt on a previously held belief that the
processing speed of our brain starts to become less effective from the
age of 20.
Until now, it’s been thought that our cognition level is at its highest
when we’re 20 and goes down from there. Research lead by German
scientists seems to be giving some hope to older people who worry about
increasing forgetfulness or reduced brain power. People like me!
As we age our brains do get smaller, particularly in the frontal cortex.
In fact, the volume of the brain and/or its weight declines with age at
a rate of around 5% per decade after the age of 40. As our veins and
arteries age and our blood pressure rises the possibility of having a
stroke increases and memory decline also occurs.
Nevertheless, the German research shows that cognitive skills can still
be powerful at the age of 60 and do not necessarily deteriorate before
The German-lead study was based on data from over 1.1 million people,
aged between 10 and 80 years old. The results show that the speed with
which our brain can process information remains relatively constant
until the age of 60, but does, however, begin to slow down once we get
into our 70s.
The research shows that our mental processing speed actually increases
in our 20s and remains high until 60. The speed of information
processing in the tasks performed in the study barely changed. Older
people do take longer to make decisions, but apparently this was because
we become more cautious, and less impulsive and reckless as we get older.
I’m not sure if that’s true in my case, however. I’ve always found it
hard to make decisions about anything!
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