Mental Abilities Peak at Age 22, Decline After 27, Study Says

March 17, 2009 09:00 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
A new study suggests that cognitive ability begins to decline in healthy adults in their 20s and 30s; “old age” may begin much earlier than previously thought.

Old Age Now Begins at 27, Cognitive Aging Study Says

A recent study of more than 2,000 people aged 18–60 found that on average cognitive abilities were best at age 22.

The study, performed by scientists at the Salthouse Cognitive Aging Lab at the University of Virginia, and published by Timothy Salthouse in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, has shown that cognitive abilities may decline much earlier than in our golden years.

Salthouse says that other tests have not been able to uncover this cognitive decline because the testing methods did not account for prior test experience. Common knowledge type tests tend to give middle-aged patients an advantage.

The study by the Salthouse Lab used tests much like those used to diagnose mental decline, such as visual puzzles, recollection of words and story details, and spotting patterns, the Daily Mail reports.

On tests of reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualization, subjects began to perform worse at age 27. Other tests showed lower memory performance in the late 30s and early 40s.

Related Topics: Brain fitness prevents disease; total memory recall

According to a recent University of Michigan study, some exercises can improve brain fitness and ward off diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. The study found that you can improve your fluid intelligence (the memory we use to solve problems) by exercising your working memory (the memory we use to add numbers).

While most people worry about losing their memory, those who suffer from hyperthymesia can recall almost every moment of their lives in perfect detail. Jill Price, the first person to be observed with the condition, and three others, are currently being studied. Scientists hope to find out why these individuals have such an amazing ability to store everyday memories, while simultaneously having difficulty with rote memorization (the ability to memorize something using repetition).

Reference: Alzheimer’s disease; how the brain works


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