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When Do Mental Powers Decline?

When can you expect your cognitive abilities to start declining due to age? For most of you reading this the process has already begun. Recent research at the University of Virginia (reported on BBC Online) found that many of our mental powers may peak by age 22 and start to decline by age 27.

The research was done with 2,000 healthy people aged 18 to 60, over a period of seven years. Participants had to spot patterns in letters and symbols, solve puzzles, and recall words or story details. The tests used were apparently very much like those used by doctors to identify Alzheimer's symptoms or signs of other forms of dementia. The results were published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

In the majority of the tests (nine out of twelve) mental abilities peaked at age 22. As mentioned above declines were noted (on average of course - not universally) starting at age 27. Those declines were found on tests of visual puzzle-solving ability, brain speed, and reasoning.

Now for the good news. Memory seems to stay intact until later in life - but not much later. It was found that declines in test scores for memory started at an average age of just 37.

But there was one area in which our mental powers seemed to persist and even grow stronger throughout life (or at least until the age of the oldest participants in the study, which was 60). Those are the mental abilities based on accumulated knowledge. These were measured by performance on tests of vocabulary or general information.

Some doctors commenting on the study suggest that we need to intervene at a much younger age to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's or even just to prevent a general decline in brain function. That's not a bad idea if such interventions are safe (and work), but they are primarily referring to drugs and other medical treatments. There are other ways to address this problem as well.

For example, certainly a man who is 60 and learns memory techniques can have effectively remember important things better than when he was 30. Mental exercises can also slow the age-related decline of our brain functions.

Other Pages...

Preventing Alzheimer's

Cure for Alzheimer's?


Neurobic Exercises

Physically Improving the Brain

How to Improve Memory

Effects of Stress on Brainpower

Easiest Memory System

Brain Drugs

Brain Foods

Learn a Language

Brain Exercises

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