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New Research Shows Cognitive Decline Begins At 45

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  • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:45PM (#38638496)

    "Cognitive function" in this instance isn't a measure of "raw processing power":

    The Alice Heim 4-I (AH4-I) is composed of a series of 65 verbal and mathematical reasoning items of increasing difficulty.18 It tests inductive reasoning, measuring the ability to identify patterns and infer principles and rules. Participants had 10 minutes to do this section. Short term verbal memory was assessed with a 20 word free recall test. Participants were presented a list of 20 one or two syllable words at two second intervals and were then asked to recall in writing as many of the words in any order within two minutes.

    We used two measures of verbal fluency: phonemic and semantic.19 Participants were asked to recall in writing as many words beginning with “S” (phonemic fluency) and as many animal names (semantic fluency) as they could. One minute was allowed for each test; the observed range on these tests was 0-35. Vocabulary was assessed with the Mill Hill vocabulary test,20 used in its multiple choice format, consisting of a list of 33 stimulus words ordered by increasing difficulty and six response choices.

    Judgement, in particular, would suffer if one's ability to perform inductive reasoning was impaired.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:28PM (#38639114)

    Be careful with interpretation. The study is about detecting cognitive decline to help predict dementia. In the actual study summary (available through the links in the slashdot summary), the researchers reference other studies that show cognitive decline does not begin until 60 (Seattle study) and 55 (I forget which study). They, the researchers do not dispute this and talk about the need for additional research to determine better techniques to evaluate the decline.

    It is not news that cognitive decline occurs with advancing years. The research is about trying to detect the decline that leads to dementia at an earlier time so that treatments can be applied when they will have the most impact. The researchers state that dementia appears to be a process that progresses over 20 to 30 years, so if it manifests itself in the 60s, they are trying to see what evidence there is in the 40s.

    From my own personal observations, since I am now beyond the age 45 when they state decline begins. I would agree with that. There are somethings that I am not nearly at good at as I was ten years ago (remembering names of new people I meet or long lists of items). On the other hand, I've done some of my most productive research in the last few years.

    My own theory is that for many of the cognitive declines that the study found to be normal, we tend to compensate for (smart phones help tremendously with long lists. Before that PDAs or even daytimers). I also think, though, that with age, comes experience and very often experience provides insight that raw cognitive power might not see. So it is a trade off. There is a reason why we have a stereotype of the wisest people being older people.

    Put differently, if you needed heart surgery, would you want the cardiac surgeon just finished with their residency and at their cognitive prime or the 50 yr old surgeon, who has experience a slight decline in cognitive ability, but has performed the particular procedure 500 times?

  • Re:Well crap (Score:5, Informative)

    by gorzek (647352) <gorzek@gmail.3.1415926com minus pi> on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:01PM (#38641958) Homepage Journal

    Modern, Western-style civilization is the best population control found to date. Secular society, freely-available contraception, and good medical care all combine to produce plummeting birth rates. We don't really have to do anything about population control. That problem solves itself as a society's focus moves away from having children to personal fulfillment.

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