Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Research Shows Cognitive Decline Begins At 45

Comments Filter:
  • well, duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sribe (304414) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:30PM (#38638266)

    Any 50-year old could have told you this ;-) However, note that we're talking about a fairly narrow subset of cognition here...

  • by wdef (1050680) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:34PM (#38638322)
    Cognitive function is not all that counts in being successful in life. Emotional intelligence ('maturity'), judgement and experience ('wisdom') might increase with age and might be fair trade for a slight decline in raw processing power. Life can get easier post-50 with these skills.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:34PM (#38638330)

    Disturbingly enough, even the youngest participants started declining immediately

    Surely that means that cognitive decline begins earlier than 45 and the age range they studied was inadequate for measuring the onset of cognitive decline?

  • by comrade k (787383) <comradek@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:38PM (#38638386)
    Once again, Slashdot is the epitome of bad science reporting :)

    The study shows that in a group of people ranging from 45 - 70, they found that cognitive decline was present in all of them. That means that cognitive decline begins AT LEAST at 45. TFA says "As early as 45", which is technically true but sort of dishonest IMHO, and the original paper doesn't make any such explicit conclusions.

    Sigh.
  • Wrong parameters? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by adamchou (993073) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:38PM (#38638402)
    The sample age was 45-70 and they found that cognitive decline started at 45? Shouldn't they have started sampling people in their 30's to see a better bell curve?
  • Re:Is it age? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:38PM (#38638404) Homepage Journal

    Don't forget the culture of just sitting in front of the TV/computer, slowly vegetating as you watch the latest reality TV or people miming along to music on YouTube, etc

  • A lot younger (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrquagmire (2326560) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:39PM (#38638420)
    I'd be willing to bet it starts a lot younger than 45. I'm in my 30's and I've definitely noticed a difference in the last 10 years. Not a huge difference but a difference nonetheless.

    Think about it from an evolution perspective. After we find a mate, have offspring, and make sure they're able to at least somewhat fend for themselves, what do we need sharp cognition for anymore?
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:40PM (#38638426)

    In other words, youth and skill are no match for old age and treachery.

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

    by dpilot (134227) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:40PM (#38638432) Homepage Journal

    The normal curve I've seen, in multiple places, is that cognitive function takes a sudden nosedive at about age 13, and typically recovers in the mid 20s. I wouldn't call that "cognitive decline" however, perhaps "puberty-induced temporary brain damage" would be more to the point.

  • Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brain-Fu (1274756) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:43PM (#38638480) Homepage Journal

    I had a calculus tutor in high school, he was retired and had to have been at least 70, but he was brilliant and his analytical skills don't seem to have declined at all.

    I would expect that the amount you exercise your brain, and how healthy you eat/exercise, plays a big role.

  • Re:Is it age? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:46PM (#38638518) Homepage

    Or maybe it is that evolutionary factors are rendered pretty much irrelevant after the hormone raging teens and early 20s -- by then most people who are going to reproduce have and problems that crop up later are not selected out on any sort of widescale pattern. The human body, because of the early procreation tendencies, hasn't adapted for older age, and so there are all kinds of conditions that crop up in middle age that we haven't evolved past by selecting against those.

    Or maybe not -- but perhaps more likely fluoride.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by q.kontinuum (676242) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:51PM (#38638606)

    This depends if the originator of the research wants to sell you games/riddles to exercise you brain, sports gear, some vitamins or if he wants to do the thinking for you as a paid service. In the latter case all hope is lost, and neither vitamins nor training will help you.

  • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:01PM (#38638736)
    You're right, there's definitely a flaw in this scientific process: 7,000 subjects (British civil servants), eight authors (of mixed age, gender, and nationality), greater than a decade long study, rigorous statistics, peer review in a well respected journal, and... you.
  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aphoxema (1088507) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:02PM (#38638738) Homepage Journal

    This isn't really suggesting that all people begin to decline at 45, generally people become more knowledgeable and better able to understand abstract things as they keep adding on the years. Dementia disorders, particularly Alzheimer's, are what is being discussed her and being able to better preempt the diseases with more warning is the benefit of this study.

    Really, anyone who throws the idiot blanket over seniors (like I used to) haven't had much experience with healthy and active seniors. There's just a lot of influences convincing most people that being old invariably means incontinence, dementia, sentimentalism, bigotry, an unwillingness to learn and a death-grip on nostalgia.

    Even working in nursing homes, where the least functional people tend to find their way to, I've found the most common issue to be physical impairment. This often leads to incontinence because the person could not appropriately eliminate in time, and due to both they often face depression which causes every sort of problem that we perceive to be the norm in old age.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail . c om> on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:20PM (#38638976)
    he was retired and had to have been at least 70, but he was brilliant and his analytical skills don't seem to have declined at all.

    Oh, my, how did that get rated +5 insightful? With all due respect, even if your anecdote was not about one vaguely described example, it is still completely pointless and irrelevant
    Since that was someone you knew in high school, you probably weren't born when he was under 45. Sadly, there is an excellent chance that he was even more brilliant when he was 30 or 40. The decline is, after all, a relative thing.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:21PM (#38639004)

    "Really, anyone who throws the idiot blanket over seniors (like I used to)"

    Most people are idiots, and don't improve with age.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:28PM (#38639110)

    No, because giving them an education makes them better workers. An army of people that can do nothing more than sweep floors, and can't even manage their own finances because they don't know basic math, is not useful for an advanced society. So we give them a basic education first, before sending them out into the world, and the smarter ones or more motivated ones we give an even better education, job training, etc. so they can do higher-level jobs. This wouldn't change if the brain had no age-related limitations. The only thing that'd change is perhaps we'd lose some of our age discrimination.

  • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:41PM (#38639280) Journal
    Actually, there is a flaw in the reporting of the study: Cognitive decline begins at 45 at the latest. It may begin earlier, but younger groups were not tested. This is an important distinction.
  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:49PM (#38639372) Journal

    Calc hasn't changed much in a couple hundred years, at least at the undergrad level.

    Sure it has. Give an undergrad in Calculus today an exam from 1912 and you'll see just how much it has changed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:54PM (#38639434)

    You should check the meaning of 'cognitive decline'.

    While you are at it, you should check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity [wikipedia.org]. Nerves are the same as muscles. We can grow new nerves and muscles by exercising them. Use it or lose it applies to both.

    You aren't fated to become senile.

  • just turned 46 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:55PM (#38639446) Homepage

    I just turned 46, and this is definitely true. I remember that we invaded Iraq, and I'm sure there must have been valid reasons for that, but I can't remember them. I clearly remember voting for Obama because he was a constitutional law professor who promised to restore civil liberties and the rule of law, but I can't remember anything he did to follow up on that. I seem to remember intentionally flying from SF to NY in 1986 without any form of ID, but obviously that can't be right, because if people had been able to do that for all those years, our country would have been immediately destroyed by terrorists.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GauteL (29207) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:17PM (#38639716)

    I had a calculus tutor in high school, he was retired and had to have been at least 70, but he was brilliant and his analytical skills don't seem to have declined at all.

    Did you know him when he was 35? Perhaps his analytical skills were even higher?

    In any case people tend to compensate through knowledge and experience.

  • Trade offs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cro Magnon (467622) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:25PM (#38639804) Homepage Journal

    Speaking as an old guy (over 50), I probably don't learn new stuff as quickly as I used to. OTOH, I don't really need to, since most of the new stuff is similar to old stuff that I already know.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:45PM (#38640056)
    No, statistics is a very powerful tool that can provide deep insights and solutions to some otherwise impossible problems. Just because you (and most people) don't understand how to properly use them doesn't mean they're bullshit.
  • Re:Well crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:56PM (#38640188) Homepage Journal
    That doesn't make sense to me. It's the 40+ people who start wars, and the 18+ who fight them.
  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michael_cain (66650) on Monday January 09, 2012 @03:37PM (#38640726) Journal

    In any case people tend to compensate through knowledge and experience.

    And various sorts of mental crutches. I've lost the reference, but the study suggested that people with higher cognitive skills were more likely to recognize that their skills were declining, and figure out substitutes to make up for the difference, like a greater dependency on "to do" lists. The concluding hypothesis was that this explained some of the observations that people with higher IQs who succumbed to various dementias appeared to decline more rapidly after onset; that the actual onset was missed due to the use of crutches, and the decline appeared more rapid once the dementia had reached a stage where the crutches were no longer sufficient.

    Speaking anecdotally, I can still retrieve and explain the real analysis I learned when I was 22. What I can't do, now that I'm approaching 60, is soak up and retain new math at the same pace I could then.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:48PM (#38641778) Homepage Journal

    Also, once one gets to be older one tends to have a greater tendency not to want to learn new things as we're taught that the only value to being elderly is being experienced and experience is ultimately the enemy of learning anything too novel.

    I don't think that's the case; I'm 59 and still love learning new stuff. I'm only experienced at what I have experience with. But I'm more of a creature of habit these days, which I think is a better explanation. My maternal grandfather resisted getting indoor plumbing when I was a kid, and after my uncle built a bathroom onto Grandpa's house, Grandpa still used the outhouse, even in below freezing weather.

    I try to drag my dad into the 21st century; It would be nice to be able to email or text him a photo instead of sticking a piece of paper in an envelope like they did three centuries ago, but "I did without a computer and cell phone for eighty years and I don't need one now."

    I hope I die before I reach that point. But at any rate, part of being experienced is being experienced at learning to cope with changes to ones tools. Dad was an electrical lineman, and went from climbing poles and using wooden tools to a bucket truck and plastic; I don't think they even use the spike boots for climbing.

    When I bitch about MS Outlook I have experience behind me, having been online since 1983. I can say with authority that in thirty years of emailing I've never seen a worse email client, from a user's perspective. Someone fresh out of college would have to have a very solid citation to rebut it (if in fact an opinion can be rebutted).

What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying. -- Nikita Khruschev

Working...