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New Research Shows Cognitive Decline Begins At 45 295

An anonymous reader writes "New research shows people might start to suffer from cognitive decline as early as age 45. The research, which looked at over 7000 people between the ages of 45 and 70 when the study started, watched participants over a 10 year period. Disturbingly enough, even the youngest participants started declining immediately."
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New Research Shows Cognitive Decline Begins At 45

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  • Is it age? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jason777 ( 557591 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:33PM (#38638300)
    Perhaps its age, or perhaps its from years of flouride in the drinking water, BPA in everything we eat, and other poisons like artificial sweetener.
  • by kurt555gs ( 309278 ) <{kurt555gs} {at} {}> on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:36PM (#38638348) Homepage

    This is why we should move the Social Security retirement age down to 55. It would free up jobs for the young, and let us old folks relax with our monthly check and medicare.

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:46PM (#38638530)

    If you read the study (I know, nodbody does that), you could see that the test basis are office personell in administration. Compared to students and people working knowledge intesive areas, they do not have to learn that much new facts every day. As other studies (use google if you want) have shown, cognitive skills decline when you reduce the learning. In a German study they have shown that the decline starts earlier in people who left school with 16 and hand a job since then compared to academic personell or researcher who have to learn new stuff every day. The latter group hand only minimal decline in cognitive skills (much less than those shown in the study mentioned above for a 10 year period).

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

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:56PM (#38638670)

    Ah but teaching, even teaching a cognition heavy top, does not necessarily require much cognition. The noncognition memory way to teach is "why I remember back in '63 another young man just like you making the same mistake with integration by parts and what I told him back in '63 was..." Then there is the non-cognition cheerleader way to teach which just amounts to telling you that you can do it. And the non-cognition drill sgt way to teach is just telling you that you will do it.

    Calc hasn't changed much in a couple hundred years, at least at the undergrad level. Now a math teaching job that would require some cognition would be designing a "how to prove Fermats last theorem" class. So do you start with the full modularity theorem even though only the semistable elliptic curves are necessary for FLT and the full modularity theorem was proven after FLT, but maybe you should introduce the full theory as a concept and then go in depth into just semi-stable elliptic curves, or ... Now experience does enter into this so you need to correct for that to test pure cognition.

  • by mini me ( 132455 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:56PM (#38638674)

    It's why people go to school when they're young and malleable

    If we lived in a world where the brain had no such limitations, would we send the kids to work as soon as they are able to and then worry about schooling later in their adult life?

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

    by tunapez ( 1161697 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:00PM (#38638720)

    We are what we eat! I don't doubt proper nutrition plays a role. However, I believe the brain is like any other muscle in our body. Use it and it stays healthy. Stare mindlessly at a screen with nothing but input for hours every night, every week for years and guess what...y0ur mind may not look like that marshmallow ass, but it functions just as well.

    Example: I know when clients/friends/family have been playing too much solitaire or wasting idle days staring at the vidiot box(lots more lately across the board), they are cognitively slower, like they're just waking up but it lasts hours. I concur with TFA as far as the older you get the more visible the fogginess. My neighbor, however, just turned 83 and is one smart SOB and fast as a whip with a timely jest or an answer to a pointed question. Him and his wife drive to breakfast with their 4 dogs loaded in the truck like clockwork, 9am everyday for at least the last 15 years. He watches sports and is constantly 'doing'. Smart ass helped me rebuild the trestles outside my bedroom window last Saturday, drilling 8" lags through 4" posts from the top of a 6' ladder, no less. I'm sure his wife being slightly younger(25years) may have something to do with his 'vim', too. YMMV.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:03PM (#38638768)

    "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.

    Combine that with

    Disturbingly enough, even the youngest participants started declining immediately

    And you get the idea that "most people" do not do this, at all, as soon as they leave school. I'd be surprised if the result of a larger study would be anything other than decline begins at the graduation ceremony. I haven't done anything in that test for quite a few years other than the inductive reasoning, and thats only because I'm a weirdo; most Americans would rather die than think, so I'm sure they would do none of the above.

    Use it or lose it.

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

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:45PM (#38639318)

    I'm not so sure that's really the case. It gets tough to know as such studies usually are conducted on people from the same country. It could well be the same type of reasoning that concludes that adults suck at learning new languages, even though it's common place for adults to have to learn a new one as adults in parts of Africa. I see no basis for assuming that they're smarter or dumber than we are in the US, which leads to interesting questions about what differences there may or may not be.

    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.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:52PM (#38639400)

    7,000 British civil servants are not sufficient to establish that this is a real effect, it could just as easily be something wrong with the jobs in civil service there are cultural ones related to being British. The age, gender and nationality of the authors doesn't automatically fix possible problems with the sampling. I'm sure that the results are fairly accurate for that particular demographic, but it requires a bit of justification to generalize that beyond that cultural niche.

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

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:18PM (#38639734)

    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.

    I'm pushing 60 and have noticed that my cognitive abilities have declined. I'm still just as good with stuff I have learned as I used to be, I haven't forgot much. What is declining is the speed that I can learn new stuff. It's takes me more work and time now to pick up on new concepts than it used to.

    So I'm not surprised that your calculus tutor is brilliant in a field he's been working in all of his life and perhaps he is one of those exceptional people who don't decline like most but sometimes it's the exception that proves the rule.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.