Brain Age – Are We Really Losing It?

The accepted model of aging is that we lose mental acuity with the steady passing of time. But new research is emerging that challenges both the testing methodology that leads to that conclusion as well actual brain performance data.

Insofar as the testing, scientists note that exams like the well-known word pairing memorization test (when you are asked to recall unrelated words in tandem like, “toaster and petunia”) are often unfairly skewed. Older adults are biased to towards words and associations that have have some sort of positive relationship. This is know as the “age-related positivity effect.” So random word pairing could well work against a “mature” adult’s natural proclivity to relate to more uplifting verbiage.

Another potential bias when testing different age groups is the fact that younger populations have a greater advantage in “recall” functions as they are more likely to have more affirmatively documented events via a social network posting which reinforces memory.

Of course, the mere fact that we mature adults have been around longer adds to our mental “libraries” which in turn accounts to potential delays associated in recall tests since there is just more information stored in our brains. The relatively new science of data-mining which uses in-depth application of information relationship theories on large amounts of data was applied to word-find and word-pairing and it produced an interesting finding. Published in Topics in Cognitive Research, a team of linguistic researchers at the University of Tubingen in Germany applied data-mining techniques that accounted for the larger number of words that older people have in their mental libraries. By allowing for this disparity between older and younger people, the oft-noted “aging deficits” largely disappeared.

So it is indeed possible that our aging has provided us with a greater wealth of experiences and associated memories that takes longer to ferret through and can account for what might otherwise be viewed as a mental degeneration when compared with those that have less “stuff” in their minds to wade through.

1 Comment

  1. ‘Recall’ function is a great way of putting it and I much prefer it to memory.
    One book that I feel inspired by is “Super Brain” by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi.
    The information about coconut oil in the book “Stop Alzheimer’s Now’ by Dr. Bruce Fife is ‘mind boggling’ and would be good to read at any age!
    Thanks for the great post!

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