Cognitive decline could begin at age 24, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers from Simon Fraser University in Canada say that our brains start slowing down at that age. They studied 3,305 volunteers aged 16 to 44 years and had the participants do certain tasks, including concentration, juggling multiple tasks, and shifting their focus from immediate to long-term issues.
With the help of a real-time strategy game called StarCraft II, lead author Joe Thomson, a doctoral student, was able to study the age-related decline in these patients. “After around 24 years of age, players show slowing in a measure of cognitive speed that is known to be important for performance. This cognitive performance decline is present even at higher levels of skill,” Thompson said in a statement, Red Orbit reported.
The researchers also found that for every year after 24, cognitive speed dropped one percent. While the players gained more skill with playing the game over time, the age-related decline stayed stagnant.
“Older players, though slower, seem to compensate by employing simpler strategies and using the game’s interface more efficiently than younger players, enabling them to retain their skill, despite cognitive motor-speed loss,” Thompson said.
However, this information isn’t meant to be alarming; it basically supports the idea that the human brain reaches full maturity by our mid-twenties. The results suggest that these cognitive functions do not remain stagnant throughout a person’s adult life. Thompson believes that they are in a constant state of flux and that daily performance results from a mix between adaptations and external changes.
Thompson also says this study does not tell how technology and the computerized world we live in affects our ability to compensate for declining motor skills. And some research shows that there are ways to improve cognitive skills by eating right, playing brain games, getting more sleep, and by keeping your body and brain active.