Research Says Brain Begins To Decline At 24

Research Says Brain Begins To Decline At 24

 Our brain starts aging at 24

A new study at Simon Fraser University shows that cognitive-motor decline in reaction times begins in early adulthood, as early as age 24. [1]

This means that your reaction and reflexes begin to slow down much earlier than many previously thought.

There is good news, experience and expertise can compensate for the age-related cognitive-motor declines detected in young adults.

When you see a stimulus, for example a ball that is going to hit you in the head, you need more time to process what you see, to raise your hands, and catch it.

But you can offset that decline that to an extent if you practice that skill, catching a ball in our example, every day.

Cognition Begins to Decline at Age 24

The research team used the StarCraft 2 video game as a model to test cognitive-motor decline and appropriate compensatory strategies in young adults.

Why the Star War2? Why not, for example the World of Warcraft?

It’s a legitimate question.

Psychologists have used many games to study cognition:

  • Go, [2]
  • Chess, [3]
  • Bridge [4].

They even developed the game, Space Fortress project, to study complex brain functions.

But the real-time strategy video game StarCraft 2 offers some advantages to the study of aging according to psychologists.

That’s why Joseph J. Thompson and his team, used this game to test “the onset of age-related declines in cognitive motor speed and dual-task performance and explores how domain experience may compensate for this decline.” [1]

How exactly did they test cognitive decline?

Thompson and colleagues analyzed how age influenced performance using a dataset of 3,305 players.

Players were between 16 and 44 years old.

They wanted to answer the following questions:

  1. Is there age-related slowing of Looking-Doing Latency?
  2. Can expertise directly ameliorate this decline?
  3. When does this decline begin?” [1]

Scientists used linear regression and made several statistical models to answer the above questions.

Their conclusion is that there’s an age-related looking-doing decline, but this slowing is not directly improved by level of expertise.

Also, that cognitive decline begins at 24.

Looking-doing latency is in certain extent analogous to reaction time. Some real-life tasks, like meal preparation, may be broken down into the looking-doing couplets.

What Causes Cognitive Decline?

Cognitive decline happens due to the fact that brain metabolism also changes with aging.

For example, changes in myelination peak at about 39. [5]

Myelin is responsible for the fast conduction of nerve impulses from the brain to the muscles.

Another metabolic change that happens in aging brain is in ratios of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and choline. This change begins in the early twenties or sooner. [6]

So, is there hope for us after mid-20s?

Although, this study didn’t prove that experience and expertise can directly compensate the cognitive decline, some other studies did:

“In many cases, age will presumably allow for skill development that is more pronounced than any age-related decline associated with the skill. For example, academic psychologists seem to be most productive at 40 years of age, suggesting that any earlier age-related decline is trumped by skill development.” [1]

Also, older typists show declines in the finger tapping tasks, but not in typing speed. They look farther ahead, which allows them additional time for motor preparation. [7]

Hop up to our podcast with Jonathan Levi to find out Why Learning Is The Only Skill That Matters.

As TIME magazine explains:

“This doesn’t mean it’s all downhill after your mid-20s. As cognitive speed slows, the brain makes up for some of the deficit in a variety of ways: by relying on experience to anticipate and more accurately predict upcoming tasks, as well as by employing mental shortcuts such as eliminating extraneous information and paring down incoming information to just core nuggets of relevant material.”

The bottom line is this: With each passing day, we age; so does our brain, and our cognitive-motor functions.

Now, that you know all this. The question is what will you do about it?

How do you deal with your brain aging? Have you tried our supplement CILTEP yet? Let us know in the comments below.


1. Thompson JJ, Blair MR, Henrey AJ (2014) Over the Hill at 24: Persistent Age-Related Cognitive-Motor Decline in Reaction Times in an Ecologically Valid Video Game Task Begins in Early Adulthood. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094215

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