July 16, 2007
Old Folks Lose Ability To Detect Jokes

Some oppose the development of therapies to reverse aging because they argue that aging is a beautiful and dignified natural process. In this Panglossian view of aging the silver in one's hair is akin to a measure of accumulated wealth of wisdom and understanding. But the reality is a much uglier accumulation of losses - most notably including cognitive losses. For example, older people experience a declining ability to comprehend humor.

July 11, 2007 -- It's no laughing matter that older adults have a tougher time understanding basic jokes than do younger adults.

It's partially due to a cognitive decline associated with age, according to Washington University in St. Louis researchers Wingyun Mak, a graduate student in psychology in Arts & Sciences, and Brian Carpenter, Ph.D., Washington University associate professor of psychology.

Humor comprehension in older adults functions in a different fashion than humor comprehension in younger adults. The researchers studied older adults from a university subject pool as well as undergraduate students. The subjects participated in tests that indicated their ability to complete jokes accurately as well as tests that indicated their cognitive capabilities in areas of abstract reasoning, short-term memory, and cognitive flexibility. Overall, older adults demonstrated lower performance on both tests of cognitive ability as well as tests of humor comprehension than did younger adults.

Aging is an accumulation of damage and losses. We should defeat aging. The breakdown and decay of our metabolisms is a bad thing. We need rejuvenation therapies. Such therapies are on the horizon but we should push harder to pull that prospect closer in our future.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 July 16 10:53 PM  Brain Aging

Sam said at July 17, 2007 2:01 AM:

I agree that there is too much opposition to anti-aging technology and research. A fair amount of that opposition, in my opinion, comes from what has been a necessary fatalism. For virtually all of human history (with the possible exception of the present), there has been no way for a reasonable person to expect to escape the effects of the aging process (aside from early death, hardly a great alternative). People have of course tried just about anything they could think of, long long before Ponce de Leon, but clearly none of the old methods have worked. Thus the development of the attitude that you've just got to make the best of it, or even that aging is a good thing.

I agree with Aubrey Degrey that it's going to take a significant extension of the lifespan of an already middle-aged mouse (or whatever) to convince the broader public that science-based life extension isn't just another disappointment or opportunity to look silly. Public opinion can change very quickly, given the right circumstances, and the life-extension movement has the potential for MASSIVE gains in funding and acceptance, if and when scientists start delivering the right kinds of results, results that will get on the evening news, and around the watercooler (but unfortunately probably not until then).

rsilvetz said at July 17, 2007 9:35 AM:

I would go further. Trivial changes right now for most in their 50's can easily guarantee 85 or 90. One of our transition-to-immortality to goals should be to make sure as many people make it across the divide as possible.

The three-pill cocktail is a start. Statin+metformin+blood pressure pill and you will chop of a big chunk of diabetes/stroke/heart attack numbers. Since the cocktail is anti-inflammatory I bet it will also dump a big chunk of late life cancers or delay them for many years.

The preponderance of the evidence suggests strongly that the SIRT-based approach will also tack on a decade. Get the high-potency resveratrol and load up on it daily -- it's a start while we wait for the drug.

Purenoiz said at July 17, 2007 11:31 AM:

If big Pharma can make a drug that comes without side effects, people will enjoy old age more. As it currently sits Statins and many of the blood pressure drugs seriously undermine quality of life. I hear about them everyday from elderly customers.

Tony said at July 17, 2007 3:40 PM:

Why would you want to deny yourself your glorious reward among God and the angels?

Ha! Excuse me.

mats-erik pistol said at July 23, 2007 6:41 AM:


I would add niacin as well to increase the hdl-level (i. e. good cholesterol). + Some exercise and low glychemic index food.

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