Another in my continuing series on why we should develop rejuvenation therapies that will cure aging. Before you die of old age you will spend about the last 15 years of your life getting dumber.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new study shows that older people's mental skills start declining years before death, even if they don't have dementia. The study is published in the August 27, 2008, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
"These changes are different and separate from the changes in thinking skills that occur as people get older," said study author Valgeir Thorvaldsson, MSc, of Göteberg University in Sweden. "We found accelerated changes in people's mental skills that indicated a terminal decline phase years before death."
Your ability to compare figures will go before your spatial ability which in turn will go before your verbal ability. But it is all down, down, down until your whole body crashes.
The start of the decline is different for various cognitive abilities. Perceptual speed, which measures how quickly people can compare figures, begins declining nearly 15 years before death. Spatial ability starts declining nearly eight years before death. And verbal ability starts declining about six-and-a-half years before death.
The study involved 288 people with no dementia who were followed from age 70 to death, with an average age at death of 84. The participants' mental skills were measured up to 12 times over a period of 30 years, and they were evaluated to make sure they had not developed dementia.
A number of factors may explain this terminal decline in mental skills, Thorvaldsson said. "Cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease or dementia that is too early to be detected could be factors," he said. "Increased health problems and frailty in old age often lead to inactivity, and this lack of exercise and mental stimulation could accelerate mental decline."
Thorvaldsson noted that verbal abilities declined sharply in the terminal phase and did not decline significantly due to age only. "This indicates that people remain stable in their verbal abilities unless they are experiencing disease processes that also increase their mortality risk," he said. "A change in verbal ability might therefore be considered a critical marker for degeneration in health in older people."
I do not want to become dumber. Aging is a thief. It steals parts of your mind.
Halting and reversing brain aging is pretty much the most difficult rejuvenation therapy challenge in the human body. For other organs we will be able to grow younger replacements. Got a bad part? Replace it with a newer part. Medicine will become more like auto repair. But the brain needs to be rejuvenated in place. So will will need to focus on stem cells, gene therapy and nanodevices to repair the brain cells in place. That's a much tougher challenge than figuring out how to grow a new liver or kidney.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 August 27 10:37 PM Brain Aging|