January 11, 2012
Brain Performance Starts Decaying At Age 45

Your brain roller coaster starts gliding downward at age 45.

As part of the Whitehall II cohort study, medical data was extracted for 5,198 men and 2,192 women, aged between 45 and 70 at the beginning of the study, monitored over a 10-year period. The cognitive functions of the participants were evaluated three times over this time. Individual tests were used to assess memory, vocabulary, reasoning and verbal fluency.

The results show that cognitive performance (apart from the vocabulary tests) declines with age and more rapidly so as the individual's age increases. The decline is significant in each age group.

For example, during the period studied, reasoning scores decreased by 3.6 % for men aged between 45 and 49, and 9.6 % for those aged between 65 and 70. The corresponding figures for women stood at 3.6% and 7.4% respectively.

Brain aging is a tremendous waste of resources and we should support research aimed at reversing it.

On a related note surgeons peak between ages 35 and 50. Not surprising since training takes many years and their nervous systems are aging.

Surgeons aged between 35 and 50 years provide the safest care compared with their younger or older colleagues, finds a study published on bmj.com today.

The findings raise concerns about ongoing training and motivation of surgeons during their careers.

Typically, experts reach their peak performance between the ages of 30 and 50 years or after about 10 years' experience in their specialty, but few studies have measured the association between clinicians' experience and performance.

It would make sense to train medical doctors, especially surgeons, starting about 5 years earlier. They would then be able to enter their peak performing years at younger ages and spend more time at peak performance before nervous system aging starts to take its toll. That is true as well for many other occupations where high cognitive performance is essential. Teens should have access to online courses and tests to allow them to study and take tests all year round and at all hours of every day and night.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 January 11 10:28 PM  Aging Brain Studies

cathy said at January 12, 2012 5:50 AM:

I hope we have robot surgeons before the current generation of med students reaches 50.

bbartlog said at January 12, 2012 7:34 AM:

If I study a group aged 45 to 70, and note that decline sets in more or less immediately even among the youngest subjects, it's not a good summary of the findings to imply that we've discovered that decline starts at age 45. It's entirely possible that decline starts at age 30 and this study doesn't have the appropriate composition of subjects to detect that. Personally I would expect it to depend on exactly which mental competency is being evaluated.

Jason Malloy said at January 16, 2012 1:37 PM:

I think our general biological decline sets in after peak adolescence. However learned skills often mask the physiological decay, and most performance peaks show up in the 20s and 30s.

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