Ever traipsed to the shops only to find once there you've netpletely forgotten what you went for? Or struggled to remember the name of an old acquaintance? For years we've accepted that a scatty brain is as much a part of ageing as wrinkles and grey hair. But now a new book suggests we've got it all wrong.
According to the Secret Life Of The Grown-up Brain, by science writer Barbara Strauch, when it netes to the important stuff, our brains actually get better with age. In fact, she argues that a raft of new studies have found that our brain hits its peak between our 40s and 60s - much later than previously thought.
Furthermore, rather than losing many brain cells as we age, we retain them, and even generate new ones well into middle age. For years it's been assumed that the brain, much like the body, declines with age. But the longest, largest study into what happens to people as they age suggests otherwise.
This continuing research has followed 6,000 people since 1956, testing them every seven years. It has found that, on average, participants performed better on cognitive tests in their late 40s and 50s than they had in their 20s. Specifically, older people did better on tests of vocabulary, spatial orientation skills (imagining what an object would look like if it were rotated 180 degrees), verbal memory (how many words you can remember) and problem solving.
Where they fared less well was number ability (how quickly you can multiply, add, subtract and divide) and perceptual speed - how fast you can push a button when prompted. However, with more netplex tasks such as problem-solving and language, we are at our best at middle age and beyond. In short, researchers are now neting up with scientific proof of that we do get wiser with age.
Neuroscientists are also finding that we are happier with age. A recent US study found older people were much better at controlling and balancing their emotions. It is thought that when we're younger we need to focus more on the negative aspects of life in order to learn about the possible dangers in the world, but as we get older we've learnt our lessons and are sub-consciously aware that we have less time left in life - and it therefore benetes more important for us to be happy.
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