Brain Decline Age

January 8, 2012 by staff 

Brain Decline AgeBrain Decline Age, Cognitive decline does not definitely signal dementia “Memory and other brain skills begin to decline at the age of 45 – much earlier than previously thought,” the Daily Mail has today reported.

The news is based on a large UK study looking at the rate of cognitive decline in different age groups. Between 1997 and 2007 it assessed 7,390 participants aged between 45 and 70 years, looking at how their performance changed when given simple tests of mental reasoning. The researchers found the greatest rate of cognitive decline was in older subjects, but that all age groups showed some decline. For example, men aged 65-70 when they started the study experienced a 9.6% decline in mental reasoning over 10 years, but men initially aged 45-49 experienced a decline of 3.6%.

This sort of study is interesting for looking at patterns of cognitive decline across ages, and suggests that cognitive decline may begin prior to the age of 60 as the researchers originally theorised. However, it cannot tell us whether this decline actually leads to any significant loss of daily functioning or any increased risk of conditions such as dementia. Additionally, as the youngest people in the cohort were 45 years old, it is not possible to say whether cognitive decline starts at 45 years or even earlier.

The study was carried out by researchers from French and British research bodies, including University College London and the French health and research body Inserm. The study was published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal.

The news stories generally reflect the findings of this study accurately. However, this study does not show that cognitive decline starts at 45 years, as the youngest people included in the study were 45. Without including younger people it is not possible to tell whether there is any evidence of decline at younger ages.

The Independent featured a rather pessimistic headline, saying “Life ends at 45… Study reveals when our mental powers start to diminish”. Given the limitations of the study we would urge middle-aged people not to give up on life just yet.

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