Sunday, January 26, 2014


I mention cognition fairly frequently because my mind does my writing—the alternative is decidedly creepy—and writing is the primary focus of my life. That being so, I fear being unable to write due to the decline of my mental facilities a great deal more than I fear death (which I don’t really fear because it is both natural and inevitable).

But, do we decline mentally with age? Clearly, in some cases we do—Alzheimer's being a noteworthy cause—and medications probably being another one (in my opinion—I have no evidence to support that). However, a recent article in The Daily Telegraph of January 20 2014 advances a different point of view—one that I have privately wondered about for some time.

Older people do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains, scientists believe.

Much like a computer struggles as the hard drive gets full up, so to do humans take longer to access information, it has been suggested.

Researchers say this slowing down it is not the same as cognitive decline.

“The human brain works slower in old age,” said Dr. Michael Ramscar, “but only because we have stored more information over time

“The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more.”

A team at Tübingen University in Germany programmed a computer to read a certain amount each day and learn new words and commands.

When the researchers let a computer “read” only so much, its performance on cognitive tests resembled that of a young adult.

But if the same computer was exposed to the experiences we might encounter over a lifetime – with reading simulated over decades – its performance now looked like that of an older adult.

Often it was slower, but not because its processing capacity had declined. Rather, increased “experience” had caused the computer’s database to grow, giving it more data to process – which takes time.

The study was published in the Journal of Topics in Cognitive Science

Now, what am I writing about? I forget.

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