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Your Older Brain’s Increased Knowledge Slows Recall Speed

Your Older Brain's Increased Knowledge Slows Recall SpeedA new study rebuts the common belief that cognitive decline inevitably accompanies the aging process.

Instead, researchers believe older brains possess a greater amount of knowledge, resulting in a slower response time.

Dr. Michael Ramscar of the University of Tubingen argues that this slower processing time has been misrepresented as declining capabilities.

As found in Topics in Cognitive Science, the study takes a critical look at the measures that are usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood.

Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures are flawed, confusing increased knowledge for declining capacity.

Ramscar’s team used computers, programmed to act as though they were humans, to read a certain amount each day, learning new things along the way.

When the researchers let a computer “read” a limited amount, its performance on cognitive tests resembled that of a young adult. However, if the same computer was exposed to┬ádata which represented a lifetime of experiences, its performance looked like that of an older adult.

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

“What does this finding mean for our understanding of our aging minds, for example older adults’ increased difficulties with word recall? These are traditionally thought to reveal how our memory for words deteriorates with age, but Big Data adds a twist to this idea,” said┬áRamscar.

“Technology now allows researchers to make quantitative estimates about the number of words an adult can be expected to learn across a lifetime, enabling the team to separate the challenge that increasing knowledge poses to memory from the actual performance of memory itself.”

“Imagine someone who knows two people’s birthdays and can recall them almost perfectly. Would you really want to say that person has a better memory than a person who knows the birthdays of 2,000 people, but can ‘only’ match the right person to the right birthday nine times out of ten?” said Ramscar.

“It is time we rethink what we mean by the aging mind before our false assumptions result in decisions and policies that marginalize the old or waste precious public resources to remediate problems that do not exist,” said Topics in Cognitive Science editors Wayne Gray and Thomas Hills.

Source: Wiley

Abstract of brain photo by shutterstock.

Your Older Brain’s Increased Knowledge Slows Recall Speed

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Your Older Brain’s Increased Knowledge Slows Recall Speed. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/22/your-older-brains-increased-knowledge-slows-recall-speed/64852.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.