‘Brain decline’ begins at age 27

‘Brain decline’ begins at age 27


Mental powers start to dwindle at 27 after peaking
at 22, marking the start of old age, US research suggests.

Professor Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia found
reasoning, spatial visualisation and speed of thought all decline in
our late 20s.

Therapies designed to stall or reverse the ageing process may
need to start much earlier, he said.

His seven-year study of 2,000 healthy people aged 18-60 is
published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

To test mental agility, the study participants had
to solve puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in
letters and symbols.

The natural decline of some of our mental abilities as we age
starts much earlier than some of us might expect

Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust

The same tests are already used by doctors to spot signs of dementia.

In nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top
performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which there was any marked decline was at 27 in
tests of brain speed, reasoning and visual puzzle-solving ability.

Things like memory stayed intact until the age of 37, on average,
while abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on
tests of vocabulary or general information, increased until the age of

Professor Salthouse said his findings suggested "some aspects of
age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy, educated adults when
they are in their 20s and 30s."

Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust agreed, saying:
"This research suggests that the natural decline of some of our mental
abilities as we age starts much earlier than some of us might expect –
in our 20s and 30s.

"Understanding more about how healthy brains decline could help
us understand what goes wrong in serious diseases like Alzheimer’s.

"Alzheimer’s is not a natural part of getting old; it is a
physical disease that kills brain cells, affecting tens of thousands of
under 65s too.

"Much more research is urgently needed if we are to offer hope to
the 700,000 people in the UK who live with dementia, a currently
incurable condition."

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