MIT, MGH Research Says Not All Cognitive Abilities Decline As You Age

Caregiver Warren Manchess laughs with Paul Gregoline and Paul's wife, Mary, as they work on a puzzle, in Noblesville Ind. (Darron Cummings/AP)

Caregiver Warren Manchess laughs with Paul Gregoline and Paul’s wife, Mary, as they work on a puzzle, in Noblesville Ind. (Darron Cummings/AP)

They’re called “senior moments” by many — you lose your keys, forget the name of someone you’ve met before, walk into a room and you don’t remember why.

The thinking goes, “senior moments” happen more frequently as we age, and our cognitive thinking, overall, declines.

Not necessarily so, says new research out of MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital.

In fact, though some skills — like pairing numbers and symbols — peak in the late teens, other skills — like reading people’s emotions — peak in midlife and stick around for decades.


Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR’s CommonHealth blog. She tweets at @commonhealth.

Laura Germine, psychiatric researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the study. She co-runs the websites, and She tweets @braintests.


Psychological Science: When Does Cognitive Functioning Peak? The Asynchronous Rise And Fall Of Different Cognitive Abilities Across The Life Span

  • “Understanding how and when cognitive change occurs over the life span is a prerequisite for understanding normal and abnormal development and aging.”

The Boston Globe: Older And Wiser? Some Brain Functions Improve As We Age

  • “The ability to recall names and faces with lightning speed may start to fade in one’s 20s, but our capability to perform other functions, such as learning new words, doesn’t peak until decades later, according to a new study by Boston scientists.”

Time: Not Just Child’s Play: Video Games Could Slow Mental Decline

  • “The quick-thinking skills required in video games may be more helpful than crossword puzzles in slowing or even reversing declines in brain function that come with aging.”

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