CogniFit's Science blog: Cognitive Skills: The Magic Number Is 40

Cognitive Skills: The Magic Number Is 40

With continuous advances in technology, medicine and the brain health field in general, many are beginning to live far longer than ever before.

Some even believe that a mature life doesn’t truly begin until the age of 40 while others think it’s all downhill from there.

But new research shows that our cognitive skills simple slow down once we reach that magic number. Research has been presented to the British Psychological Society in London suggesting that our reaction times, concentration span and memory powers begin to decline once we hit the age of 40 to 45 years.

Prior to the age of 40 we are usually full of energy, feel good and are trucking along. After that, a steady decline occurs and will continue for the next 40 years and beyond. The decline in cognitive skills comes from a study by the Cognitive Drug Research company. The study took 2,300 healthy people that were aged 18 to 87 and hammered away at what abilities or inabilities they had over the years.

The ability to retain information and recognize words, pictures and digits did not decrease that much until well into the 60s. However, the speed at which people could retain information slowed down much sooner. Once you reach that middle age there is a chance you will be 10 to 15 percent slower to react than when you are in your 20s.

And as a result, it has people dreaming the teens and 20s again. There are a number of examples of how this affects people in everyday life, most notably in social situations. A lot of people begin to struggle recalling a name quickly at a party or in the workplace. This can be embarrassing for anyone and can certainly make for an awkward moment.

There are no exact reasons for the decline in cognitive skills just yet, but they could be related to the efficiency of the brain’s transmitter system. A brain specialist at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge says this system decreases in our 40s and 50s. The specialist says it means the chemicals allow the nerves to communicate with each other.

There has long been a phrase that says use it or lose it. If you don’t use your brain, it is going to fade over time. This is one theory that says people who exercise their brain often function more efficiently for a longer period of time. Others believe using herbal medicine can fight off the effects.

It has also been suggested that young people drinking three to four units of alcohol can slow down their reaction times to those of someone 60 or over. So what does this all mean? It means life is on a downward spiral once you hit the magic number of 40! Well, not entirely. Your life is what you make of it. But just know your cognitive skills are bound to decline at some point, and this research suggests that some point begins at 40. Start brain training today!