What Happens to Your Brain as You Age?

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What happens to cognition as you age?

As you age, certain cognitive capacities typically decline, whilst others can improve. In the graph below we see a decline in the natural speed of processing and memory with aging. This is not however inevitable. Keeping mentally active, engaging in memory training, neurofeedback training, effective stress management and improving brain health can all help mitigate these declines.

age chart

Image courtesy ResearchGate

With aging there is also a decrease in Fluid Intelligence.

Fluid Intelligence is the innate capability of the brain to analyze novel problems, employ logic in unfamiliar scenarios, and discern patterns without relying on acquired knowledge. It is essential for tasks that require quick, abstract thinking and decision-making, and it supports complex problem-solving and logical reasoning abilities. Although fluid intelligence is known to peak during early adulthood, it tends to diminish with age.

In contrast, as we age, our Crystallized Intelligence typically increases.

Crystallized intelligence is deeply rooted in learning and experience. It includes the accumulation of worldy knowledge, mastery of vocabulary, and a sophisticated repository of experiential wisdom. This type of intelligence grows as we age, and is at the heart of tasks that require expertise, cultural knowledge, or the application of known solutions to problems.

This is why elders and mentors are essential in life. Whilst people in their 60s, 70s and 80’s might have brains that aren’t as quick and sharp as some younger people, their accumulated lifetime wisdom and the ability to convey that wisdom makes them the foundational and integral members of society. All healthy societies place the elderly and their wisdom, and the care of those elderly, at the center of their structure. Western societies still have much to learn.

How to assess your cognitive health

If you are now convinced about the importance of cognitive health, the next step is to assess your current cognitive performance. Whilst it's perhaps tempting to skip this process, please don’t because:

Neural changes in individuals who go on to develop dementia occur up to 2 decades before the onset of cognitive symptoms. 1

You read that correctly. The precursor events at a nerve cell level that subsequently lead to dementia start to happen 20 years before the appearance of cognition related issues. Put another way the root changes for dementia can start in your forties (and possibly earlier). It’s time to take an assessment

Online Assessments
Dr Dale Bredesen, a pioneer in the field of functional medicine approaches to cognitive health has a free Cognitive Assessment, called Cq. It takes around 15-minutes to complete and is designed to detect early signs of neurological degeneration. The Cq Assessment includes an abbreviated CNS Vital Signs assessment that evaluates executive function, speed processing, verbal and visual memory. Your Cq score is a percentile based on how well you perform compared to age-matched peers.

Another excellent assessment is The Cognitive Function (CFT) test from the Food for the Brain Foundation. It is also free and takes 15-minutes. In a study, the CFT, which measures the three aspects of memory and cognition that decline in Alzheimer’s (episodic memory, executive function and processing speed) was compared and comparable to the best paper and pencil tests currently used to diagnose mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Brain Processing Speed Assessment.
A validated way to assess aspects of cognitive function is with the measurement of Event Related Potentials (ERP’s). These mathematical measurements provide results of the brain’s timing in response to a defined test (specifically audio and visual stimulus and response). ERPs are measured using electroencephalography (EEG), which involves recording electrical activity from the scalp. When your brain processes an event (like a sound, a light, or a thought), it produces electrical signals. Those signals, when associated with the event, are known as ERPs. They represent the changes in brain activity in response to the specific event.

ERPs are typically time-locked to the event, meaning they occur at approximately the same time relative to the event each time it happens. Whilst this test only used to be available in a lab, it is now available as part of the Sens.ai 5-in-1 brain training system. Not only does it allow you to make an assessment of your brain performance, but you can track it over time and improve brain processing speed using Sens.ai’s neurofeedback brain training protocols.

using genius pulse

Keep reading about Cognitive Health

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Mark Atkinson or sens.ai the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.


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