Do you feel like your brain isn't functioning as quickly as it once did? If so, it probably isn't your imagination. But don't worry — it likely isn't the result of age-related cognitive decline either.
A study published in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science has discovered that this slowing down may just be because your brain is filled with more information than it was in your younger years. To put it another way, your database is stuffed with too much data.
Dr. Michael Ramscar, of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, conducted this research. Dr. Ramscar and his team programmed computers to process information like a human brain does. They had the computers "read" a certain amount of data while also processing new information. They then had the computers go through tests typically used to measure cognitive function in humans, such as word recall tests.
When the computers had a set amount of data to read, their performance matched that of a young adult. But when they had an unlimited amount of data — essentially a lifetime of experiences like an older adult has — their cognitive processing matched that of someone later in life. The computers' processing capacity hadn't changed, but their databases were bigger, so it took longer to process new information.
These results suggest that younger and older adults have similar processing abilities, but older adults take longer on tests because they have increased amounts of knowledge to sift through. The tests themselves may not accurately measure cognitive abilities, as they don't take into consideration this increased amount of knowledge.
After all, Dr. Ramscar points out, "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?" He suggests, "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."
You can't erase the data in your brain, but you can increase your brain's health — and possibly its function — by feeding it the nutrients it needs. Like a computer, the better your hardware is the better and faster it can process the data. A supplement like Advanced Memory Formula can help you give your brain power to sift through all the great memories you've made and the information you've learned over your lifetime.
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"Greater experience causes older brains to slow down, study shows," Medical News Today, 26 January 2014.