Jack Rutherford

If you’re like most people, you’d like to have the vitality of youth and the wisdom of age. Unfortunately, along with wisdom comes those senior moments, such as forgetting your close friend’s last name or where you parked your car. We think that senior moments are reserved for seniors, but a new study has found that they can actually start before so much as a wrinkle creases your brow or a gray hair sprouts.

A study at the University of Virginia study has found that some of our cognitive powers peak at around age 22, and then begin a slow and steady decline after age 27. That’s not good news for all you 20-somethings out there.

The UVA study studied 2,000 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 60 for a period of seven years. Participants were asked to solve various puzzles, identify patterns from an assortment of letters and symbols, and remember words and details from stories. The subjects were tested many times over the seven years, allowing researchers to detect subtle changes in cognitive ability.

The results showed that the highest cognitive performances were accomplished at age 22 with a notable decline in certain measures such as abstract reasoning, brain speed and puzzle-solving appearing at age 27. By the age of 37, memory skills started to decline, too.

Not all cognitive function showed declines however. Accumulated knowledge skills, such as increases in general knowledge and the improvement in vocabulary actually increased until about age 60.

Lead investigator Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia put the study’s significance in perspective. “By following individuals over time, we gain insight to cognition changes, and may possibly discover ways to alleviate or slow the rate of decline. And by better understanding the processes of cognitive impairment, we may become better at predicting the onset of dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

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