Ever traipsed to the shops only to find once there you've completely
forgotten what you went for? Or struggled to remember the name of an old
acquaintance? For years we've accepted that a scatty brain is as much a part of
ageing as wrinkles and grey hair. But now a new book suggests we've got it all
According to the Secret Life Of The Grown-up Brain, by science writer
Barbara Strauch, when it comes to the important stuff, our brains actually get
better with age. In fact, she argues that a raft of new studies have found that
our brain hits its peak between our 40s and 60s – much later than previously
Furthermore, rather than losing many brain cells as we age, we retain them,
and even generate new ones well into middle age. For years it's been assumed
that the brain, much like the body, declines with age. But the longest, largest
study into what happens to people as they age suggests otherwise.
This continuing research has followed 6,000 people since 1956, testing them
every seven years. It has found that, on average, participants performed better
on cognitive tests in their late 40s and 50s than they had in their 20s.
Specifically, older people did better on tests of vocabulary, spatial
orientation skills (imagining what an object would look like if it were rotated
180 degrees)， verbal memory (how many words you can remember) and problem
Where they fared less well was number ability (how quickly you can
multiply, add, subtract and divide) and perceptual speed – how fast you can push
a button when prompted. However, with more complex tasks such as problem-solving
and language, we are at our best at middle age and beyond. In short, researchers
are now coming up with scientific proof of that we do get wiser with age.
Neuroscientists are also finding that we are happier with age. A
recentUSstudy found older people were much better at controlling and balancing
their emotions. It is thought that when we're younger we need to focus more on
the negative aspects of life in order to learn about the possible dangers in the
world, but as we get older we've learnt our lessons and are sub-consciously
aware that we have less time left in life – and it therefore becomes more
important for us to be happy.