Scientists in Germany have cast doubt on a previously believed assumption that the processing speed of our brain starts to decline from the age of 20. Until now, it has been thought that our cognition level peaks when we are 20 and declines thereafter. Lead researcher doctor Mischa von Krause, of Heidelberg University, offered hope to older people who worry about increasing forgetfulness or reduced brain power. He said cognitive skills were still powerful at the age of 60 and do not diminish before then. He wrote: "Our finding is encouraging, as our results show that average levels in mental speed in contexts demanding fast and forced decisions do not decline until relatively late in the lifespan."
The study was based on data from over 1.1 million people, aged between 10 and 80 years old. The results show that our mental processing speed remains relatively constant until the age of 60, but does start to decline from our seventh decade. The researchers said people's mental processing speed actually increases in their 20s and remains high until 60. Dr von Krause said: "Until older adulthood, the speed of information processing in the task we studied barely changed." He added that older people do take longer to make decisions, but said this was because we become more cautious, and less impulsive and reckless as we age. The study could cast light on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.