Posts Tagged ‘the mature mind’

About the “Mature” Brain

February 8, 2012

While some of our capabilities naturally decrease as we age, research seems to support the notion that our ability to learn doesn’t necessarily decrease as we get older. Some people are much better than their peers at delaying age-related declines in areas such as memory and calculating speed. And researchers continue to look for answers to why this is so.

In 1995, an enormous national study of Americans was initiated to determine the role behavioral, psychological, and social factors play when it comes to how people age. The study is called “Midlife in the United States” or Midus. When it began, more than 7,000 people 25 to 74 years old were drafted to participate so that middle-agers could be compared with those younger and older. Midus is still going on today. Through Midus and other studies, researchers continue to uncover new information about our brains as we age.

For example, one of the brain’s most powerful tools is its ability to quickly scan a vast storehouse of templates for relevant information and past experience to come up with a novel solution to a problem. The older we are, the more information we have stored, which is probably why we associate wisdom with age—and why mental capabilities that depend most heavily on accumulated knowledge and experience—such as settling disputes and enlarging one’s vocabulary, get better over time.

Richard E. Nisbett, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan, has long argued that when it comes to intelligence, experience can outrun biology. According to Nisbett: “Older people make more use of higher-order reasoning schemes that emphasize the need for multiple perspectives, allow for compromise, and recognize the limits of knowledge.” Most important, they discovered that despite a decline in fluid intelligence, complicated reasoning that relates to people, moral issues or political institutions improved with age.

Another finding, according to Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University and one of the principal investigators for Midus: “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life.” For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade.

All other things being equal, the more years of school a subject had, the better he or she performed on every mental test. Up to age 75, the studies showed, “people with college degrees performed on complex tasks like less-educated individuals who were 10 years younger.” Education was also associated with a longer life and decreased risk of dementia. “The effects of education are dramatic and long term,” Dr. Lachman says.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the study, reading and cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds brain fitness programs and cognitive skills training by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: And be sure to visit our website at

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