I’m Not Losing It, I’m Just More Worldly Than The Rest Of You

Good news, old people. You’re not actually slow-minded and forgetful. You just have trouble remembering things because you know so much stuff.

“The human brain works slower in old age,” said Dr. Michael Ramscar, “but only because we have stored more information over time

“The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more.”

A team at Tübingen University in Germany programmed a computer to read a certain amount each day and learn new words and commands.

When the researchers let a computer “read” only so much, its performance on cognitive tests resembled that of a young adult.

But if the same computer was exposed to the experiences we might encounter over a lifetime – with reading simulated over decades – its performance now looked like that of an older adult.

Often it was slower, but not because its processing capacity had declined. Rather, increased “experience” had caused the computer’s database to grow, giving it more data to process – which takes time.

I’m hardly a brain scientist, but that does make sense. I can feel it happening in my own life. When I was younger, I could remember almost every little thing about everything I did and everyone I met. But now, pushing my mid 30’s, that’s not so easy. Part of that surely has to do with the damage done by the years of sleeping like absolute shite and I can feel that getting better as that situation improves, but part of it I’ll say with near certainty is that I’ve simply done more things. It gets especially difficult when I’ve done the same thing with the same people over and over again. I’ll find myself mixing up which time something or other happened, and I know I’m far from the only one who does that.

And this bit is particularly interesting.

And researchers say some cognitive tests which are used to study mental capacity may inadvertently favour young people.

A cognitive test called ‘paired associated learning’ invites people to remember a pair of words that are unrelated like ‘necktie’ and ‘cracker.’

Studies have shown that young people are better at this test, but scientists think that older people struggle to remember nonsense pairs – like ‘necktie’ and ‘cracker’ – because they have learned that they never go together.

Prof. Harald Baayen, who heads the Alexander von Humboldt Quantitative Linguistics research group where the work was carried out said: “The fact that older adults find nonsense pairs harder to learn than young adults simply demonstrates older adults’ much better understanding of language.

“They have to make more of an effort to learn unrelated word pairs because, unlike the youngsters, they know a lot about which words don’t belong together.”

My experiences with the web’s various social platforms have me questioning this somewhat, but it does seem logical. It’s definitely a topic that could do with further investigating.

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