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Slower response in older adults not due to age, experts claim

Slower response in older adults not due to age, experts claim
28th December 2011

While many expect mental response times to decrease during the aging process, this is not due to declining cognitive ability in many instances, according to new research.

A study at Ohio State University has revealed that slower response times when making decisions in older adults is often a conscious choice to emphasise accuracy over speed.

In many instances, older persons can in fact be trained to respond faster without reducing accuracy, researchers claim.

The findings mean that cognitive skills may not be reduced so dramatically as originally thought as individuals get older.

Professor Roger Ratcliff, co-author of the study, commented: “Many people think that it is just natural for older people’s brains to slow down as they age, but we’re finding that isn’t always true.”

The findings fly in the face of previous research, claiming that cognitive decline begins in the late 20s.

Researchers at the University of Virginia speculated that some aspects of peoples' cognitive skills – such as the ability to make rapid comparisons, remember unrelated information and detect relationships – peak at approximately the age of 22, and then decline from the age of 27 onwards.

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