For our brains, older adulthood may begin in our early sixties
After gradually declining throughout our adult lives, cognitive performance shifts to a more rapid decline in our early sixties, reveals a new Baycrest study.
The results of this study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, will help researchers and clinicians better understand normal cognitive decline, allowing them to catch abnormal changes in cognition earlier and ultimately helping to protect older adults’ brain health as they age.
“We know that older adults tend to perform worse on cognitive tests than younger adults do, but studies typically assess age-related changes in cognition by comparing groups of older participants to groups of younger participants, often leaving out the period of midlife. Our study is one of the first to look at the continuous cognitive changes across age, and specifically when the shift to older adulthood occurs,” says Dr. Annalise LaPlume, postdoctoral fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and lead author of this study.
In the study, the researchers looked at data from 40,000 people aged 18 to 90 who completed the Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment, developed by Baycrest. Participants took the test in their own homes by going to the Cogniciti website (https://cogniciti.com/). The test takes around 20 minutes to complete and consists of a background questionnaire and four cognitive tasks. The background questionnaire includes details of participants’ age, sex, level of education and specific health conditions that may affect cognition, such as high cholesterol, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, insomnia or other sleep disorders, diabetes and stroke.
“The Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment is a powerful tool for rapid and reliable cognitive screening, says Dr. LaPlume. “It was specifically designed for older adults and includes tasks sensitive to changes in the brain associated with aging and age-related cognitive disorders.”
The study revealed two distinct periods of cognitive performance: a gradual decline from the age of 18 until the early sixties, followed by more rapid decline until age 90. The researchers also found increased individual differences between people’s cognitive performance starting in the early sixties, suggesting the importance of factors besides age.
“There are many things we can do to maintain our brain health and decrease our chances of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia. These include eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising on a regular basis, managing our stress, sleeping well and staying socially engaged,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI), associate scientific director of Baycrest’s Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness and senior author of this study.
This research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Baycrest is a global leader in research, innovation, education and care for older adults, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute; the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. Baycrest helps aging adults assess, monitor, maintain and enhance cognition through an innovative portfolio of evidence-based products and services offered through its brain health company, Cogniciti.
Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through these initiatives, Baycrest has remained at the forefront of the fight to defeat dementia as the organization works to help individuals fear no age and create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Founded in 1918 as the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information about Baycrest, visit baycrest.org or visit FearNoAge.com for more information about our brand.
About Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.
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