Aging Brains Match Youth in Some Mental Tasks

From Scientific American:

Aging-brains-match-youth_1The researchers studied how people of different ages performed when put through a battery of cognitive tests, which included guessing the number of asterisks on a screen (fewer or more than 50) and identifying strings of letters as either words or non-words. The new research added young kids into the mix, from elementary-school age through college age. They found the very young kids slower at decision-making tasks, with performance improving with older groups. “Younger children are not able to make as good of use of the information they are presented, so they are less accurate,” Ratcliff said. “That improves as they mature.”

Individuals aged 60 and older also had a slower response time for these tasks, but the researchers found that instead of just taking longer to follow the same thought process as young people, the older people took longer to make sure they responded accurately. These older people even could be trained to respond quicker in some decision-making tasks without hurting their accuracy, similarly to younger adults. “Older people don't want to make any errors at all, and that causes them to slow down. We found that it is difficult to get them out of the habit, but they can with practice,” study researcher Gail McKoon, also from Ohio State, said in a statement. “For these simple tasks, decision-making speed and accuracy is intact even up to 85 and 90 years old.”

More here.