Study says we're over the hill at 24

April 14, 2014, Simon Fraser University

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

SFU's Joe Thompson, a psychology doctoral student, associate professor Mark Blair, Thompson's thesis supervisor, and Andrew Henrey, a statistics and actuarial science doctoral student, deliver the news in a just-published PLOS ONE journal paper.

In one of the first social to rest on , the trio investigates when we start to experience an age-related decline in our cognitive and how we compensate for that.

The researchers analyzed the digital performance records of 3,305 StarCraft 2 , aged 16 to 44. StarCraft 2 is a ruthless competitive intergalactic computer war game that players often undertake to win serious money.

Their performance records, which can be readily replayed, constitute big data because they represent thousands of hours worth of strategic real-time cognitive-based moves performed at varied skill levels.

Using complex statistical modeling, the researchers distilled meaning from this colossal compilation of information about how players responded to their opponents and more importantly, how long they took to react.

"After around 24 years of age, players show slowing in a measure of cognitive speed that is known to be important for performance," explains Thompson, the lead author of the study, which is his thesis. "This decline is present even at higher levels of skill."

But there's a silver lining in this earlier-than-expected slippery slope into old age. "Our research tells a new story about human development," says Thompson.

"Older players, though slower, seem to compensate by employing simpler strategies and using the game's interface more efficiently than younger players, enabling them to retain their skill, despite cognitive motor-speed loss."

For example, older players more readily use short cut and sophisticated command keys to compensate for declining speed in executing real time decisions.

The findings, says Thompson, suggest "that our cognitive-motor capacities are not stable across our adulthood, but are constantly in flux, and that our day-to-day performance is a result of the constant interplay between change and adaptation."

Thompson says this study doesn't inform us about how our increasingly distracting computerized world may ultimately affect our use of adaptive behaviours to compensate for declining cognitive motor skills.

But he does say our increasingly digitized world is providing a growing wealth of big data that will be a goldmine for future studies such as this one.

Explore further: Timing training can increase accuracy in golf and soccer

More information: Paper: www.plosone.org/article/info%3 … journal.pone.0094215

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4 comments

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TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 14, 2014
Well sure. We have many examples of genius in early life which quickly evaporates. Einstein and McCartney come to mind.

Competition among tribes forced our brains to grow far beyond sustainability. As a result they use far more energy than any other animal. They are damage and defect prone.

We are born premature and helpless because if we spent any more time in the womb our heads would be too big to fit through the birth canal.

As a result our brains begin to decline shortly after adolescence and we exist in a state of semi-senility throughout the bulk of our lives. The human is indeed a fatally flawed configuration.

And when removed from the constant pressures and attrition of tribal conflict, the collective mentality degrades with each gen. Damage and defect accrue, and social cohesion begins to deteriorate.
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (4) Apr 14, 2014
There unfortunately exists shameful ignorance to this day within the medical profession on the subject of b12 deficiency. One has to imagine that this is having a significant effect upon these sorts of studies. It's taking a lot longer than it should for awareness to rise on the importance of b12 and its relation to cognitive function, gut bacteria, nutrition -- and of course the numerous seemingly unrelated symptoms which result from its depletion. Doctors still don't even test for b12 deficiency in response to symptoms, and we should be watching these levels every single day. Insurance companies continue to bill out the taking of a single b12 data point at $200!

I wouldn't put much stock into the notion that we necessarily decline cognitively as we age. We've all seen very capable old people. The problem is this worldview that the body is a mechanical system. The bacteria are there for reasons -- such as generating the ions which our brain uses (a not-so-insignificant task).
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (4) Apr 14, 2014
wouldn't put much stock into the notion that we necessarily decline cognitively as we age. We've all seen very capable old people
I've also seen many exceptions to many things. So what? Humans throughout the Pleistocene didn't as a rule live much past age 26. Our teeth aren't the only things not meant to last much longer.

Cognitive decline is indeed the norm.
daggoth
3 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2014
This is unusual as I've also read somewhere, but don't remember where at the moment, that the brain cells are actually capable of living for at least twice the lifespan of the organism and as far as they can tell, they have no mechanism that tells them to "die". They only die through damage of brain tissue from disease, injury, or some other neurological disorder.

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