Why do you forget your keys when your brain gets older? As you get older you may get a little forgetful and slower at working things out. But major cognitive decline is not inevitable, and having ‘reserve’ may help protect against it.
Some people who show the physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease in their brain do not show the symptoms. Why? Cognitive reserve. Find out more.
Have you ever gone to a school reunion, or met people that you knew in your childhood, and marveled at how some of them age so well? Yet for others, age quickly leaves its calling card on their appearance due to a combination of genetics, lifestyle and maybe even a past or present disease.
Brain function is no different: some people keep a high-level of cognitive function – their ability to process information, solve problems and learn – as they move into old age while others experience a decline.
As we get older it’s natural for cognitive function to slow down a little: we might get a little forgetful about the names of people we met recently, or where we left the keys. But a severe or rapid decline in cognitive function with age that interferes with your day-to-day tasks may well be a sign of an underlying condition, such as dementia.
There’s some evidence that the brain could be protected from the impact of ageing or injury through a ‘ brain reserve’ of physical tissues, neurons and connections and a ‘cognitive reserve’, where the brain can recruit networks of neurons or bring in alternative strategies to cope with a decline in cognitive function.
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Prof Yaakov Stern researches the concept of cognitive reserve, which suggests that some people have ‘coping mechanisms’ to deal with brain illness or injury.
A ‘nun study’ in the United States is tracking the lifestyle and health of elderly nuns who have willed their brains to the research after their death.
How do our memories change with age? Memory may weaken a little, but it can also hold a steady course.