Mental Abilities Drop with Age

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Sept. 15 (UPI) — Mental abilities appear to decline with age in varying degrees but the drops are not as steep as some research seemed to show, U.S. researchers say.

Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia and colleagues analyzed data from large studies of mental aging. Salthouse and colleagues took a second look at scores available for 1,616 adults age 18-80 and older on cognition tests of reasoning, spatial visualization, episodic memory, perceptual speed and vocabulary, collected during an average test-retest interval of 30 months.


“Practice effects” — doing better on a test the second time after becoming more familiar with it and not because of actual ability — were evident across the board, an unavoidable byproduct of repeated testing, Salthouse says.

Salthouse removed the practice-related “bonus points” and, after stripping them out, generated a new set of cognitive scores that could be expected to reflect more accurately normal mental aging in healthy adults.

The study, published in Neuropsychology, verified scores were higher the second time around because of practice effects.

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