Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Older Minds, Larger Databases?

If you or your loved one ever had a “senior moment”, take heart.  A recent experiment lends credibility to the idea that seniors may be slower because their minds are fuller—just what seniors have been saying to young whippersnappers all along.

Linguistic researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany applied advanced learning models to search mammoth databases of words and phrases—data mining, based on theories of information processing to simulate retrieving words.

In general, educated seniors have larger vocabularies than younger people simply by virtue and having lived longer. The experiment simulated an older brain retrieving words from a much larger vocabulary than that of a 22-year-old.  When researchers, led by Michael Ramscar, built that difference into the model, aging “deficits” disappeared for the most part.

“What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults,” the lead author Ramscar wrote in an email to the New York Times.  Ramscar’s work did not include human subjects, but he says he will plans studies with people in the future.

The researchers concluded that neural processing speed, like other reflexes, likely slows over time, but that the new report adds to a growing body of work demonstrating that age-related decline may not be as steep as previously thought.

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