MGH-UCLA Human Connectome Project
An image of the grid structure of the major pathways of the brain, created by the Human Connectome Project, which is studying and mapping the brain.
We’re all aware that we lose cognitive ability as we age. But a U-C Riverside study in the journal Psychology and Aging finds that our hard-earned wisdom helps make up for any loss of brain power.
The study looks at two kinds of intelligence. First, there’s "fluid intelligence," which gives us the ability to learn and process information. It’s also what degrades as we age. But the other kind, called "crystallized intelligence," or the wisdom we gain as we age, seems to pick up the slack.
Researchers set out to learn whether the loss of fluid intelligence affects our decision-making ability – an important question as retirement ages rise and more older adults keep working.
After testing a four economic decision-making skills in more than 336 people – 173 of them between the ages of 18 and 29 and 163 of them between the ages of 60 and 82 - the researchers found the older folks, despite their aging brains, tested as well or better than the young ones.
The study's findings suggest ways to make life easier as we age. For instance, someone older may want to use aids, such as a calculator ,when making important financial decisions. Conversely, it may behoove youngsters to gain more life experience – or at least to seek advice – before they make big financial choices.