Our Brains Don’t Slow With Age As Much As We Think
Our brains don’t slow down until much older than previously thought. Plus, there’s a useful method to train your brain to stay focused no matter what is going on around you.
Over the past few decades, studies have shown the speed at which the human brain can make simple decisions peaks in our twenties, with a rapid decline in mental speed as we get older.
But a new study out of Heidelberg University in Germany shows that our brain speed doesn’t slow down until our 60s.
This new study included more than 1 million participants and as the author of the study Dr. Mischa Von Krause, of Heidelberg University wrote, “Our results show that average levels in mental speed in contexts demanding fast and forced decisions do not decline until relatively late in the lifespan.”
It is true that the average time to give a correct answer peaks at about 20 years old. But the authors of this new study say the brains of older people are still fast, it’s their life experience that makes them more cautious when responding to a question. Put another way, a 20-year-old will confidently sacrifice accuracy for speed. But as the participants grew older, they made fewer mistakes until they hit age 60.
“It looks as though, in the course of our life, we don’t need to fear any substantial losses of mental speed – particularly not in the course of a typical working life,” Von Krause added.
Meanwhile, no matter what your age, in this modern era we face a constant barrage of distractions. So many that neuroscientist Amishi Jha argues that we miss about half our lives due to distractions. But in her recent book “Peak Mind: Find Your Focus,” she says you can retrain your brain.
Jha argues, first we should stop multitasking, telling Inc. Magazine you should think of your focus like a flashlight — it can’t shine in two places at the same time. Instead, engage in monotasking.
Secondly, take brain breaks throughout the day, using the “STOP” method:
S: stop what you are doing;
T: take a breath;
O: observe what is happening around you;
And finally, practice mindfulness. Take 12 minutes per day to focus on your breath, notice when your mind has wandered, redirect your attention back to your breath, and repeat. The goal isn’t to have no distractions, that’s impossible, but to notice when you are distracted and get back on track. Through this easy practice, Jha says you can retrain your brain to focus and get back the half of your life that is slipping away.
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