The unfortunate reality is that as people age, many areas of your brain begin to function less reliably. Most people know that brain function decreases as you age, but fewer people are aware of why these cognitive problems start to happen, and what exactly happens to our brains as we get older. Here is an explanation of three of the main reasons why brain function tends to decrease as we age:
1. Attentiveness Decreases
One reason that brain function tends to decrease as we age is that aging causes our attention to be hindered. These attention problems are particularly bad when it comes to multitasking. The elderly have more trouble switching between different tasks, primarily because their ability to process information rapidly and divide their attention decrease. (The Aging Brain) Brain function regarding split attention usually peaks in the early twenties, while older people have trouble with these tasks and often show lower attention spans in general.
2. Visual Perception Gets Worse
Another problem for our brains as we age is that our visual perception abilities, especially the ability to judge spatial relationships, shows significant decline with age. In particular, people aged 80 and older begin to see the most rapid decrease in visual perceptiveness. Additionally, visual scanning ability, which refers to the ability to pick out a specific object among many, often sees a noticeable decline in the elderly. These problems with visual perception are one of the principle reasons that elderly people begin to have difficulty performing driving-related tasks.
3. All that Stored Information Slows Our Brains
Recent research has begun to suggest that one of the main reasons older people show a general decrease in brain function is that the amount of information, primarily memories, that are by then stored in their brain causes it to slow, like a computer running out of storage space.
One team of researchers from Germany’s Tubingen University actually used computers to study cognitive degeneration with age, which helped them to determine that the amount of information stored in older brains causes them to function more slowly. (Brains of Older People Are Slower Because of Stored Information) However, their research also suggests that the idea that our brains “weaken,” as we age isn’t true at all. On the contrary, our brains contain more knowledge as we age, which makes them more powerful in a sense; the only thing that causes them to slow down is the excess information stored.