TUESDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Healthy brain nerve
connections as you age may be a key to retaining intelligence later
in life, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found
that older people with robust brain wiring (white matter, or nerve
fibers that connect different, distant brain areas) processed
information quickly, a sign of intelligence.
The study of 420 people who were born in 1936 and have been
followed since they were 11 years old also found that those with
brain wiring in poor condition had slower processing speeds, which
also can impact thinking abilities.
The study suggests that deterioration of white matter with age
is likely a significant cause of age-related mental decline, and
that intelligence is not found in a single part of the brain,
"Our results suggest a first plausible way how brain structure
differences lead to higher intelligence," study author Lars Penke
said in a university news release. "The results are exciting for
our understanding of human intelligence differences at all
In the study, researchers measured seniors' performance on timed
tests and how much water is in brain tissue, which they say is a
window into the condition of the white matter.
"This research is very exciting, as it could have a real impact
on tackling mental decline in later life, including dementia,"
James Goodwin, head of research at the charity Age UK, said in the
news release. "With new understanding of how the brain functions,
we can work out why mental faculties decline with age in some
people and not others, and look at what can be done to improve our
minds' chances of aging better."
Age UK funded the study, which was published in the journal
The Society for Neuroscience has more about
healthy brain aging.
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