Brains of older people are slower 'because they have stored up more information over time'
Scientists at Tübingen University, Germany say, older brains aren't weaker
Instead believe they are just slower due to years of stored up information
Say many tests used to determine brain power of elderly favour the young
By Lizzie Edmonds
PUBLISHED: 16:09 EST, 20 January 2014
Older people's brains are slower as they have more stored information, scientists have found
Elderly people's brains are slower because they have stored up more information, researchers have said today.
Scientists from Tübingen University in Germany believe the human brain works slower in old age as it has to process a lifetime of stored-up information to recall simple facts.
They say their research proves instead of being weak - older brains are in fact more powerful.
The team used computers to study cognitive development in age.
They programmed a computer to learn new words and commands on a daily basis by 'reading' - much like a human would learn.
The researchers said cognitive tests conducted on a computers which hadn't read much were comparable to the brains of a young adult - but those that read more were more like an elderly person's.
The 'older' computer was certainly slower, researchers said, but only because its database had grown and it was having to process more information.
They said their findings also explain why older people are often more forgetful.
Dr. Michael Ramscar from the university said: 'The human brain works slower in old age but only because we have stored more information over time
'The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more.'
Speaking with the Telegraph, the scientist added: 'Imagine someone who knows two people’s birthdays and can recall them almost perfectly.
'Would you really want to say that person has a better memory than a person who knows the birthdays of 2000 people, but can ‘only’ match the right person to the right birthday nine times out of ten?'
The study was published in the Journal of Topics in Cognitive Science.
In the study, the team remarked that certain tests used to determine older people's mentality regularity favour the young.
Certain cognitive tests favour young people who do not have so much 'stored' information, the study found
In one particular test, called 'paired associated learning', people are asked to remember pairs of random objects.
The scientists say this test is more difficult for older people - as, over their lifetime, they have learned the two objects never go together and so struggle to remember them as a couple.
Prof. Harald Baayen, who heads group who conducted the research added: 'The fact that older adults find nonsense pairs harder to learn than young adults simply demonstrates older adults’ much better understanding of language.
'They have to make more of an effort to learn unrelated word pairs because, unlike the youngsters, they know a lot about which words don’t belong together.'