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Older brains are slower because they know too much

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German researcher Michael Ramscar of Tubingen University contends that the reason so many senior citizens are no longer able to “think” as fast as they used is because their brains are so filled with knowledge accumulated during their lifetimes and “not because of congnitive decline.”

“The brains of older people are not weak,” he told Britain’s The Independent. “On the contrary, they simply know more.”

"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 answer of course is no.” he added.

To prove his point, Ramscar and his colleagues simulated memories recall from different stages of life using computer models. According to his report, they found that the “models with less information stored in their memory banks were able to retrieve information more quickly (mirroring young adults),” while those packed full of data operated more slowly, (corresponding to older people).

"If I wanted to get the computer to look like an older adult, I had to keep all the words it learned in memory and let them compete for attention," added fellow Tübingen researcher Peter Hendrix.
They also analyzed the results of an earlier linguistics test in which youthful volunteers outperformed their older counterparts by recalling pairs of unrelated words such as “necktie” and “cracker,” coming to the conclusion that older adults’ having a better understanding of the language, which caused them to reject pairings that made no logical sense.

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