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Effects of Aging on Cognitive Development

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Effects of Aging on Cognitive Development

LeAnn Carthel

PSYCH 640

November 9, 2015

Christopher Wessinger


Effects of Aging on Cognitive Development

Press Release: Aging and the Normal Cognitive Decline.

Processing speed means the rate at which a human can learn something new, come to some kind of  judgment on the information and then formulate a response (Walker, 2014). Recent studies show that there may be some wear on the white matter of the brain, which is made up of axons that connect parts of the brain to other parts. When the axons start to break down information cannot travel, it slows the processing.  Research has proven that even under the best of circumstances, aging will have an effect on cognitive development. Although there is an age related decline, there is a need for more research in order to understand why there is such a decline.

A common misconception is that the loss of cognitive abilities is inevitable with the aging process, and that nothing can help to stop it. Even with a decline in some areas, there are other areas that stay unaffected. One area that is affected is an individual's memory. Not all memories are affected but they can be slower to recall. Attention spans can become shorter with aging. The speed at which an individual processes information is slower, which causes a slower response time.

There are several factors that have been found to affect cognitive decline in the aging. Diseases that affect the flow of the vascular system slows the blood flow to the white matter of the brain causing the breakdown of the axons. Depression and anxiety alter an individual's mood and their motivation. Medications that cause cognitive impairment are often overlooked in favor of medical illness or just a factor of old age. The most common of  medications that dulls the mental processes are sleeping pills, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and opioid or pain killers. As one ages their body is more susceptible to the drug-induced delirium or dementia. This is caused by the body functions slowing down, and therefore the body cannot expel the drugs from their bodies causing a buildup. Many health problems come with age too, so there are often many medications as well, some of which contradict others causing side effects to become more severe.

Slowing the age related cognitive decline may be easier than you think. Everyone is familiar with the phrase "use it or lose it", well it is the same concept with the brain functions. An individual's body is continually changing with age, especially the brain. There are activities that will help these changes and also help the individual adapt to the aging changes (Scholten, 2014).  Staying socially active helps prevent or at least slow the cognitive decline. Individuals that live alone have a higher risk because of less stimulating surroundings, therefore there is a breeding ground for the decline. Continuing to learn new things keep the brain active. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, staying in mentally stimulating situations have been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer's. Mental stimulating activities include reading, card games, crossword puzzles, and outings with friends. Exercise has also shown to improve cognitive function.

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