Your Brain Starts Faltering After You Reach Age ... 24

Sorry to break it to you, TSwift. At least in terms of cognitive functioning while playing StarCraft 2, you're finished.
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Sorry to break it to you, TSwift. At least in terms of cognitive functioning while playing StarCraft 2, you're finished.
Her brain is practically dead. (Photo: omghidanielle/Flickr)

Her brain is practically dead. (Photo: omghidanielle/Flickr)

Some heartbreaking news for Taylor Swift fans. And Kristen Stewart fans. And fans of anyone who's age 24 or above.

You may have thought their brains had more time. Maybe to get a real job, or to do something truly substantial with their lives. You may have thought they had until they started asking their future teenage children several times in close succession if they'd ever seen that old movie Twilight.

"The veneer of stable competence in mid-life masks genuine adult development; cognitive-motor decline begins even in the midst of continuing brain growth."

But no. Life, that cruel beast: Cognitive performance is all downhill from that sweet precipice of 24. Your brain is already melting. It has officially lurched into its gradual transformation into complete antiquated mush. You'll never be at your peak cognitive state again.

That's the conclusion of a new study in PLoS One published last week by psychology researcher Joseph Thompson and his colleagues at Canada's Simon Fraser University. The team tracked and measured the performance of 3,305 subjects (between the ages of 16 and 44) who played the nerdy "real-time strategy" computer game StarCraft 2. "Using a piecewise regression analysis, we find that age-related slowing of within-game, self-initiated response times begins at 24 years of age," the authors write. In other words, older players took longer to respond to new visual playing conditions before taking action. And, according to the study, it was "a significant performance deficit," which likely has consequences even outside abstruse digital space wars.

The paper does not focus on biological causes, but the authors speculate that the shift might have to do with changing brain "ratios of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) to choline (Cho)" that coincide with the early twenties.

"The veneer of stable competence in mid-life masks genuine adult development; cognitive-motor decline begins even in the midst of continuing brain growth," the authors conclude. "Rather than stability, we have lifelong flux." Carpe diem.

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