Why life begins to get confusing at 40

British Psychological Society Conference
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Researchers dealt a blow to the notion that life starts at 40 yesterday by declaring that the middle-aged suffer a sharp decline in brain power.

Researchers dealt a blow to the notion that life starts at 40 yesterday by declaring that the middle-aged suffer a sharp decline in brain power.

A study of more than 2,000 volunteers from 18 to 87 found the over-40s found it more difficult to perform simple tasks such as remembering numbers or recognising faces.

Between the ages of 40 and 50, brain power is reduced by 15 per cent compared to the age of 20, with a further slip of 17 per cent before the age of 70, the British Psychological Society meeting was told.

Professor Keith Wesnes, who runs a research company in Reading that did the study, said: "We clearly get worse with age. We remember less clearly than we used to and also it seems to take longer to make decisions. We don't concentrate as well or recognise things as quickly. People have traditionally linked this sort of thing with being in your 70s or 80s but we have found it is happening in your 40s and 50s.''

The study used a computer programme to test the reaction times and of volunteers to words, pictures and numbers.

The decline is thought to be caused by the wasting of neuro transmitters, proteins that dictate the speed with which the brain can carry out tasks. But Professor Wesnes gave some reassurance. "We are not talking about a complete loss of the ability to recognise a face, just that it will take quite a bit longer."

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