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Brain decline can start in 40s

6th January 2012

Researchers say the brain’s ability to function can start to deteriorate as early as the age of 45.

A University College London study published in the British Medical Journal found a 3.6% decline in mental reasoning in women and men aged 45-49.

Earlier research had indicated that brain function did not begin to deteriorate until people were in their 60s.

The research team say the findings could have implications for Alzheimer’s disease because dementia treatments are more likely to work at the time when individuals start to experience mental impairment.

The UCL researchers assessed memory, vocabulary and comprehension functions of 5,198 men and 2,192 women aged 45-70, who were all UK civil servants, from 1997 to 2007 and found a 9.6% decline in mental reasoning in men aged 65-70, a 7.4% decline for women of the same age, and a 3.6% decline for men and women in the 45-49 group.

Professor Archana Singh-Manoux from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France, who led the UCL research team, said: “We now need to look at who experiences cognitive decline more than the average and how we stop the decline. Some level of prevention is definitely possible.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said that while the study added to the debate on when cognitive decline began, it left some questions unanswered.

“The study does not tell us whether any of these people went on to develop dementia, nor how feasible it would be for GPs to detect these early changes,” said the charity’s research manager Dr Anne Corbett.

 

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