Exercising the Brain to Avoid Cognitive Decline

Examining the Evidence

William E Reichman; Alexandra J Fiocco; Nathan S Rose


Aging Health. 2010;6(5):565-584. 

In This Article

Normal & Pathological Cognitive Aging

Over the last few decades, a large body of research has been conducted to identify those changes in cognition that represent the normally aging brain by contrast to those that may be evidence of brain pathology.[3] The areas of cognition that are often examined in this context include memory, language, visuospatial ability, speed of information processing, attention and executive functioning. To assess these different domains, neuropsychologists use a broad portfolio of testing paradigms that tap into various cognitive functions. As it is beyond the scope of this article to review these specific methods, there are a number of very comprehensive references for the interested reader.[4] Despite the conclusions that have been drawn from the literature in normal aging and cognition, it is important to recognize some caveats. The majority of research in this area has been cross-sectional in nature, comparing one age group's performance to another. Any differences between younger versus older participants could be in part, owing to cohort-specific effects. Further longitudinal research involving specific age cohorts would be informative in this regard. In addition, much of the data reported to support age-related changes in cognition describe mean group differences in test performance. However, great individual variability in cognitive ability is often seen within specific age groups.