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Rachel Cab
Medical Intern
Mar 2, 2020
Normal Cognitive Aging
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Not all cognitive abilities decline with age. Some abilities, such as vocabulary, even improve as we age. However, for most cognitive abilities, such as memory, reasoning, and abstract thinking decline with increasing age. These changes in cognition occur with corresponding structural changes in the brain.

As we age, we experience changes in our cognitive abilities. Not all cognitive abilities decline during aging. For example, cognitive abilities such as vocabulary is not affected by brain aging and may even improve through the years. Most cognitive abilities, however, decline gradually over time. These include conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. Memory decline is one of the most common cognitive challenges among the elderly. Changes in memory may be due to delayed processing speed or less use of strategies in learning and memory. Acquisition of new information declines as we age but the retention of successfully learned information is preserved in healthy adults. Memory retrieval, which is the ability to access newly learned data, also declines during aging. Visual construction skills decline over time but the ability to perceive familiar objects remains intact. Abstract thinking and executive functions requiring fast motor component decline with age. These changes in the cognitive abilities in aging are accompanied by structural changes in the brain. For instance, the grey matter shrinks as early as after 20 years of age. White matter also decreases in size with increasing age.