Neural mechanisms of ageing and cognitive

Neural mechanisms of ageing and cognitive















Effects of Aging on Cognitive Development

Mary Oliver

PSYCH / 640

Dr. Paulette Pitt

March 9, 2015











Effects of Aging on Cognitive Development


Aging is a natural process that occurs when individuals grow older. Many people have the misconception that aging mean disease, disability, deterioration, and degeneration (Jeste, 2010). Some common thoughts around aging are based largely around the burden on society, regarding health care. Along with aging, there come many different problems. For example, aging can have an effect on one’s cognitive development. When aging occurs, cognitive decline becomes the biggest threat to the aging. Cognitive decline has come forth as one of the greatest health threats of the aging, with nearly 50% of adults over the age of 85 being affected with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (Bishop & Yankner, 2010). This paper will discuss the effects of aging on cognitive development as well as provide two examples of research to support this point.

Cognitive Decline of the Aging

Some of common cognitive issues that the aging face includes learning disabilities, problems with concentration, and changes in memory. These common issues are known as cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairments are a change or lack of cognitive abilities. This can occur in children as well as with adults. A person that suffers from cognitive impairments has difficulty functioning normally and effectively. This is due to issues that have occurred within the brain. These risks due to cognitive impairment increases as the individual starts to age. The individual’s physical health and some parts of cognitive functioning are altered with aging. As with aging working memory and psychomotor speed has also being shown to decline with aging.

As people get older, they often experience an increase in wisdom, effective decision making skills, and increased creativity as one matures (Jeste, 2012).

Cognitive decline has increased as the life expectancy of the elderly population has increased. For example, cognitive decline has increased and as a result more cases of Alzheimer’s disease around the world have risen. An estimated 50% of adults, over the age of 85, in the United States suffer from AD. AD is a brain disease that is a type of dementia that can create problems a loss of brain functioning. Individuals with AD suffer from memory, thinking, and behavior issues that gradually get worse over time. The most common of these risk factors of AD is aging (Bishop & Yankner, 2010). Studies of the human brain have allowed researchers to identify pertinent data about parts of the brain most affected by aging, which creates structural and neuro-physiological changes. For example, cognitive functioning weaken as one age, creating an increase in performance, lack of unification in neural activity in some regions of the brain and prefrontal cortex, causing the neural activity to become limited (Bishop & Yankner, 2010).

Brain’s Attention and Memory

Cognitive functioning most impacted by aging are attention and memory, differing from person to person (Naveh-Benjamin, Moscovitch, & Roediger, 2002). Attention is the process of noticing things around the person and involves every cognitive process. Attention that has start to decline alters an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis. Older adults experiencing impaired attention process, particularly when it comes to splitting or switching their attentional direction to multiple task (Naveh-Benjamin et al., 2002). These older adults tend to become distracted easily and unable to concentrate over a long period of time. As adults become older, they often tend to lack abilities in several areas such as focus, concentration, or remembering things clearly. These individuals often struggle to process information, make rational decisions, and rely heavily on more basic cognitive functioning to survive. For example, working memory becomes short-term memory that focuses on the conscious. It concentrates on the process of storing information as well as manipulating that information. The working memory ultimately becomes impaired due to changes in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex however is involved in the manipulation process as well as updating information in working memory (Naveh-Benjamin et. al, 2002).

Moreover, aging is associated with disabilities and neuroscience research has analyzed the neuroplasticity for aging. It has demonstrated that brain growth and development can prosper as people age. The research posits that positive outcomes can be accomplished based on one’s behaviors, attitudes, and settings. Generally when older people maintain their health in regards to one’s body, their brains help them remain active tend to stay productive. Cognitive development into late years can be maintained and improved through healthy dieting and nutrition, remaining active, formulating a positive attitude, expanding learning of new skills, reducing stress, and taking up a motivating hobby. An example of a motivating hobby that can be used to acquire and maintain skills would be board games such as scrabble, beginners’ computer classes, and supervised beginners’ aerobics. An important factor to remember is even as we age it is never too late to increase our cognitive and emotional well-being (Jeste, 2012).


The aging process is natural and it takes places as individuals grow older. The risk for cognitive decline as well as impairments increase as one age. Some common cognitive issues that occur with aging include problems with concentration, memory, and learning disabilities. As part of aging working memory and psychomotor speeds have been proven to decline but psychosocial functioning can be improved as well. Cognitive declines over a lifespan has increased due to life expectancy of the aging has increased. Research on the human being has proven significantly towards information that may ultimately have an impact on the aging. Some cognitive functioning that has been impacted the most includes attention and memory and is often associated with some form of disability. Meanwhile, neuroscience research has interpret that neuroplasticity of aging to determine that brain growth and development can be prospers for those aging adults.














Bishop, N., Lu, T., & Yankner, B. (2010). Neural mechanisms of ageing and cognitive

decline.  Nature, 464(7288), 529-35. Retrieved from

Jeste, D. (2012). Successful cognitive and emotional aging. Psychiatric News, 47(5),

16-16, 30. Retrieved from

Naveh-Benjamin, M., Moscovitch, M. & Roediger, H. (2002). Perspectives on human memory and cognitive aging: Essays in honour of Fergus Craik. Psychology Press. Philadelphia, PA

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