NewsThe Aging Brain

Starting young

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Science  31 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6209, pp. 568-571
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6209.568

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Summary

In 1932 and 1947, Scottish education researchers hoping to measure and track the nation's intelligence required nearly every 11-year-old in the country to take an IQ test, a rare nationwide assessment called the Scottish Mental Surveys. About 50 years later, more than 1000 surviving members of this group, called the Lothian Birth Cohort, were invited by cognitive psychologist Ian Deary to take the same test, to see whether they had maintained their youthful wit or had begun to exhibit cognitive decline. After readministering the test and a range of other cognitive and physical evaluations over 10 years, Deary and colleagues have found that an individual's level of intelligence at age 11 is the most powerful predictor of late-life cognitive ability—not diet, social engagement, or any other virtuous activity. Although the Lothian studies don't rule out the potential benefits of late-life interventions, they underscore an important lesson about cognitive aging: To do it well, you need to start young.