Cyberspace has been a-twitter about new research claiming our brains peak at age 24 and it’s downhill from there.
Uh….not really true.
Joe Thompson, a psychology doctoral student at Simon Fraser University, has led a team of researchers and is the First Author of a doctoral dissertation that examines cognitive motor performance in 3,305 sixteen to forty-four year olds playing the online game Star Craft 2. Very interestingly, Thompson points out to KTRH News, there were only 29 female volunteers out of the more than 3-thousand.
“Star Craft is a lot like a game of high speed chess, except unlike chess you can’t see the whole board. Imagine you’re playing on a globe of the world and you have to move the globe to see one country at a time. In Star Craft, you have to move your screen around a lot to control your armies,” Thompson tells KTRH News. “You have to perform these fast actions in order to move your army and try to conquer other armies. So the ability we’re interested in is to make really fast actions that are meaningful in this really complex game. And so that’s the ability to shift your screen and then do something. And it’s important to know this cognitive functioning in Star Craft is a complex task. When you’re talking about complex tasks like Star Craft, we might not observe the same thing if were studying hockey. We don’t know about that.”
Thompson says as our lives become increasingly computer-mediated (that’s a cool word!) we are leaving digital footprints; the files that have recorded every move we have made that offer insight into our ability to perceive, process and react. He calls that a treasure trove for future psychologists and researchers.
As with most research, Thompson says, it will require more study to fully understand this very dynamic process.
“It’s an interesting study. It allows us to sample a significant part of the population in doing a specific task. And that’s one of these problems with studies on aging,” Dr. Jonathan Garza, head of neurology for Kelsey-Seybold, told KTRH News after reading Thompson’s press release. “When we try to study specific tasks it’s hard to tease out what is a cognitive decline vs. what is skill set development. It’s hard to see if there’s really a decline in these functions between age groups because as people become more experienced with a task they become better at it, which is what the brain does in general.”
Thompson’s study does say that among the older set who participated in the study, though their motor skills slow down they play, ergo think, more efficiently.