Scientists commonly believe that cognitive functions such as executive function, attention, and reasoning skills decrease while we age. Recent research has been investigating to challenge this belief and advises that executive functions and orientations may improve with age. Scientists recommend that training our brain can help boost cognitive function. For many years, most studies showed that older people experience a decline in cognitive function. But, new research published in Nature Human Behaviour suggests that it may not be completely true. The scientists discovered that instead of seeing a decline in all cognitive functions among older people. They showed improvement in some areas.

About Cognitive Functioning

The American Psychological Association describes cognitive functioning as the performance of the mental processes of perception, memory, learning, awareness, understanding, intuition, language, and judgment. Flexible thinking, self-control, and working memory are considered cognitive functioning including executive functions. People who have neurological diseases may experience deficiencies in these cognitive functions. Researchers explained executive function as a critical process that permits us to concentrate on specific aspects of information in a goal-directed manner while avoiding unnecessary information. This set of functions is extremely important for daily life and helps many higher-level cognitive skills. They pointed out that when people stop making cognitive functioning progress will begin experiencing a decline. A few experts believe that memory is one of the most affected brain functions in older people.

Research on Functioning Skills 

The recent research shows a less negative representation compared to other studies. The new research demonstrated that older people can improve in certain areas. In this study 702 participants age between 58 to 98 took part and were examined by scientists for three cognitive functions:

  • Orienting
  • Alerting
  • Executive inhibition

Dr. João Veríssimo explained that they practiced all three cognitive processes constantly. Orienting happens when you switch your attention to a sudden movement such as a pedestrian. Alerting is the increased preparedness when you reach an intersection. Executive function permits you to prevent distractions that include billboards or birds. Hence, you can stay concentrated on driving.

Scientists examined the functioning of the people using the computer-based Attention Network Test (ANT). They monitored how participants reacted to the target stimulus shown on the computer screen. The research stated that ANT can simultaneously estimate the efficiency of all three networks. Though past studies showed that all three processes declined with age, scientists discovered that only alerting abilities declined. The other two cognitive processes (orienting and executive inhibition) improved. Dr. Ullman stated that the results of the study were excellent and have important results for how people view aging. However, the results from the study showed that critical components of these abilities may improve while we age and need to practice these skills throughout our life.

Improve Cognitive Functioning

The study shows that executive processes and orienting can be improved with  age. However, the recent study did not attempt to identify how they can improve cognitive functioning, said author Dr. João Veríssimo. Cognitive abilities may be improved through diverse activities. He said more data is needed to prove that cognitive abilities can be improved while we age. Researchers are required to conduct more studies to understand completely which activities help people keep their brains working best while they age.