Your Brain Starts Turning to Mush at Age 24

Illustration for article titled Your Brain Starts Turning to Mush at Age 24

The other day, I read a red carpet interview with Kate Upton wherein she remarked that a character she's playing in the upcoming film The Other Woman is "young and naive, like I was once." Kate Upton is 21.


As it turns out, all my just-shy-of-a-decade-her-senior scoffing was off base. Kate Upton isn't, like I initially suspected, so young and naive that she has no idea how young and naive she is. In fact, Kate Upton and her 21-year-old peers' mental ability is in its salad days now. In just three short years, at 24, Kate Upton's brain will begin to slow down. As will everyone's.

We are all slowly dying.

New research from Simon Fraser University in Canada found that cognitive decline, or the part of your life when you start geting moar stupider, begins much earlier than we thought. Or feared. Or hoped. Researchers had more than 3300 people between the ages of 16 and 44 perform a series of tasks that tested cognitive function and ability to multitask and found, predictably, that people got worse at it as they aged. But they also found that the dropoff in ability to mentally deal deftly with life starts happening at 24. For every 15 years beyond age 24, the researchers found a 15% drop in cognitive ability. As TIME notes, this isn't entirely a bad thing, since older brains can compensate for a lack of nimbleness by relying on experience and other mental shortcuts.

But on the other hand, if people in their early twenties aren't as stupid as we ("we" = older people who are mean about people in their early twenties acting dumb sometimes) think they are, perhaps it's time to rethink how we assess our own years of youthful naiveté. What if everything we thought was stupid about people in their very early twenties — living with six roommates in the East Village, standing in line outside waiting to get into clubs, Coachella — is actually a sign of a robust mind teeming with kinetic thought power?




I had serious problems with reading comprehension that suddenly resolved when I turned 28. When I turned 29, I suddenly understood the trigonometry that I couldn't understand at all in high school. I could not remember directions or landmarks until I was 30. I was barely able to pass foreign language classes in high school and college, and now that I am 32, I am FINALLY learning Spanish in a useful and functional way. I swear on all that is anecdotal and meaningful that I became a much better learner once I hit my late twenties than I was when I was younger. It is possible that I just had learning disabilities that magically fixed themselves, but I'm a teacher, and none of the learning disability literature I've ever read has ever suggested that learning disabilities can spontaneously resolve well into adulthood.

Anybody else experience a late-blooming brain?