At What Age Do Our Brains Peak? Brain Speed, Memory, Focus and Other Details
I am a huge baseball fan and I always watch my favorite players get traded away or pushed aside as they age. They are still younger than me but there is no doubt they are slowing down. Statistics tell us that baseball players peak around age 29. But what about memory? What age do our brains peak?
I never competed in a USA Memory Championship until the age of 34 (2008) and never won until I was 35 (2009). If what you hear is true this is an odd time for my brain and memory to be peaking. And here is another truth. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I just started competing then and I could have done much better in my 20s or teens.
Today at the age of 42 I wonder a lot about at what age do our brains peak. So I’ve been doing research the topic of what age do our brains peak?
According to a recent study on brain decline it suggests that the brain declines in different ways at different ages and in regards to at what age do our brains peak the answer is: Well, it’s different for different areas.
To get some answers, psychologists Joshua Hartshorne and Laura Germine tested 21,926 people aged 10 to 71 who had visited the website TestMyBrain.org. There, participants were tested on vocabulary, the ability to encode strings of numbers into symbols, something called the “mind in the eyes” test, an emotion-recognition test which asks people to identify someone’s feelings using only a picture of their eyes, and working memory—that is, the ability to recall recently viewed objects.
This research showed that some areas of your brain peak around age 18 or 19. That was a tough blow for me to hear. But it did make sense. I don’t see many speed solving a Rubic’s Cube at 40. On the other hand maybe only 18 year old find it interesting? 40 year old have to pay bills and raise families. Is it different priorities or different brains? At what age do our brains peak?
For example in the study about 19-20 year olds did best at areas that involved number to symbol coding and frankly this is what the memory world relies on. Creating an image for the number 782 (for me it is a coffin), 289 (for me it is a Navy Pier) or 986 (for me it is beef jerky) is the corner stone of the memory world when it comes to remembering numbers or playing cards. So if this is true then 19 to 20 year old are at the peak brain level for this number to symbol coding.
Then the question must arise, ‘Does this mean 19 to 20 year olds win the most memory tournaments?’ The answer is a resounding NO. In the USA it has never happened to my knowledge.
David Thomas, Joshua Foer, Chester Santos, myself, Scott Hagwood and Ram Kolli I believe were all at least in our 30s at the time of our wins.
Nelson Dellis the current 4 time champ was in his 20s (at least for his initial wins) I believe. Tatiana Cooley was in her 20s
So here you have everyone after their peak in symbol to number memory winning this tournament. Why? Several factors:
1. To win a memory tournament it is more than just raw naturally ability. It is the discipline to sit down and train for hours and hours for months or years. Rarely will a 17-19 year old have this discipline.
2. They haven’t heard about the tournaments
3. Winning a memory tournament is also about strategy and perhaps this is an area that peaks later
4. Symbol to number memory may peak at 19-20 but other areas of the brain don’t.
So while it is demonstrated that symbol to number memory peak at 19-20 the same study on ‘what age do our brains peak’ showed that working memory peaks between the mid 20s to mid 30s and working memory is certainly a factor in memory tournaments. A big one.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding mental athletes currently is Jonas von Essen who won the World Memory Championships at age 22.
Other areas of the brain seemed to reach their peak in their 40s (good news for me). Such as the ‘Mind in the Eyes‘ test where participants were able to gauge what a person was feeling by looking in their eyes.
What age do our brains peak? Really what the study showed most of all is that certain areas of the brain do peak at general ages. This is true. But it also showed that it isn’t all at the same age. Some abilities are going to peak at different ages so that makes sense.
Do I think we will see USA Memory Champions or World Memory Champions in their 40s? Perhaps, although the youngsters in the USA such as Alex Mullen (currently ranked #17 in the world and 6th in the world for speed cards) are going to make it very very tough. The torch seems to be theirs for now.
So what age do our brains peak? No matter what age you are be the best 40 year old you can be. Be the best 50 year old you can be. Be the best 60 year old you can be.
You can always improve and you can always get better.
I still plan to compete in memory tournaments and push myself. Who am I? My name is Ron White here is my website (Ron White Memory) click here
Don’t focus on what age do our brains peak but instead focus on how can you maximize your brain potential.