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Seniors scoring better on intelligence tests

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Researchers attribute seniors' improvement in cognitive abilities to better health care and education.

It’s not just children who are scoring higher on intelligence tests compared with decades past. Researchers in Sweden say that today’s 70-year-olds score far better on intelligence tests than did their predecessors, according to research from the University of Gothenburg, published in Neurology.

The researchers used 40 years worth of data that had been collected on seniors’ memory, speed, language, logic and spatial awareness in an effort to identify people at risk of developing dementia.

They compared test results from 800 septuagenarians born in 1930 and tested in 2000 with those born in 1901-02 and tested in 1971.

“The improvement can partly be explained by better pre- and neonatal care, better nutrition, higher quality of education, better treatment of high blood pressure and other vascular diseases, and not least the higher intellectual requirements of today’s society, where access to advanced technology, television and the Internet has become part of everyday life,” says study co-author Simona Sacuiu, resident in psychiatry at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and medical researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Unit of Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology.

The study showed that memory problems were the only predictor of which 70-year-olds were at risk of developing dementia. Among the over 800 dementia-free 70-year-olds in the study, 5 percent later developed dementia. 



Sacuiu, S. "Secular changes in cognitive predictors of dementia and mortality in 70-year-olds." Neurology (2010). doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f0


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