Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
June 2010 Issue
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Brain speed linked to quality of life


Researchers at the University of Adelaide are seeking women aged 60 and over for a new study into whether a quick mind can benefit people's quality of life while ageing.

The researchers, in the University's School of Psychology, are aiming to recruit 200 women to take part in the study, which could hold important clues about the impact of the brain's processing ability on our daily lives.

"Our previous studies have shown that elderly people with slower processing abilities are more likely to experience cognitive decline and problems in their everyday lives," said Research Associate Dr Tess Gregory.

"Those who show marked changes in their processing speed over a short period of time are also more likely to experience these problems.

"For example, people with slower speed of processing experienced more problems with cognitive outcomes, such as poorer memory and reasoning skills, as well as everyday functioning, including financial management, management of medications and food preparation. This can have a big impact on people's lives, which is why we need to better understand the processes involved," Dr Gregory said.

The Adelaide researchers are investigating a specific measure of brain processing speed that has been developed in the School of Psychology, called Inspection Time (IT).

"Although we now know that older people with a slow Inspection Time are more likely to have problems with their memory and everyday functioning in the future, we still don't know with accuracy what a 'slow inspection time' for an individual at a specific age is," said Professor Ted Nettelbeck, one of the leaders of the research along with Associate Professor Nick Burns (also from the School of Psychology) and Professor Gary Wittert (Discipline of Medicine).

"Over the past three years we've been collecting IT scores from men in a large study to help answer this question. But as men and women get older, their IT scores vary. We now need to compare those results by studying women."

Professor Nettelbeck said this research may help to identify people who have a slow IT for their age who may therefore be at risk for future problems in memory or everyday functioning.

"If we can identify these individuals early, there may be opportunities to intervene before problems arise," he said.

Women aged 60+ years who are living in metropolitan Adelaide are needed to volunteer for the study. It will involve completing a cognitive task and a brief questionnaire, which will take a total of 30 minutes.

To take part in the study, women should call Dr Tess Gregory on (08) 8303 3055 and leave their contact details.

Story by David Ellis

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