Your brain reaches its ‘cognitive peak’ - the time it is strongest - at age 35, according to a study, but begins to decline by the mid-40s. Researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich have studied thousands of chess games over the past 130 years to see if our brains develop with age.
They found a “hump-shaped curve” in the analysis chart in human cognitive performance when measured over the average lifespan - it increases sharply by age 20, peaks at 35, and then decreases gradually by age 45.
We’re getting smarter as a genre, according to the team that has discovered an increase in chess playing performance over the past 125 years. Uwe Sunde and his colleagues analyzed more than 1.6 million moves in more than 24,000 professional chess games between 1890 and 2014. The authors compared every move made by the players with the optimum move suggested by a computer-based chess engine to measure performance.
Over its lifetime, performance increased sharply into the early 20s, peaking in about 35 years and dropping after 45 years. The main challenge of measuring such life cycle performance models and their dynamics over time is related to establishing a reliable measurement. The authors said this measure should be comparable between individuals and over time and should not be affected by changes in technology or other environmental factors.
‘This provides a precise and comparable measurement of individual performance for the same individual at different ages over long periods of time,’ the team said. It does so by exploiting the advantage of a strictly comparable task and a comparison with an identical performance benchmark. ‘Over the past 125 years, performance has improved, especially for individuals less than 20 years of age,’ the team wrote.
Performance in particular rose fastest in the 1990s when chess engines in home computers became more widely available. Players were suddenly able to challenge themselves against a machine that knew the best possible moves in any situation and could improve by playing.
According to the authors, the emergence of chess engines and online gaming opportunities in recent years could help players accumulate more chess knowledge and prepare for early in life.
The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.