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Psychol Aging. 2009 Mar;24(1):1-16. doi: 10.1037/a0014986.

Cognitive and sensory declines in old age: gauging the evidence for a common cause.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany.


Resource accounts of behavioral aging postulate that age-associated impairments within and across intellectual and sensory domains reflect, in part, a common set of senescent alterations in the neurochemistry and neuroanatomy of the aging brain. Hence, these accounts predict sizeable correlations of between-person differences in rates of decline, both within and across intellectual and sensory domains. The authors examined reliability-adjusted variances and covariances in longitudinal change for 8 cognitive measures and for close visual acuity, distant visual acuity, and hearing in 516 participants in the Berlin Aging Study (ages 70 to 103 years at 1st measurement). Up to 6 longitudinal measurements were distributed over up to 13 years. Individual differences in rates of cognitive decline were highly correlated, with a single factor accounting for 60% of the variance in cognitive change. This amount increased to 65% when controlling for age at first measurement, distance to death, and risk of dementia. Contrary to expectations, the correlations between cognitive and sensory declines were only moderate in size, underscoring the need to delineate both domain-general and function-specific mechanisms of behavioral senescence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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