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Does IQ drop with age or does something else impact intelligence?

CLEVELAND--If college students had to perform under conditions that mimic the perception deficits many older people have, their IQ scores would take a drop.

As people grow older, do they really lose intelligence or is something else happening that drives down IQ scores? It was a question that researchers asked in the lab during two coding experiments to test out their hypothesis that older people suffer perception problems that impair their abilities to perform well on intelligence tests.

Grover C. Gilmore, professor of psychology and dean of Case's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, led the National Institute of Health-funded investigation, "Age Effects in Coding Tasks: Componential Analysis and Test of the Sensory Deficit Hypothesis." Findings from the experiments are reported in the April issue of the American Psychological Association's journal, Psychology and Aging. Other investigators are Ruth A. Spinks and Cecil W. Thomas.

"Even subtle deficits, such as a reduction in spatial contrast sensitivity, can impair performance on intelligence tests," concludes Gilmore.

Perception deficits gradually appear over the life span of individuals and seem to reach problem levels in older adults and can greatly impact functions in people with dementia or other cognitive-impaired conditions.

The researchers conducted two coding experiments in Case's Perception Lab in the psychology department in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In the first experiment, the researchers tested a group of 30 normal college students of approximately 20 years old and 30 older adults with an average age of 70 years for their ability to encode, remember and search for visual symbols. Each group was given a series of symbol-digit substitution tests, much like an alphabet code that corresponds to a number (example: A is 1, and B is 2). Instead of letters, numbers were matched to a mixture of geometric forms, lines and diagonals in very s
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Contact: Susan Griffith
susan.griffith@case.edu
216-368-1004
Case Western Reserve University
1-May-2006


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