Why time seems to fly by as we age: ‘Rapid fire’ abilities of the young brain allow us to process more information during youth, causing the days to seem longer earlier in life
- Research suggests perception of experiences may be skewed as we get older
- This is likely due largely to the physical changes of our nerves and neurons
- Researcher says the older brain takes more time to process information
- Younger brains on the other hand can process more for the same amount of time
If it seems as though the days go by faster with each passing year, you’ve got your aging brain to blame.
New research suggests our perception of life experiences may be skewed as we get older and our brains require more time to process new mental images.
Earlier in life, on the other hand, the brain is able to take on new information in ‘rapid fire,’ allowing it to process more in the same span of time – making the days seem to last much longer than they might later on.
If it seems as though the days go by faster with each passing year, you’ve got your aging brain to blame. Stock image
WHAT IS A NEURON?
A neuron, also known as nerve cell, is an electrically excitable cell that takes up, processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals.
It is one of the basic elements of the nervous system. In order that a human being can react to his environment, neurons transport stimuli.
The stimulation, for example the burning of the finger at a candle flame, is transported by the ascending neurons to the central nervous system and in return, the descending neurons stimulate the arm in order to remove the finger from the candle.
A typical neuron is divided into three parts: the cell body, the dendrites and the axon. The cell body, the centre of the neuron, extends its processes called the axon and the dendrites to other cells.
Dendrites typically branch profusely, getting thinner with each branching. The axon is thin but can reach enormous distances.
The new hypothesis proposed by a Duke University researcher was published in a paper in the journal European Review this week.
According to Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke, the physical changes of our nerves and neurons play a major role in our perception of time as we age.
Over the years, these structures become more complex and eventually begin to degrade, creating more resistance to the electrical signals they receive.
‘People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth,’ said Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
‘It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.’
According to the researcher’s hypothesis, the degradation of these key neurological features causes the rate at which we acquire and process new information to decline.
Infants, for example, move their eyes much more often than adults because they’re processing images at a faster rate, Bejan says.
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For older people, this means fewer images are being processed in the same amount of time, causing experiences to seem as though they’re happening more quickly.
‘The human mind senses time changing when the perceived images change,’ Bejan said.
‘The present is different from the past because the mental viewing has changed, not because somebody’s clock rings.
‘Days seemed to last longer in your youth because the young mind receives more images during one day than the same mind in old age.’
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