Daniel Lemire's blog

, 6 min read

Do we lose intelligence and creativity as we grow older?

7 thoughts on “Do we lose intelligence and creativity as we grow older?”

  1. Djamé says:

    I’ve always been thinking that all things being equal, the real productivity killer is the fact that when people get older, it’s usually means they have more responsibilities, a growing family (especially in academia when permanent and stable position tend to be reached around 35-40, the family stuff comes later, the babies around 40-42) which takes all your free time and your energy. Anyway, academics tends to stabilize around 35-40. Then the time it takes for the kids to leave you alone (or divorce to arrive) you can easily go up to 47-50. Then miraculously comes back the productivity, the creativity they’re talking about in that study.

    Yeah, yeah, it’s a rant from a family dad who gave up yet another deadline because everyone was sick for weeks in his family.
    My brain is fine, not my sleep and certainly not my peace of mind.


  2. There was an old science fiction story with the premise that once you did anything sufficiently creative, the world conspired to prevent that from happening again. The story was firmly tongue-in-cheek … but perhaps not entirely far from the truth. 🙂

  3. Brian says:

    Thank you for posting this.
    I don’t feel the least bit less creative as I enter my 40s.
    On the contrary, I have more experiences and examples to build off of, remix, etc.
    You don’t have to think outside of the box.
    Especially if you have lots of boxes to try.

  4. Lots of boxes… Yeh.

    Read up on the social/cognitive psychology work in the last couple years. In theory I have all the factors that contribute to neuroplasticity, and the development of the ultrafast pathways. In practice, I find that I have usually reached a conclusion before a coworker has finished phrasing the question.

    But most of my time seems to go to explaining old solutions, yet again. And again. And again.


    Yes, I know that intelligence has an average. But I thought… long ago… er, nevermind.

  5. Francois Rivest says:

    Be careful about using specific small facts from other disciplines as if they were general facts. Most of the data we have on neurogenesis come from mice hippocampus, a structure very useful in short-term memory, but those memory are later some-how moved to the cortex (at least in human, see case of HM) which is central to cognition. Evidences of neurogenesis in the human adult cortex are much weaker as far as I know, but I may not be up-to date.

  6. @Francois Rivest

    It does not seem like there is much human cortical neurogenesis in general, but there is growing evidence of neurogenesis in the human cortex following damages:

    the present current data indicate the presence of a regional regenerative response in human cerebral cortex (Nakayama et al., 2009)

    Why isn’t there measured cortical neurogenesis in healthy human beings? A related question is whether normal cell losses in the cortex cause cognitive decline. It seems that there is no evidence that it does. So it could be that we simply don’t normally require cortical neurogenesis. But when we do, our body is able to provide it.

    I don’t think that I misrepresent the research: we did go from a belief that damages to the brain were hopeless to a much more optimistic outlook.

  7. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I thought lots of people picked up painting or other creative means as they retired.