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Does the brain retire at retirement?

An intriguing article in today's New York Times asks: Do you lose it if you don't use it? Brain power that is.

In recently published research in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, two economists pose the notion that early retirement propels a loss in cognitive skills. The Times' Gina Kolata writes, "Data from the United States, England and 11 other European countries suggest that the earlier people retire, the more quickly their memories decline."

Laura Carstensen, PhD, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, told the Times, "It's incredibly interesting and exciting. It suggests that work actually provides an important component of the environment that keeps people functioning optimally."

The study can't point to what aspect of work is most stimulating to the mind, but it does indicate a "straight point relationship between the percentage of people in a country who are working at age 60 to 64 and their performance on memory tests."

Robert Willis, PhD, an economist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Susann Rohwedder, PhD, associate director of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, authored the paper.

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