The surprising way your ‘cognitive clock’ can predict if you’ll get dementia

I have two questions for you. How old are you? And how old is your brain?

It turns out that you and your brain are not necessarily the same age. This is an important new discovery, and it has major implications for brain health. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Everybody’s cognitive clock keeps time differently.

Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of, the website for people with MCI, and author of the book, “I Want My Mind Back.”

My topic today is a brand new term that scientists are calling your cognitive clock. I say “yours,” because everybody’s cognitive clock keeps time differently.

That’s what a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago just reported in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

So here’s what they did. They looked at 1,000 people who were studied for up to 24 years and were regularly tested throughout that time.

All of these people were cognitively normal at the beginning of the study, and were followed the rest of their life. At death:

  • 45% were cognitively normal
    23% had MCI
    32% had dementia

Because these scientists had all sorts of data about these people, they analyzed it, and created what they call a cognitive clock, which is a way to measure someone’s brain age.

And it turns out, the person’s actual age — their chronological age — had no particular bearing on whether they stayed cognitively normal over the course of their life or developed dementia.

But their brain age did. Based on their cognitive clock, people who had a younger brain were less likely to get dementia, no matter how old they actually were.

I think people who made brain healthy choice were able to slow down the cognitive clock and keep their brain younger.

Now going forward, this cognitive clock could be used to better predict who may be at risk to develop MCI or dementia.

But the next step, and what I want to know is, how did the people who stayed cognitively normal keep their brain so young? How did the people with MCI keep their brain young enough to stay at MCI and not get dementia?

And I think we’re going to see they had some control over that. I think people who made brain healthy choice and defended their cognition were able to slow down the cognitive clock and keep their brain younger.

I look forward to learning more about this, and sharing it with you. In the meantime, I encourage you to do what you can to help your brain younger and help it age well. Because as we now know, the clock is ticking, but maybe you can slow that clock down.

Thanks for joining me today, and look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.