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You Get Slow As You Get Older—But Catching a Ruler Is Always Hard

Something as simple as catching a falling ruler triggers a complex process behind the scenes

smithsonian.com

Stimulus, reaction. It seems so simple. But the behind-the-scenes work that turns a photon hitting your retina into the cascade of neural signals that snaps your fingers shut to catch a falling ruler is anything but. In the below video, the team behind Distort use high-speed cameras to catch the brief moments our bodies take to respond to pluck a falling object from the air.


With a history as hunters and gatherers, humans reactions times need to be pretty good. But the curse of aging, says University of California—San Francisco’s Adam Gazzaley to the Distort team means that our reaction times often slip over time. Training can keep your mind prepared for specific tasks, and Psychology Today has some tips on how to keep your mind sharp. But in general, says Eric Braverman for the Atlantic, “we lose seven to 10 milliseconds — a tenth of a second — of brain speed per decade from age 20 on, which means that aging alone causes us to lose brain cells and processing speed.” Fortunately, says Braverman, “his minute change is very difficult to notice, even for the most tuned-in individuals, because aging occurs at a constant rate.”

h/t Laughing Squid

More from Smithsonian.com:

10 Ways Tech Makes Old Age Easier

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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