Ohio State University researchers have conducted a recent study that suggests maintaining lung health may play a key role in cognitive functions linked to problem-solving and processing speed as individuals age. According to the study’s results, while two types of “fluid” cognitive functions were influenced by reduced pulmonary function, decreased lung health did not appear to impair memory or lead to any significant loss of stored knowledge. 

Using data from a Swedish study of aging designed to track participants’ health measures for almost two decades, researchers performed an analysis of the data with statistical models intended to demonstrate the patterns of change over time. The results indicate that reduced pulmonary function can lead to cognitive issues, however cognition issues did not impact lung health.

In 832 Swedish participants between the ages of 50 years old and 85 years old, lung function was measured using forced expiratory volume and forced vital capacity, researchers say. Researchers also reportedly tested participants in four cognitive domains measuring verbal abilities linked to storage knowledge, memory, and spatial abilities related to problem-solving and processing speed. The results exhibited clear trends between a decline in lung function and losses in the two types of “fluid” cognitive function. 

Charles Emery, PhD, professor of psychology, Ohio State University, lead study author, outlines the results, noting that, “We know, for example, that the speed at which people can perform the processing task does decline with age. But now we have data that suggests pulmonary function actually predicts that decline,” he says.

Source: Ohio State University