Challenge a friend

This game will really test your reaction times.

How many yellow icosahedrons can you click on in 30 seconds?

Reactions and Age

Reaction time increases slowly until the 50s and 60s, and then lengthens faster as the person gets into their 70s and beyond.

This age effect is more marked for complex reaction time tasks. Older adults can be as adept as younger people at assimilating information, but they take longer to react.

How Reactions Work

When you are new to a reaction time task, your reaction times are less consistent than when you have had more practice. Your brain can be trained to react faster to stimulus. More experienced martial artists have shorter reaction times but, by contrast, in volleyball tests less experienced players had shorter reaction times (but made more errors too).

Reaction times get slower when the we are fatigued. Deterioration due to fatigue is more marked when the reaction time task is complicated than when it is simple. Mental fatigue, especially sleepiness, has the greatest effect.

Training on a complex task both shortens reaction times and improves accuracy (Visser et al, 2007). Training ourselves to resist falls by stepping out to stabilize ourselves can improve our reaction times.

Reaction time is fastest with some but not too much arousal, and deteriorates when we are either too relaxed or too tense. When the world's top athletes are in the middle of their game or race their heart rates are not extreme, neither are they relaxed.

Interestingly many researchers have confirmed that our reactions to sound are faster than our reactions to light (8-10 msec vs 20-40 msec).

How can I improve my reactions?

As we get older we have to be more careful physically. I notice my father doesn't jump to catch flies like he used to but he still has a sharp sense of humor. There is no reason we can not click about on screen with the same speed as a 21 year old - we just need to practice.

Physical exercise can improve your reaction times. Welford ("Reaction Times." 1980) found that physically fit subjects had faster reaction times.

Lorist and Snel ("Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology" 1997) found that moderate doses of caffeine decreased reaction times. Alcohol increases reaction times.

Try out a Nintendo Wii. Armchair sports are great for anyone who wants to stay alert. All those new activities will speed up the transmission of neurons and help grow more brain tissue.

Youngest Brain Ages by country