The passage of Time and Aging

Early in my life, time seemed to pass slowly, but now everything since about age 40 has been one big blur. I’ve always assumed it’s because I have lots of years with lots of memories, but recently I’ve read that the reason why time seems to go by faster and faster is not because of memory quantity. It’s physics.

According to a study by Duke University Mechanical Engineering Professor Adrian Bejan, published March 18, 2019 in the journal European Review, the apparent time discrepancy can be blamed on the ever-slowing speed at which images are obtained and processed by our brains as we age. Bejan said in a statement:

People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.

It’s no secret that our bodies change as we age. This includes the nerves and neurons in our brains; as they mature, they grow in size and complexity. This means our brain’s electrical signals have to travel longer pathways. Then, as these pathways age, they degrade like everything else, and their electrical resistance increases. Thus the speed at which new mental images are acquired and processed decreases with age. So we older folks are seeing fewer new images in the same amount of time, which makes it seem like time is passing more quickly. Physics! Or, as Bejan says:

The human mind senses time changing when the perceived images change. The present is different from the past because the mental viewing has changed, not because somebody’s clock rings. Days seemed to last longer in your youth because the young mind receives more images during one day than the same mind in old age.

The next time you’re around a baby, notice how often the eyes move compared to yours. Infants eyes’ move more often because they’re processing images faster, so they’re collecting more information.

So time really isn’t passing faster, it’s just part of the aging process.

Taken from “Spring already? Why time seems to fly as we age” by Eleanor Imster ( https://earthsky.org/human-world/why-time-time-perception-changes-brain? ). The photo came from that site.

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