On the fMRIs, the researchers observed similar brain activity among the young and the older depressed groups in two regions of the brain: the ventral striatum, involved in feelings of regret; and the anterior cingulate cortex, linked with emotion regulation. The fMRIs indicated that the older healthy adults were experiencing less regret and were able to regulate their feelings more successfully.
Study author Stefanie Brassen and colleagues also noted changes on skin tests and heart rate in the young and older depressed players, but not in the healthy older players, when opportunities in the games were missed. The authors concluded that the study results suggest that healthy older adults may be better at reminding themselves that results are a matter of chance, while depressed seniors may blame themselves.
Doraiswamy said this study provides a window into how that process works at a neuronal level. "But it's a preliminary study because of the small sample and uncertainty about whether the laboratory games truly reflect how these individuals would behave in real-life situations of gain or loss," he said.
He added that the brain patterns seen in depressed participants, if confirmed in larger studies, could potentially help identify people who are vulnerable to late-life depression and in need of counseling.
Dr. Gary Small, director of the Longevity Center at University of California, Los Angeles, also commented on the study.
"The results are certainly in line with clinical observations that as people age, they gain a perspective that makes them more forgiving of themselves," Small said.
"I agree with the authors' point that we can change negative attitudes to more positive and adaptive ones," he added. "The fMRI results also support their interpretation by pinpointi
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