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Older adults have morning brains!
Date:8/6/2014

researchers to detect with great precision which areas of the brain are activated.

Older adults were 10 percent more likely to pay attention to the distracting information than younger adults who were able to successfully focus and block this information. The fMRI data confirmed that older adults showed substantially less engagement of the attentional control areas of the brain compared to younger adults. Indeed, older adults tested in the afternoon were "idling" showing activations in the default mode (a set of regions that come online primarily when a person is resting or thinking about nothing in particular) indicating that perhaps they were having great difficulty focusing. When a person is fully engaged with focusing, resting state activations are suppressed.

When 18 older adults were morning tested (8:30 a.m. 10:30 a.m.) they performed noticeably better, according to two separate behavioural measures of inhibitory control. They attended to fewer distracting items than their peers tested at off-peak times of day, closing the age difference gap in performance with younger adults. Importantly, older adults tested in the morning activated the same brain areas young adults did to successfully ignore the distracting information. This suggests that 'when' older adults are tested is important for both how they perform and what brain activity one should expert to see.

"Our research is consistent with previous science reports showing that at a time of day that matches circadian arousal patterns, older adults are able to resist distraction," said Dr. Lynn Hasher, senior author on the paper and a leading authority in attention and inhibitory functioning in younger and older adults.

The Baycrest findings offer a cautionary flag to those who study cognitive function in older adults. "Since older adults tend to be morning-type people, ignoring time of day when testing them on some tasks may create an inaccurate picture of age differen
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Contact: Kelly Connelly
kconnelly@baycrest.org
416-785-2432
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Source:Eurekalert

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