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Research Pinpoints Brain's 'Gullibility' Center
Date:8/24/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Whether it's an email from an unknown gentleman on another continent pleading for money or a financial scammer selling a promising penny stock, the young and old tend to be more easily duped than middle-aged people.

Now, researchers have pinpointed the area of the brain responsible for this gullibility and have theorized why it makes children, teens and seniors less likely to doubt.

The ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex of the brain -- a softball-sized lobe in the front of your head, just above your eyes -- appears to be responsible for allowing you to pause after hearing or reading something and consider whether it's true, according to a study published recently in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

"When most adults hear or read something, they believe it at first, and begin to process it," explained study author Erik Asp, a researcher in the department of psychology at the University of Chicago who conducted the study while at the University of Iowa. "And then they start asking questions. But we're all susceptible to believing something initially."

In children, the prefrontal cortex is still developing, not reaching full maturity until the late teens or even early 20s. As you age, the brain area responsible for doubting may begin to deteriorate, gradually reducing your propensity to question. The area is the last thing to develop in the brain and may be the first area to begin to show some decline, Asp explained.

"The decline in function is normal. It can happen at 60, 70 or 90," Asp said. "But we found that people with prefrontal cortex damage tend to be less likely to question, more prone to believing conspiracy theories and overall have less nuanced thinking."

Asp said it's important to know that signs of gullibility in teens and seniors are biologically based, and not the result of sloppy
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