October 20, 2011

CANADA: 'With Age Comes Wisdom,' Older People Still Sharp, Better at Tasks

SYDNEY, NSW, Australia  / The International Business Times / World / October 20, 2011

By Anne Witter

Wisdom does comes with old age, a recent study in Montreal, Canada has recently found out.

Canadian researchers studied 24 young people aged 18 to 35 and a group of ten older people aged 55 to 75, all of whom are still employed.

The findings disproved a common belief that the mind deteriorates with age. In fact, the brains of the older participants showed that age helps the brain work more efficiently while in the middle of a task, implying the older brain is more organized and prudent.

The findings disproved a common belief that the mind deteriorates with age. In fact, the brains of the older participants showed that age helps the brain work more efficiently while in the middle of a task, implying the older brain is more organized and prudent. Reuters

Participants were asked to work on a special matching task, which is like a game designed to have changing rules as it went on. They were asked to pair up different words based on a heading given to them by the researchers.

The words to be matched needed to be relevant and sensible to the heading, and as such the mind has to process a decision before a match is made.

Researchers observed that in the seemingly simple task of matchmaking, older people were more efficient in using their brains, only engaging certain parts of the brain at the exact moment that they were required.

Neuro imaging scans also revealed that young and old brains reacted very differently when told they had made a mistake. The older participants are less bothered by their mistakes, while the young ones tended to make a fuss. As all reactions register in the neuro scans, it was seen that the young ones fired up certain areas of the brain that are not necessary in completing a task.

In contrast, the older players merely shrugged off the error and waited until the start of the next task before engaging the same brain areas needed to complete it.

Study author Dr. Oury Monchi from the University Geriatrics Institute of Montreal compared the findings to the fable of the hare and the tortoise, reported the Telegraph.

"The older brain has experience and knows that nothing is gained by jumping the gun. It was already known that aging is not necessarily associated with a significant loss in cognitive function... When it comes to certain tasks, the brains of older adults can achieve very close to the same performance as those of younger ones... We now have neurobiological evidence showing that with age comes wisdom and that as the brain gets older, it learns to better allocate its resources," he said.

Dr. Monchi went on with the parallelism of Aesop's fable to the results of the study, the bottom line of which is one should know how to use his abilities with confidence, without allowing criticisms to cause any setbacks.

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