May 16, 2012

USA: Grandma still sharp as a whip

 DETROIT USA / Mental Health / May 2012

By Debbie Nicholson 

The age old belief that the brain slows as we age may just be fiction as new research shows it just may be a matter of choice.
Grandma still as sharp she just prefers to be more accurate.
 Researchers from Ohio State University demonstrate that grandma just may be as mentally agile as the younger people in the family. They may appear slow but they just prefer to think things over before deciding. When they are trained to give a response faster in some decision tasks without hindering their accuracy.
The researchers have been studying cognitive processes and aging for almost ten years and have extended this researcher to children.
Dr. Gail McKoon, professor of psychology at the university and co-author of study noted results in children are what most scientists expect, young children have slower response times and less accuracy in comparison to adults. Those slow response times in children are signs that the brain is still growing. That slow thinking in seniors could just be due to the fact seniors prefer accuracy over speed.
Researchers conducted several experiments designed to rate mental ability and agility for all ages. One experiment consisted of 300 volunteers that watched a computer screen where asterisks would flash up on the screen. The amount of asterisks ranged from 31 to 70. Volunteers had been instructed to without hesitation to decide whether they had been shown a small amount (31 to 50) or a large amount (51 to 70) of the star shaped symbol by pressing one of two keys dependent on their answer.
Another experiment on the computer screen consisted of a string of letters. Volunteers had to decide if the words appeared in English or not. There was a mix with some words easy and some harder.
For the child development study the asterisk test had been used on students from second grade to college level. Third graders and college students had participated in the word test.
Research had shown there was an increase in accuracy and decrease in response time on both experiments from the second and third graders to college age.
Dr. Roger Ratcliff, professor of psychology and co-author of study explained that younger children are not able to make good use of the information they are presented so they are less accurate. Older adults have a different pattern.
The journal of Cognitive Psychology published a study by Dr. Ratcliff and associates. In the study researchers compared participants of college age and older adults aged 60 to 74 and 75 to 90. The same experiments had been used. Researchers found little difference in accuracy among the groups including the oldest of the groups.
Dr. McKoon stated “For these simple tasks, decision-making speed and accuracy is intact, even up to 85 and 90 years old.”
According to Dr. Ratcliff all cognitive processes decline at the same rate as people age. But keep in mind that does not mean that there are no affects on aging, decision making and accuracy.
Dr. Ratcliff notes that research is finding that there is no such thing as uniform decline. Seniors can do some things just as well as the younger generation. They just do not want to make mistakes so they choose a more conservative decision standard which slows them down.
What can help cognitive decline? In a word yoga. Studies have shown that yoga meditation improves cognitive functions in adults that experience cognitive decline.
Research as far back as 2005, from a study conducted by Harvard, MIT and Massachusetts General had used brain MRI's to compare those who regularly practiced yoga and those who did not use yoga. The study had revealed that those who meditated had a constantly thicker right insula in comparison to those who did not use yoga mediation. And those who meditated also the thickness of the Brodmann 9 and 10 areas of the brain (located in the frontal cortex) did not decrease with age.
For clarity the right insula is involved in brain functions such as body awareness, laughter, tears, language, heart rate, empathy, compassion, speech and social emotions. The Brodmann 9 and 10 regulates emotion and cognition.
Basically all this translates to is it seems that yoga mediation not only strengthens the brain but keeps it from degeneration.
There are many yoga practices so it is important to find the right one you like and fits any physical restrictions you may have.

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