27 January 2010

Elderly people use unnecessary information wisely

Scientists at the Rotman Research Institute in Baycrest, part of the University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada), working under the leadership of Dr. Lynn Hasher, have received evidence that the deterioration of the ability of the aging brain to filter out unnecessary information actually gives older people a certain advantage over the young.

Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that aging is associated with a decrease in the brain's ability to discard information that a person does not need. Within the framework of this work, the authors found that in the process of an elderly person's usually unconscious increased assimilation of information coming from outside, his brain shows a unique ability to "hyper-bind" information, that is, to create strong associations between events occurring simultaneously. The results of this work have recently been published in the preliminary on-line version of the journal Psychological Science.

24 young (17-29 years old) and 24 elderly (60-73 years old) study participants performed two memorization tasks on a computer. The tasks were separated by a 10-minute break. As part of the first task, they were shown a series of images, each of which was accompanied by a random word (for example, an image of a bird and the word "jump"). Participants were asked to focus on the images and ignore the labels. If any picture was repeated twice in a row, they had to press the space bar. After completing this task and a 10-minute break, the participants performed a pair memorization test, the essence of which was that they had to remember the "image-word" pairs seen during the first task. They were shown three types of combinations: saved pairs that participants saw during the first task; modified pairs; represented by pictures seen by participants in the first task and new words; and completely new pairs.

As a result, older participants showed 30% better results in memorizing the saved pairs they saw during the first task, compared with younger participants.

According to Dr. Hasher, such an ability to involuntarily memorize insignificant, at first glance, details is a kind of compensation for the absent-mindedness characteristic of the elderly. As a result, older people receive much more information about what is happening, which helps them make more informed and wise decisions.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru Based on ScienceDaily: Older Brains Make Good Use of 'Useless' Information.



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