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Older and Wiser
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Older (ahem!) adults use different parts of their brain than do younger people to store memories of the bad times, a finding that may be related to the resilience of seniors to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. (Gee, should I have started that sentence with the word "We"? I don't think of myself as older. Just wiser.)

Researchers compared brain scans of older and younger adults. The two groups were asked to remember events associated unpleasant emotions. The scans showed that while younger adults relied more on the brain region involved in emotions (known as the amygdala) and another involved in recalling memories (the hippocampus), the elder subjects called upon a higher thinking area of the brain called the frontal cortex, which is connected with executive mental functions such as planning, organizing, problem-solving and abstract thoughts. It also controls the lower-order parts of the brain such as the amygdala.

Younger and older adults were equally affected by the emotional content depicted by the experiment's pictures, such as violent acts or attacking snakes. What differed were the brain connections used to remember those pictures later on, said Roberto Cabeza, a neuroscientist with Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

For the neutral pictures (a cup or a tree), older and younger people were able to recall the same number of items. However, for the emotional photos, younger participants were able to recall a greater number of them. Brain scans showed, that for younger people, emotions and memory retrieval were closely coupled. The older people remembered fewer of the pictures with the more negative emotional content, screening out the disturbing and stressful--indicating that perhaps with age, people learn to be less affected by negative information, choosing not to pay attention to it, in order to maintain their well being and positive emotional states, their resiliency.

This adaptive process could help elders cope with loss of friends and family, failing health, and poverty. They choose what to focus on: positive emotions and relationships. Let go the pain and loss.

Works for me.

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