Sunday, June 25, 2006

Older but Mellower: Aging brain shifts gears to emotional advantage: "Given all the bad news that science has delivered about brain cells withering and memory waning as the years mount, older people have a right to be cranky. But, instead, the over-50 crowd handles life's rotten realities and finds life's bright side more effectively than whippersnappers do. In no small part, that's because the aging brain makes critical emotional adjustments, a new study indicates. As people age, from 12 to 79 years old, they respond to fear with greater and greater boosts in medial prefrontal activity (left) and to happiness with smaller and smaller boosts (right). Advancing age heralds a growth in emotional stability accompanied by a neural transition to increased control over negative emotions and greater accessibility of positive emotions, according to a team led by neuroscientist Leanne M. Williams of Westmead (Australia) Hospital. A brain area needed for conscious thought, the medial prefrontal cortex, primarily influences these emotional reactions in older adults, Williams and her colleagues say. In contrast, people under age 50 experience negative emotions more easily than they do positive ones".

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