Science Probes 'Senior Moments'

Researchers discover why an aging brain is prone to distraction
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 2, 2008 1:14 PM CST
A slowing ability to tune out information can stop a memory from being made.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – Science has found clues to why older people tend to lose their train of thought so easily: Slower internal brain communications are behind those misplaced names, words, keys, and other “senior moments,” the Wall Street Journal reports. A 200-millisecond difference in an older person’s ability to quickly tune out extraneous information is enough to prevent the making or retrieval of a memory, Berkeley scientists found.

With 68 million baby boomers moving into their sixties, brain imaging techniques are being used to study how aging affects cognitive abilities, through a shrinking brain, loss of nerve-fiber insulation, and disruption of intra-brain communication channels. But researchers have also learned that we shouldn’t give up hope: “With the right kind of training,” such as computerized mental exercises, “we can take an older mind and make it younger,” says an expert.