Good News For Aging Brains
New research from Georgetown University Medical Center, published August 19, 2021, in Nature Human Behavior, show that two key brain functions, which allow us to attend to new information and to focus on what’s important in a given situation, can in fact improve in older individuals. These functions underlie critical aspects of cognition such as memory, decision making, and self-control, and even navigation, math, language and reading.
“These results are amazing, and have important consequences for how we should view aging,” says the study’s senior investigator, Michael T. Ullman, PhD, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and director of Georgetown’s Brain and Language Lab.
They studied the brain networks responsible for alerting, orienting and executive inhibition. Each has different characteristics and relies on different brain areas and different neurochemicals and genes. Therefore, Ullman and Veríssimo reasoned, the networks may also show different aging patterns.
Alerting is characterized by a state of enhanced vigilance and preparedness in order to respond to incoming information. Orienting involves shifting brain resources to a particular location in space. The executive network inhibits distracting or conflicting information, allowing us to focus on what’s important.
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