While cognitive decline is a standard marker of the aging process, some mental faculties, such as decision making, improve with age. In a recent UCLA study, young and old participants were asked to remember two string of numbers, one of which assigned values to certain numbers. While young people remembered the first string of numbers with greater accuracy, older participants performed better at recalling high-value numbers. Dr. Alan Castel of UCLA, one of the study’s lead researchers, said: “While memory tends to decline as we get older, it seems that older adults selectively remember more important information.”
What’s the Big Idea?
“While there’s quite a lot of research that shows memory worsens as we get older, perhaps the way we choose what to remember is a means of adapting to changes in brain function.” Concerns over how the brainmakes decisions as it ages have given rise to decision neuroscience, a field which examines blood flow in the brain as it is faced with dilemmas. “By making smarter decisions throughout life, we may have a greater chance of preserving the resources we need to optimize well-being in our older years. We may also find ways to help younger people think more like their elders.”
Combining years of neurological research and mindfulness techniques, Dr. Heather Berlin helps us better understand how the body’s most complex organ can easily be misled into negative thinking - and how we can stop that from happening.