Cognition may decline with age, but well-being does improve

Cognition may decline with age, but well-being does improve

San Diego – Kids and teens usually want to grow up as fast as possible, but most seniors will say they want nothing more than to turn back the clock. The research from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine gives both adults and children a reason to envy each other. Scientists say that while older adults typically see a decline in thinking skills, well-being typically increases as we get older.

More specifically, scientists have reported that healthy older adults show greater mental well-being than younger adults, but also score lower in cognitive performance. The UCSF team hopes that the underlying neural mechanisms identified during this contributing project may inspire new interventions to promote healthy brain function in the future.

“We wanted to better understand the interaction between cognition and mental health across aging, and whether it depends on the activation of similar or different brain regions,” says Jyoti Mishra, senior author of the study, director of NEATLabs and associate professor of psychiatry at UCSD School of Medicine at UCSF. . medicine, in statement..

The researchers sampled a total of 62 younger healthy adults in their 20s, and 54 healthy older adults over the age of 60. Each individual’s mental health was measured through a survey asking about symptoms including anxiety, depression, loneliness, and overall mental health. Participants also participated in a series of demanding cognitive tasks, all while brain activity was measured using electroencephalography (EEG).

The brain compensates for cognitive decline with age

The results show that young adults experience significantly more anxiety, depression, and loneliness than older adults. On the other hand, older individuals show higher levels of well-being. In terms of cognition, older adults were, unsurprisingly, much weaker. The EEG recordings have provided more insight, detailing greater activity in the frontal parts of the brain’s default mode network among older adults. This brain region is active when we think about rumination, daydreaming, etc., and is usually suppressed during goal-directed tasks.

“The default mode network is useful in other contexts, as it helps us process the past and imagine the future, but it gets distracting when you are trying to focus on the present to tackle a challenging task quickly and accurately,” comments Professor Mishra.

Therefore, the default mode network appears to interfere with cognition. Notably, several other brain regions appeared to improve cognition. Stronger cognitive scores among young adults were associated with more activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is part of the brain’s executive control system. For older adults, though, people with stronger cognitive scores showed greater activity in the inferior frontal cortex, a brain area known to help direct attention and avoid distractions.

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is known to break down as the body ages. Accordingly, researchers theorize that increased inferior frontal cortex activity among cognitively strong older individuals may be a way for older brains to compensate during mentally challenging tasks.

Going forward, researchers are looking at therapeutic interventions that may strengthen these frontal networks. for example, Brain stimulation methods It also suppresses the default mode network through mindfulness meditation or other similar practices.

Professor Mishra adds: “These findings may provide new neurological markers to help monitor and mitigate cognitive decline in aging, while at the same time maintaining well-being.” “We tend to think of people in their twenties as being at their peak cognitive functioning, but it’s also a very stressful time in their lives, so when it comes to mental health there may be lessons to be learned from older adults and their minds.”

The study Posted in Psychology and Aging.

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