Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Neuropsychology of Attention and Distraction in Older Adults

From The Daily Californian:
Distractions Cause Memory Loss
By OMEED ELBOUDWAREJ
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

UC Berkeley researchers have used brain imaging to confirm that, contrary to popular opinion, short-term memory loss common in older adults is not associated with a lack of focus on relevant information. Rather, short-term memory loss lies with an inability to filter out surrounding distractions.

Although previous studies have used neuropsychological tests to investigate how aging changes memory patterns, this study is the among the first of its kind to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess the impact of normal aging on the enhancement and suppression of sensory processing in the brain.

"The degree that older patients suppressed unnecessary information correlates with the degree that they remembered the relevant information," Adam Gazzaley, UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience, said.

"So what we are seeing is that they have a deficit in suppression and this seems to let in information that is irrelevant and cause interference with the information that they have to remember," Gazzaley said.

The findings suggest that drugs aimed at reducing the suppression deficit rather than trying to improve the memory may ultimately prove more effective.
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Anthony H. Risser | |

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