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Elderly perform brain tasks better in morning

Posted on Aug 07 2014 | IANS

Toronto, Aug 7 : Be it doing taxes, seeing a doctor about a new condition or cooking an unfamiliar recipe, older adults perform better on demanding cognitive tasks in the morning, says a promising study.

There are noticeable differences in brain function across the day for older adults, the findings showed.

"Time of day really does matter when testing older adults. This age group is more focused and better able to ignore distraction in the morning than in the afternoon," said lead author John Anderson from University of Toronto in Canada.

"Since older adults tend to be morning-type people, ignoring time of day when testing them on some tasks may create an inaccurate picture of age differences in brain function," Lynn Hasher, professor of psychology at University of Toronto, explained.

In the study, 16 younger adults (aged 19-30) and 16 older adults (aged 60-82) participated in a series of memory tests during the afternoon from 1-5 p.m.

During the testing, participants' brains were scanned with fMRI which allows researchers to detect with great precision which areas of the brain are activated.

The fMRI data confirmed that older adults showed substantially less engagement of the attentional control areas of the brain compared to younger adults.

Older adults tested in the afternoon were "idling" - showing activations in the default mode (a set of regions that come online primarily when a person is resting or thinking about nothing in particular) indicating that perhaps they were having great difficulty focusing.

When 18 older adults were morning tested (8.30 a.m. - 10.30 a.m.) they performed noticeably better, according to two separate behavioural measures of inhibitory control.

The study appeared online in the journal Psychology and Aging.

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