“The older brain has experience and knows that nothing is gained by jumping the gun. It was already known that aging is not necessarily associated with a significant loss in cognitive function. When it comes to certain tasks, the brains of older adults can achieve very close to the same performance as those of younger ones,” explained Dr. Monchi.
“We now have neurobiological evidence showing that with age comes wisdom and that as the brain gets older, it learns to better allocate its resources. Overall, our study shows that Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare was on the money: being able to run fast does not always win the race—you have to know how to best use your abilities. This adage is a defining characteristic of aging.”
The original goal of the study was to explore the brain regions and pathways that are involved in the planning and execution of language pairing tasks. In particular, the researchers were interested in knowing what happened when the rules of the task changed part way through the exercise. For this test, participants were asked to pair words according to different lexical rules, including semantic category (animal, object, etc.), rhyme, or the beginning of the word (attack). The matching rules changed multiple times throughout the task without the participants knowing. For example, if the person figured out that the words fell under the same semantic category, the rule was changed so that they were required to pair the words according to rhyme instead.
“Funny enough, the young brain is more reactive to negative reinforcement than the older one. When the young participants made a mistake and had to plan and execute a new strategy to get the right answer, various parts of their brains were recruited even before the next task began. However, when the older participants learned that they had made a mistake, these regions were only recruited at the beginning of the next trial, indicating that with age, we decide to make adjustments only when absolutely necessary. It is as though the older brain is more impervious to criticism and more confident than the young brain,” stated Dr. Monchi.Research summary
• Dr. Ruben Martins is a psychiatry resident and a Ph D. student under the supervision of Dr. Oury Monchi at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM), which is affiliated with Université de Montréal.
French:Une recherche clinique révèle que
Le but initial de l’étude était d’explorer les chemins par lesquels est traitée l’information dans le cerveau lors de la planification et la réalisation de tâches d’appariement de règles lexicales, notamment lorsque ces règles étaient changées en cours d’exercice. Lors de ce genre de tests, on demande aux participants de deviner le classement de mots par leur ressemblance, celle-ci pouvant concerner la catégorie sémantique (animal, objet, etc.), la rime ou le début du mot (attaque), tout en changeant les règles d’appariement plusieurs fois au cours de l’exercice, et ce, sans le dire aux participants. Par exemple, si la personne comprenait que les mots s’apparentaient par catégorie sémantique, la règle était changée pour que l’appariement se fasse par la rime.
« Fait cocasse, le cerveau jeune est plus réactif que le cerveau âgé au renforcement négatif. Lorsqu’un des jeunes participants se trompait et qu’il devait planifier et exécuter une nouvelle stratégie pour obtenir la bonne réponse, diverses régions de son cerveau étaient sollicitées avant même que le prochain essai démarre. Tandis que lorsqu’un participant plus âgé apprenait qu’il se trompait, ces régions n’étaient sollicitées qu’au début de l’essai suivant indiquant qu’avec l’âge, on décide de réajuster le tir seulement lorsque cela est absolument nécessaire. Comme si le cerveau âgé était plus imperméable à la critique et plus confiant que le cerveau jeune », a souligné Dr Monchi.Résumé de la recherche
• Dr Ruben Martins, résident en psychiatrie, est aussi étudiant au laboratoire du Dr Monchi au Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM) affilié à l'Université de Montréal.L’IUGM en bref
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