Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study examines decision-making deficits in older adults

16.01.2008
We often read or hear stories about older adults being conned out of their life savings, but are older individuals really more susceptible to fraud than younger adults? And, if so, how exactly does aging affect judgment and decision-making abilities?

Recent work led by University of Iowa neuroscientist Natalie Denburg, Ph.D., suggests that for a significant number of older adults, measurable neuropsychological deficits do seem to lead to poor decision-making and an increased vulnerability to fraud. The findings also suggest that these individuals may experience disproportionate aging of a brain region critical for decision-making.

"Our research suggests that elders who fall prey to fraudulent advertising are not simply gullible, depressed, lonely or less intelligent. Rather, it is truly more of a medical or neurological problem," said Denburg, who is an assistant professor of neurology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. "Our work sheds new light on this problem and perhaps may lead to a way to identify people at risk of being deceived."

Being able to identify how aging affects judgment and decision-making abilities could have broad societal implications. How to combat deceptive advertising targeted at older individuals -- some of whom appear to be particularly vulnerable to fraud -- is one important area of concern. In addition, older age is a time when individuals often are faced with many critical life decisions, including health care and housing choices, investment of retirement income, and allocation of personal wealth.

"By simply identifying a person as potentially vulnerable to fraud, family members can be more vigilant and can implement measures to protect the older adult," Denburg said. "In addition, a conservator or family member could be involved in transactions involving large amounts of money."

Denburg's most recent study, published Dec. 2007 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, shows that 35 to 40 percent of a test group of 80 healthy older adults with no apparent neurological deficits have poor decision-making abilities as tested in a laboratory experiment known as the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). The IGT is a computerized decision-making test where participants draw cards from different decks with the aim of maximizing their winnings. Some of the decks yield good results in aggregate, while others yield poor outcomes.

Following the poor decision-makers through several additional tests, the researchers found that in addition to the poor performance on the IGT, this subgroup of older adults also were more likely to fall prey to deceptive advertising.

Using a set of real advertisements that had been deemed misleading by the Federal Trade Commission and several counterpart, non-deceptive advertisements, the study showed that the poor decision-makers are much less able to spot inconsistencies and pick up on deceptive messages than good decision-makers. Poor decision-makers also were more likely to indicate an intention to buy the article advertised in the misleading advertisement. In contrast, there was no difference in comprehension of non-deceptive advertisements between the two groups of older adults.

The researchers also measured the amount of palm sweating for each participant as they performed the Iowa Gambling Task. Bodily (or autonomic) responses, like sweating, have been shown to play an important role in decision-making. When these responses are absent or abnormal, then decision-making also is affected.

Good decision-makers display different anticipatory responses (amount of sweating) prior to a good or a bad choice, which appears to help them discriminate between the two options. In contrast, the older adults with poor decision-making abilities did not sweat more or less when deciding between a good or bad choice.

Another group of patients who perform poorly on the IGT and have abnormal bodily responses to the test are individuals with acquired damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC) -- an area of the brain that appears to be critical for good decision-making.

"Our hypothesis is that older poor decision-makers have deficits in their prefrontal cortex," Denburg explained. "The next element of our study will be to complete structural and functional brain-imaging studies to see if we can identify differences between poor decision-makers and good decision-makers either in brain structure or in how the brain functions during decision-making tasks."

The team already is conducting structural imaging tests, and Denburg has just received a three-year, $100,00 grant from the Dana Foundation to do functional imaging studies.

Preliminary analysis of the structural imaging data suggests there are physical differences between the brains of poor decision-makers and those of the good decision-makers.

Understanding the neurological basis for impaired decision-making could also suggest potential medications that might help. Some studies have suggested that altering neurotransmitter levels may affect decision-making ability. However, Denburg notes that this approach is speculative at this time.

Jennifer Brown | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiowa.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>