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Medicineworld.org: Brain's ability to selectively focus

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Brain's ability to selectively focus




A University of Toronto study shows that visual attention - the brain's ability to selectively filter unattended or unwanted information from reaching awareness - diminishes with age, leaving elderly adults less capable of filtering out distracting or irrelevant information.

Further, this age-related "leaky" attentional filter fundamentally impacts the way visual information is encoded into memory. Elderly adults with impaired visual attention have better memory for "irrelevant" information. This research, which was conducted by members of U of T's Department of Psychology, will be published Wednesday, November 3 in the Journal of Neuroscience.



Brain's ability to selectively focus

In the study, the research team examined brain images using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on a group of young (mean age = 22 years) and elderly adults (mean age = 77 years) while they looked at pictures of overlapping faces and places (houses and buildings). Participants were asked to only pay attention to the faces and to identify the gender of the person. Even though they could see the place in the image, it was not relevant to the task at hand.

"In young adults, the brain region for processing faces was active while the brain region for processing places was not," says Taylor Schmitz, main author of the research paper. "However, both the face and place regions were active in older people. This means that even at early stages of perception, elderly adults were less capable of filtering out the distracting information. Moreover, on a surprise memory test 10 minutes after the scan, elderly adults were more likely to recognize what face was originally paired with what house".

The findings suggest that under attentionally-demanding conditions, such as looking for one's keys on a cluttered table, age-related problems with "tuning in" to the desired object appears to be associated with the way in which information is selected and processed in the sensory areas of the brain. Both the relevant sensory information - the keys - and the irrelevant information - the clutter - are perceived and encoded more or less equally. In elderly adults, these changes in visual attention may broadly influence a number of of the cognitive deficits typically observed in normal aging, especially memory.


Posted by: Daniel    Source




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A University of Toronto study shows that visual attention - the brain's ability to selectively filter unattended or unwanted information from reaching awareness - diminishes with age, leaving elderly adults less capable of filtering out distracting or irrelevant information.

Medicineworld.org: Brain's ability to selectively focus

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