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Brain Imaging of Emotional Control with Aging

A new study has identified brain patterns that help healthy older people regulate and control emotion better than their younger counterparts.

The investigation identified two regions in the brain that showed increased activity when participants over the age of 60 were shown standardized pictures of emotionally challenging situations.

“Previous studies have provided evidence that healthy older individuals have a positivity bias – they can actually manage how much attention they give to negative situations so they’re less upset by them,” said Dr. Dolcos.

“We didn’t understand how the brain worked to give seniors this sense of perspective until now.”

During the study, younger and older participants were asked to rate the emotional content of standardized images as positive, neutral or negative, while their brain activity was monitored with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, a high-tech device that uses a large magnet to take pictures inside the brain.

The older participants rated the images as less negative than the younger participants. The fMRI scans helped researchers observe this reaction in the senior participants. The scans showed increased interactions between the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotion detection, and the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in emotion control.

According to Dr. Dolcos, “These findings indicate that emotional control improves with aging, and that it’s the increased interaction between these two brain regions that allows healthy seniors to control their emotional response so that they are less affected by upsetting situations.”

The study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, was performed under the co-ordination of Dr. Roberto Cabeza and in collaboration with Ms. Peggy St. Jacques, both of Duke University where Dr. Dolcos received his training in brain imaging research.

This research may have clinical implications.

“If we can better understand how the brain works to create a positivity bias in older people, then we can apply this knowledge to better understand and treat mental health issues with a negativity bias, such as depression and anxiety disorders, in which patients have difficulty coping with emotionally challenging situations,” Dolcos said.

Source: University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Brain Imaging of Emotional Control with Aging

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Brain Imaging of Emotional Control with Aging. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/06/16/brain-imaging-of-emotional-control-with-aging/2466.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.