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Seniors’ Brains do not Filter New Information

Update Date: Nov 26, 2014 12:31 PM EST

Elderly people are still capable of learning new tasks, a study headed by researchers from Brown University concluded. The team reported that even though seniors still had mental flexibility, they could not effectively filter out irrelevant information.

In this study, the researchers recruited two groups of 10 volunteers. Participants belonging to group one were aged 67 to 79 and those in group two were aged 19 to 30. Over the span of nine days, both groups underwent simple visual exercise training. They were showed four letters and two numbers, which they had to remember and report to the researchers. In the background of the symbols, there were also dots that moved in certain directions. The team conducted a pre- and post-tests.

When asked to identify the two numbers, older participants performed similarly to the younger ones. When tested on the movement of the dots, which was considered irrelevant information, the older participants performed better. The team concluded that younger participants were better equipped at filtering out unnecessary information.

"These results indicate that older subjects as well as younger subjects showed significant amounts of task-relevant learning," the authors wrote according to the press release. "No evidence was obtained that indicates that older individuals have a problem with plasticity."

"The hope is that maybe what older people need to do is to learn a skill to avoid learning what is not necessary," added corresponding author of the study, Takeo Watanabe, the Fred M. Seed Professor at Brown University.

The study was published in Current Biology.

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