Bringing the Aging Brain into Focus
As we grow older, many of us worry about the state of our memory. But several aspects of memory are actually preserved with age. The real issue is our ability to stay focused and tune out distractions. Dr. Karen Campbell, Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience in Aging, believes this is what we should be aiming to improve.
Distracting information can affect our daily functioning in many ways. It throws us off when we drive, slows down our reading, and gets in the way of our ability to remember the things we want to remember. While people of all ages can get distracted, our ability to ignore distracting sights and sounds tends to worsen with age.
Campbell is looking at why this happens. She is examining the neural bases of older adults’ increased distractibility and the implications for memory and other cognitive functions.
Campbell and her research team use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan younger and older adults’ brains while they perform a variety of cognitive tasks. Then they compare brain activity among the two groups to determine how the brain networks critical for controlling attention differ with age.
Campbell’s research will not only contribute to our understanding of how age affects the brain and cognition, but may also point the way to new interventions to help us to stay focused as we age.