Wisdom comes with age, at least when it comes to your emotions, according to a University of Alberta researcher. In a June 16, 2006 article at ScienceDaily, a collaborative study was conducted between researchers from the University of Alberta and Duke University which has proven that when it comes to your emotions, wisdom really does come with age.
This research was conducted by Dr. Florin Dolcos, assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, who was able to identify patterns in the brain that seemed to assist older people in regulating and controlling their emotions better than younger people. Research found two areas of the brain that showed increased activity when individuals over the age of 60 were shown pictures of emotionally challenging situations.
Dr. Dolcos stated: “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. Dr. Dolcos is a member of the Alberta Cognitive Neuroscience Group which helps to coordinate researchers from the University of Alberta to explore the functioning of the brain and the human thought processes including perception, learning, attention, language, memory, decision-making, emotion and development. He went on to state “We didn’t understand how the brain worked to give seniors this sense of perspective until now.”
Both younger and older participants were asked during the study to rate the emotional content of various images as positive, negative, or neutral, while the activity of their brain was monitored with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The fMRI is a high-tech device that uses a large magnet to take pictures inside the brain. Images were rated as less negative by the older participants when compared to younger participants. The fMRI scans helped researchers to observe these reactions among the senior participants in the study. Certain areas of the brain such as the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotions and the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain involved in emotional control were scanned and showed increased interactions. Dr. Dolcos stated “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 was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, and was performed in collaboration with Ms. Peggy St. Jacques and under the coordination of Dr. Roberto Cabeza, both of Duke University.
Dr. Dolcos then concluded that this research may have clinical implications. He said “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 the negativity bias, such as depression and anxiety disorders, in which patients have difficulty coping with emotionally challenging situations.”
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (2008, June 16). Wisdom Comes With Age, At Least When It Comes To Emotions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 28, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/06/080612185428.htm
Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist