It is something of a cliche that older people tend to see the past through rose-coloured spectacles but researchers at the University of Alberta and Duke University have found that there is some truth behind it. Younger and older participants in the study were shown standardized images that depicted either neutral or strongly-negative events. Thirty minutes later they were asked to recall them and the older participants remembered fewer negative images than the younger ones. At the same time the participants underwent brain scans. Both groups had similar levels of activity in the emotional centres of the brain but the older participants had less links between the centres and the hippocampus (which involves learning and memory) when shown the negative images. However, when they were shown the negative images the older participants had stronger connections with their dorsolateral frontal cortex, a brain region involved in higher thinking processes like controlling emotions. The older people were using thinking processes rather than feeling processes to store these emotional memories. Another study by the same group of researchers found that healthy older people were able to regulate emotion better than younger people so that they were less affected by upsetting events.
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