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Despite displaying signs of poor cognitive performance, older adults tend to have greater mental well-being than younger adults, according to one new study,

A study published this month in Psychology and Aging by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine indicates that adults over 60 showed greater mental well-being but worse cognitive performance than younger adults. Adults in their 20s experience more anxiety, depression, and loneliness than seniors.


Researchers sampled 62 healthy young adults in their 20s and 54 healthy seniors over the age of 60. The study analyzed participants’ mental health and performed a number of cognitive tasks using electroencephalography (EEG) to measure their brain activity. Anxiety, depression and loneliness were the mental well-being factors measured in each participant.

Older adults had more trouble completing cognition tests but demonstrated higher levels of mental health. EEG results showed that older participants had more activity in their prefrontal region of the default mode network, which is the part of the brain where individuals can daydream or ruminate. The default mode is usually suppressed when a person is focused on a task.

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Jyoti Mishra, director of NEATlabs and senior author of the study, said, “We wanted to better understand the interplay between cognition and mental health during aging, and whether they rely on activation of the same or different brain regions. ” a statement,

Misra said, “The default mode network is useful in other contexts, helping us process the past and envision the future, but it’s distracting when you tackle a demanding task with speed and accuracy.” Trying to focus on the present,” Mishra said.

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Young adults, on the other hand, showed more activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, resulting in better performance for cognition tests. According to the researchers, the cortex is the part of the brain with the executive control system and diminishes with age. However, older adults who performed well on cognitive tasks used their inferior frontal cortex, the area of ​​the brain used to avoid distraction.

“We tend to think of people in their twenties as having their peak cognitive performance, but it is also a very stressful time in their lives, so when it comes to mental well-being, there may be lessons to be learned from older adults. And their brains,” said Mishra.