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Older people 'less aware of mistakes'

[Posted: Wed 09/04/2014 by Deborah Condon]

Irish scientists have discovered that people in their 70s are less aware of mistakes that they make than younger people.

According to the findings, this may make it harder for older people to compensate for their mistakes.

The study by neuroscientists at Trinity College Dublin involved 106 people aged between 65 and 86.

"We learn from our mistakes and if we don't, we run into problems. Our research has shown that people in their 70s are on average less aware of mistakes they make than younger people, and this may make it harder for them to adjust or compensate for those mistakes," noted Dr Redmond O'Connell, an assistant professor in social neuroscience.

The study also found that the extent to which older people are aware of mistakes they have made may be improved by applying harmless electrical currents to the frontal lobe of the brain.

"Based on previous research, we predicted that the right frontal lobe of the brain was particularly important in mistake detection, and tested this by applying a tiny and harmless electrical current to the scalp above this brain area - a technique known as transcranial electrical stimulation.

"We found that people in their 70s improved their mistake awareness by more than 10% when they were receiving stimulation. This finding may help us develop better methods for helping older people keep mentally sharp as they get older," the scientists added.

Details of these findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.


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