Seniors Are Smarter in the Morning: Study

Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 03:49 PM

By Nick Tate

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Are you a morning person? If you’re a senior, the reason may be that your brain simply functions better before noon, new research suggests.
 
Medical investigators from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences and the University of Toronto who tested seniors on a host of mental skills found they tended to score better in the morning than in the afternoon. The findings, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, suggest that it may be best to perform cognitive tasks that require a lot of brain shortly after getting out of bed, Medical News Today reports.

“Time of day really does matter when testing older adults,” said lead researcher John Anderson. “This age group is more focused and better able to ignore distraction in the morning than in the afternoon.”
 
To conduct their research, Anderson’s team observed 16 younger adults between the ages of 19-30 and 16 older adults between the ages of 60-82 as they took part in a series of memory tests between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
 
While the participants were completing the testing, the researchers scanned their brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allowed them to observe which areas of the brain were activated.
 
The results showed that the older adults were 10 percent more likely to focus on distracting information than the younger adults, who largely blocked out this information successfully.
 
In addition, the fMRI scans showed that the older adults showed significantly less activity in the attentional control areas of the brain in the afternoon, compared with the younger adults, meaning they were having a harder time focusing. But older adults tested in the morning between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. performed significantly better.
 
“Their improved cognitive performance in the morning correlated with greater activation of the brain’s attentional control regions … similar to that of young adults,” Anderson said.
 
In light of the findings, he recommended that older adults schedule their most mentally difficult tasks — such as doing taxes, taking a test, seeing a doctor about a new condition, or cooking a new recipe — in the morning.

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