Morning brain better for seniors

SENIOR NEWS LINE by Matilda Charles

We’re morning people! Or at least we are when it comes to completing challenging tasks. So says a Canadian study done by Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care and a research group affiliated with the University of Toronto.

This must have been a fun bit of research, pairing participants at opposite ends of the age spectrum: Young adults aged 19 to 30 were tested along with older adults aged 60 to 82 to see how memory works … and when.

Memory tests done two times during the day involved seeing and remembering pictures and word combinations, along with distractions on the computer screen. MRI tests were used at the same time to see which parts of the brain were active and to see if they correlated with the other results. Here’s what researchers found out:

During the afternoon, seniors were 10 percent more likely to be distracted by the extra screen information and weren’t completely engaged on the cognitive tasks. Researchers called it “idling,” when the senior brains went into resting mode and weren’t focused.

Fast-forward the clock to morning, and seniors did much better at ignoring the distractions, on par with the younger participants, and focusing on cognitive tasks. The MRIs showed this to be so, with other areas of the brain activated.

Here are just a few things that might be easier to accomplish in the morning:

  • Balance checkbook
  • Brain puzzles
  • Driving test
  • Creating a shopping list for a new recipe
  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Reading
  • Planning an event or trip

One of the researchers noted this morning brain challenge needs to be considered when seniors are being tested. Tests at other times of the day might not be truly accurate.

Matilda Charles regrets she cannot personally answer reader questions, but she will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Send email to
(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.


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