When older adults have trouble completing what should be simple tasks, like deciding which products to pick up at the grocery store, one of their first thoughts may be to take an IQ test and see if there have been any changes to their cognitive abilities.
While every brain is wired differently, problems regarding decision making may be the result of a reduction of white-matter pathways, according to the results of a study that appear in The Journal of Neuroscience. White-matter serves a crucial role in the brain, as it helps carry signals throughout this organ.
During the study, researchers had 25 participants between the ages of 21 and 85 complete a monetary learning task and then undergo a brain scan. They found that over time, these individuals' experienced a decline in the integrity of two white-matter pathways that connect the cerebral cortex to two regions deep within the brain. This, in turn, has an impact on how older adults make decisions in new situations.
However, there may be hope for individuals facing this problem. According to Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin, the Stanford University student who authored the study, past research has shown that cognitive training may be able to strengthen white-matter connections.