Neuroscience as a Basis for Adult Development and Aging
2.1 THE NEUROSCIENCE APPROACH
Implications of the Developmental Forces • Neuroscience Tools • Neuroscience Perspectives • Discovering Development: What Do People Believe about Brain Fitness?
2.2 NEUROSCIENCE AND COGNITIVE AGING
Structure of the Brain • Age-Related Changes in Neurochemical Properties Age-Related Changes in Brain Activity • Functional Consequences of Brain Deterioration • Culture, Neuroimaging, and Aging • Compensation and Prefrontal Bilaterality • Current Controversies
2.3 NEURAL PLASTICITY AND THE AGING BRAIN
How Do We Know? Aerobic Fitness and Hippocampal Volume in Older Adults
2.4 NEUROSCIENCE AND SOCIO-EMOTIONAL AGING
Emotional Processing and the Brain • Aging and Emotional Processing • Neurological Recruitment Underlying the Positivity Effect in Memory
SOCIAL POLICY IMPLICATIONS
Summary • Review Questions • Integrating Concepts in Development • Key Terms • Resources
AS DEPICTED IN THE PHOTOGRAPH, YOU SEE AND HEAR MORE AND MORE ADVERTISEMENTS
AND I iterature touting the importance of "brain fitness.”
In the grocery store and on television, marketers and selfhelp solicitors are encouraging people to eat the right "brain foods” filled with antioxidants.
They make promises that doing this will dampen the effect of free radicals (which can cause damage to the brain) as we grow older. Similarly, advertisements promote exercising your brain through mental aerobics such as playing chess, reading the newspaper, and attending plays. There is an entire cottage industry of online and computerized brain-training games aimed at delaying the onset of cognitive decline. The lion’s share of this media explosion is focused on the aging brain and how to prolong its vitality. This relatively recent phenomenon has coincided with the rapid surge of research in neuroscience or the study of the brain—in particular, plasticity of the aging brain. Evidence that the brain can change for the better as we grow older sends an intriguing message to our aging population. However, the danger in this, as in any relatively new field, is the tendency for the media to reach well beyond the scope of our scientific understanding of the brain.
In this chapter we explore the status of our understanding of the aging brain by examining contemporary theories and recent empirical findings of neuroscience and aging while at the same time outlining future challenges that need to be addressed. First we briefly review the various neuroscience approaches to studying the brain coupled with advances in technology that account for much of the rise in research in this area. Next we focus on cognitive neuroscience and aging including age-related change in brain structure, neurochemical properties, and brain function. Two contemporary areas of research are explored including culture, the brain, and aging as well as neural plasticity in later adulthood. Finally, we explore more recent developments in the area of social neuroscience and aging—in particular, intriguing findings that reveal the neurological underpinnings of enhanced emotional processing in older adulthood as compared to declines in cognitive processing such as the ability to control information in the conscious mind.
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