Neuroscientists at Trinity College Dublin have found that people in their seventies are, on average, less aware of mistakes they make than younger people. The research also shows that the extent to which older people are aware of the errors they make can be improved by applying tiny electrical currents to the frontal regions of their brain.
The findings may help develop better methods of helping older people keep mentally sharp as they get older.
The study in the Journal of Neuroscience involved 106 people aged between 65 and 86 and was conducted by PhD candidate Siobhan Harty, Professor of Psychology Ian Robertson and Dr Redmond O’Connell, Assistant Professor in Social Neuroscience, at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience.
“Our research has shown that people in their seventies 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,” said Dr O’Connell.
“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,” he outlined. “We found that people in their seventies improved their mistake-awareness by more than 10 per cent when they were receiving stimulation. This finding may help us develop better methods for helping older people keep mentally sharp as they get older.”