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Aging Brain Doesn't Lose Language Skills

Study finds older people may even perform some linguistic tasks better than the young

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 6, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Normal age-related declines in brain activity don't hinder language processing.

That's the claim of a study being presented today at the Society for Neurosciences meeting in Orlando, Fla.

American researchers used functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of 50 people aged 23 to 78 years old.

They found that despite the natural decline in brain activity caused by aging, particularly in the language areas of the left frontal lobe, some forms of language processing may actually be done more efficiently in older people.

That contrasts with other studies that find older people have decreased performance and efficiency in other areas of brain function such as memory, attention and response speed compared to younger people.

This new study's findings are consistent with theories that suggest some types of brain function don't decline as people grow older.

The people in the study did a pronunciation task. They read pairs of words and had to decide whether each word pair was a synonym. For example, boat and ship. While doing the task, their brain activity was monitored using fMRI and compared to results recorded when they did a prior control task.

More information

Here's where to find more about the aging brain.

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, Nov. 6, 2002
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