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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Distractions Seem More Troublesome With Age

Seniors scored worse on tests than young adults, study says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors are more easily distracted during thinking and memory tasks than younger people, a new study finds.

"Almost any type of memory test administered reveals a decline in memory from the age of 25 on," study co-author Randi Martin, professor of psychology at Rice University, said in a university news release.

However, Martin said, this study shows that "environmental interference" has a greater impact on processing in older adults compared with younger adults.

The study included 60 seniors, aged 64 to 82, and more than 100 young adults between 18 and 32. All took a series of memory and thinking tests. While doing the tests, older participants were nearly twice as likely to be distracted by irrelevant speech or written words.

Average accuracy on the ability to remember lists of words was 81 percent for younger people and 67 percent for older people. When the researchers introduced irrelevant words meant to be ignored, accuracy rates dropped to 74 percent among younger people, and to 46 percent among older people.

The researchers hope their findings, recently published in the journal Psychology and Aging, spur further investigation into the effect of environmental distractions on the brain.

"This research is very important," Martin said. "The tests used in this study are important tools in determining how the brain is affected by environmental interference, which is critical information in treating neurological disorders, including stroke and traumatic brain injuries."

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