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Aging of Neural Circuits Underlying Decision-Making Behavior

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Aging is associated with structural and functional brain changes and cognitive declines that can affect decision-making ability in older adults. Indeed, making sub-optimal choices in advanced age might result in compromises on personal health and freedom. In this aging world population, it is thus critical to gain clearer understanding about the effects of aging on decision-making behavior and neural processing. Findings on neurocognitive changes with aging suggest that reduction in neural functional selectivity may be a basis for many cognitive declines in older adults. This review examines differences in decision behavior and neural processing between young and older adults and integrates these findings with the framework of age-related reduction in neural selectivity. In general, there are mixed findings showing that older adults display both more risk-seeking as well as more risk-averse behaviors relative to younger adults across different decision contexts. Moreover, older adults are also less adaptive to feedback on the outcomes of their choices. Neural responses in fronto-striatal regions involved in decision-making appear either reduced or are less responsive to varying levels of probability and value with aging. These findings suggest that reduced fidelity of neural processing in older compared to younger adults may be a plausible neural mechanism for age-related differences in decision-making.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2013

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  • Journal of Neuroscience and Neuroengineering (JNSNE) is an international peer- reviewed journal that covers all aspects of neuroscience and neuroengineering. The journal publishes original full-length research papers, letters, tutorials and review papers in all interdisciplinary disciplines that bridge the gaps between neuroscience, neuroengineering, neurotechnology, neurobiology, brain disorders and diseases, novel medicine, neurotoxicology, biomedical engineering and nanotechnology.
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